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A woman who crashed her SUV into a Wendy's has pleaded not guilty to a citation for careless driving. Elizabeth Garcia, 78, appeared with her attorney in Bayonne Municipal Court to respond to the careless driving charge, stemming from an accident earlier this year. A trial date on the charges has yet to be set. On February 19, 2015, Garcia drove her BMW SUV through the door and surrounding glass windows of a Bayonne Wendy's restaurant. While it is unclear what caused her to accelerate through the glass wall, it appears that she was attempting to park her vehicle when the crash occurred. When the vehicle entered the restaurant, it hit a 12-year-old child causing an injury to the child's leg, and hit 89-year-old John Ruiu of Bayonne. The SUV slammed Ruiu against the wall and subsequently pulled him under the vehicle's tires. Mr. Ruiu, who served in the Navy during World War II, was immediately hospitalized in critical condition, but passed away as a result of his injuries several weeks later on March 9. 

Garcia has not commented publicly on what led to the February 19 accident, and when asked to comment, her attorney simply described it as a tragedy and stated that Garcia appreciated Ruiu's service and mourned his passing. The Ruiu family expressed disappointment both that more serious charges, such as vehicular manslaughter, were not filed against Garcia, and that Garcia failed to accept responsibility for Ruiu's death. It does appear that the family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Garcia, likely after any prosecution of Garcia has concluded.

While wrongful death and criminal trials for manslaughter or murder use similar types of evidence, it is possible to be found not guilty of a crime that led to someone's death but still be found responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit for that individual's death, due to the different standards of proof in each type of trial. While a prosecutor in a criminal trial must prove to a jury that it is beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, a jury in a civil wrongful death lawsuit need only be convinced by the weight of the evidence that a defendant is responsible for causing a death. The most famous example of this difference is O.J. Simpson, infamously found not guilty in a criminal trial, but held liable in a civil lawsuit mounted by the victims' families.

The death of a loved one or family member is a horrible tragedy. While nothing can ever compensate you for such a loss, expenses such as funeral costs and lost income from the deceased may be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact the compassionate and experienced Morristown attorneys at Smith & Doran to determine if you may have such a claim. From the Morristown area and beyond, including Brookside, Green Village, Mendham, Stirling, and throughout Morris and Essex Counties, call 973-292-0016 for a free consultation on your possible claim.

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Smith & Gaynor, LLC
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Morristown, NJ 07960

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