In a surprising development in the civil trial of a woman accused of striking and killing two University of Miami student pedestrians, jury selection was delayed while the court investigated allegations of threats against a potential witness.
According to reports, Milady Pequeno is said to have struck two University of Miami graduate students, Ying Chen, 27, and Hau Liu, 26, with her Porsche on October 16 of last year. The students’ parents filed a civil suit against Pequeno, whose family is said to have amassed considerable wealth in the gas station business.
On the day of the accident, Pequeno left the scene of the crash, later stating that she was “too shaken” to go back and render aid. She claims that she never saw the victims until she hit them. A Pinecrest Police officer, Ana Carrasco, was also accused of failing to render aid at the scene as she allegedly stood by while the victims were dying rather than performing CPR.
The judge ordered the family member who made the threats to have no further contact with the witnesses.
Civil Trials and Criminal Activity
When a victim is harmed by the actions of another person, the injury itself falls under something known as tort law. This is an area of civil law in which the victim has the right to pursue compensation for damages caused by the negligent actions of someone else. However, there may also be elements of criminal activity in a situation in which someone is injured, creating a complex legal situation that the victim must navigate.
For example, while a hit-and-run car accident can definitely result in personal injury, it is also a crime. Florida law provides for stiff penalties for someone who leaves the scene of an accident with injuries, including a felony conviction and jail sentences in some cases. However, the outcome of a criminal trial for hit-and-run does not affect the ability of the victim to collect monetary compensation through a civil lawsuit.
In a civil lawsuit, the goal is not to punish the driver for wrongdoing as it is in the criminal trial. Instead, the goal of a civil suit is to compensate the victim for his or her injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages and other costs. The standard of proof is different in a civil case than in a criminal case as well, making it generally easier to win a civil lawsuit than a criminal prosecution.
The experienced attorneys at Bernstein & Maryanoff are ready to help you with your injury case. Call today for a free consultation.