Can You Go to Jail For Accidentally Killing Someone In a Car Accident?

Accidents happen. But what happens if a car accident resulted in the death of a person? Depending on the cause of the incident, the perpetrator could be responsible to pay thousands of dollars in damages or even serve jail time.

Understanding the severity of your circumstance and acquiring a strong legal team can make all the difference in your case. Cloward Trial Lawyers will guide you with the appropriate steps to recover compensation for your loved one’s fatal accident and claim justice.

What is “Negligence”?

Many of the convictions surrounding death with a vehicle depend on whether there was negligence or not. Understanding the legal definition of negligence can help you determine whether someone can be held criminally responsible for their actions.

The Nevada Revised Statutes defines negligence in the context of criminal law as “a want of such attention to the nature or probable consequences of an act or omission as an ordinarily prudent person usually exercises in his or her own business,” (NRS 193.018).

A person can be charged with negligence if their actions fall below the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in a similar situation. Vehicle speed, alcohol and drugs, and distracted driving are all common factors that can impact a driver’s criminal liability for negligence.

For example, if a driver fails to stop at a red light and causes an accident that results in injury or death, they could be considered negligent because they did not exercise reasonable care in obeying traffic laws to avoid the accident.

Negligence can be charged as misdemeanors or felony offenses, depending on the severity of the damages. In cases where negligence results in the death of another person, the offender can be charged with a felony offense.

Can You Go to Jail For Accidentally Killing Someone In a Car Accident?

If a person is at fault for a car accident that injured or killed another person, they may be ordered to pay a fine, participate in community service, or serve jail time. Crimes range in severity from misdemeanors to felonies and include:

Reckless Driving

In Nevada, reckless driving (NRS 484B.653) is defined as operating a vehicle “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. This also prohibits the organization or participating in of unauthorized speed contests and trick driving displays.

Penalties for reckless driving can include

  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Six months in jail
  • Suspension of a driver’s license

A reckless driving conviction will add eight demerit points to a driving record, which can result in increased insurance rates and may also affect a person’s ability to maintain a valid driver’s license.

In some cases, reckless driving convictions may also lead to community service and court-ordered defensive driving courses. The severity of the penalty depends on the specific circumstances of the offense and an individual’s past convictions.

Vehicular Manslaughter

According to Nevada law, a person is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter (NRS 484B.657) if they cause the death of another person while driving a vehicle “through an act or omission that constitutes simple negligence.”

Vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor charge and can result in a fine of $1000 and imprisonment for up to 6 months. However, if a person commits vehicular manslaughter in a work zone or pedestrian safety zone, they may be subject to additional penalties.

Upon conviction, the court will also require to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV will then add an entry of the conviction to the driving record of the person which may impact their ability to obtain or maintain a driver’s license in the future.

Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.130) involves a higher level of culpability than vehicular manslaughter, meaning that the offender acted with a greater degree of recklessness or negligence. This charge is reserved for individuals who are responsible for the death of another person while acting with a “reckless disregard” for the safety of others.

The at-fault party will be charged with vehicular homicide if a person:

  • Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor
  • Has a concentration of alcohol of 0.08 or more in his or her blood or breath
  • Is under the influence of any chemical, poison or organic solvent to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle
  • Has a prohibited substance in their blood or urine, as applicable, in an amount that is equal to or greater than the amount set forth in NRS 484C.110.
  • Has previously been convicted of at least three prior DUI offenses in Nevada.

The penalties for vehicular homicide are much more severe than those for vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular homicide is classified as a category A felony, which is the most serious type of felony in Nevada. Convictions for vehicular homicide can result in a prison sentence of 25 years to life and fines up to $10,000.

Second-Degree Murder with a Deadly Weapon

If a person uses their vehicle as a weapon to intentionally kill another person, they could be faced with second-degree murder charges.

Second-degree murder is a category A felony and is punishable by 25 years to life in prison and will result in a permanent criminal record, which can have serious long-term consequences.

If someone intentionally causes harm to another person, such as in an assault or murder, they cannot be charged with negligence because their actions were not accidental or unintentional.

Am I Innocence?

In most cases resulting in the accidental death of another person, negligence must be proved in order to convict an individual. There are several common circumstances that may indicate the innocence of a person if they were involved in an accident that led to a person’s death, including:

Lack of Causation

The person did not directly cause the accident that led to the death. For instance, they may be innocent if the accident was the result of a mechanical issue with a vehicle or poor road conditions.


The accident may be the result of a person defending themselves or others from harm such as applying breaks, swerving or overcorrecting to avoid a collision.

Unforeseeable event

The death may have been caused by an unforeseeable event, such as a tree falling onto the road or an animal running in front of the car.

Medical emergency

If a person suffered a sudden medical emergency, such as a heart attack, stroke, or seizure, and was not in control of the vehicle at the time of the accident, a legal team may be able to argue that they were not in control of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

What to Expect if You Are Involved In a Fatal Car Accident

If you are involved in a car accident, call 911 and report the accident immediately. Remember to stay at the scene until the police arrive and cooperate with their investigation.

Being involved in a case involving a fatality you can expect a legal process that is often complex, emotional, and lengthy. There will be an investigation by law enforcement to determine the cause of the accident and, eventually, to file criminal charges. As a result, someone may be charged with a crime and required to participate in legal proceedings.

You may want to talk about the accident with friends and family, but it’s important to avoid discussing the details of the accident with anyone other than your attorney. Statements made to friends and family can be used in court. Also, Cloward Trial Lawyers can represent you throughout the legal process and help you build the most robust possible case.

Benjamin P. Cloward

In 2016, at the age of 37, Benjamin P. Cloward became the youngest lawyer in the history of the State of Nevada to be awarded the prestigious “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the Nevada Justice Association. That same year, he became the youngest member of the Nevada, Las Vegas Chapter of ABOTA (American Board of Trial Advocates), and at the time was also the youngest person in the State of Nevada to be Board Certified as a Personal Injury Specialist.

Practice areas: personal injury, car accidents, truck accidents, wrongful death, Greyhound bus accidents, and walk-in tub accidents.
Location: Las Vegas, NV

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