Connecticut lawmakers have passed a new law against careless drivers who seriously injure or kill “vulnerable users” of the state’s roads, including pedestrians, bicyclists and wheelchair users. The law applies when accident victims had been using reasonable care at the time of the accident and can result in a maximum fine of $1,000.

Until the law went into effect on Oct. 1, it was difficult to prosecute careless drivers unless they had been drunk or fled the scene after the accident occurred. The Vulnerable User law was pushed for by Bike Walk Connecticut, a statewide nonprofit with the mission of making the state more bike and pedestrian friendly.

A member of Bike Walk Connecticut said she thinks that the new law serves as a good way to hold careless drivers responsible for their actions, but also said that there could be an unintended consequence to the law. He said it could be used as a way for a driver charged with manslaughter to plead down.

In addition to criminal charges, careless drivers who seriously injure or kill pedestrians and other “vulnerable users” can also face civil consequences in the form of personal injury lawsuits. The victim or the victim’s family must prove that the driver was negligent at the time of the accident and can seek compensation for the damages they suffered as a result.

In criminal law cases, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But in civil cases, the plaintiff must prove that is it “more likely than not” that the defendant was negligent, which is a much easier burden to meet.

See our website for more information on personal injury lawsuits following bicycle accidents or pedestrian accidents.

Source: Wilton Bulletin, “New law fines careless drivers,” Patricia Gay, Oct. 29, 2014