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Tony Stewart accident may lead to civil liability

Earlier this month, former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was involved in an accident on the racetrack, which killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. The two drivers were racing in a sprint-car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York when Stewart's car clipped Ward's car. Ward's car then hit the wall, cut a tire and spun out of control. The officials raised a caution flag to tell drivers to slow down. Ward proceeded to walk onto the track, most likely to confront Stewart about what had just happened. Unfortunately, that's when Stewart's car hit Ward and killed him.

Police have said that there are no signs of criminal intent on Stewart's part and that there will probably not be criminal charges filed any time soon. However, there is a possibility that charges of murder in the second degree or negligent homicide could be brought in the future. It all depends on if Stewart was driving recklessly at the time of the accident.

While Stewart may be able to avoid criminal charges, he might not be able to avoid civil charges. When a car crash occurs, courts have to figure out who was responsible for the accident in order to determine who should cover the damages. If a driver was negligent behind the wheel, that driver could be held liable.

The family of the victim may also file a wrongful death suit against the driver for negligently causing the death of their loved one. Wrongful death suit damages are based on the victim's loss of future earnings, age and circumstances of the family. Families have two years under New York's statute of limitations to file the suit. If successful, the families are often able to receive damages that may help them recover financially from their devastating loss.

Source: Sports Illustrated, "Stewart faces several possible consequences after fatal accident," Michael McCann, August 10, 2014

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