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Could Tony Stewart be held liable in driver's death?

A sprint car driver who had climbed from his vehicle and was on the track was struck and killed on Saturday night. NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is said to be the driver who killed the 20-year-old. It is reported that the driver was trying to confront Stewart, who reportedly caused the driver to crash his own car.

The crash is being called a “tragic accident” by a spokesperson for Stewart’s racing team. Nevertheless, the crash is being investigated by authorities for possible criminal charges. According to a Philly.com report, a video shows the driver wearing a black helmet and racing suit walking towards Stewart’s car being struck and thrown 50 feet. 

It remains to be seen whether a civil action will be brought by the driver’s family. Such a lawsuit would be a wrongful death action, in which the driver’s family seeks to hold Stewart (or even the racing facility) responsible for his death. This would lead to the family being compensated for the driver’s lost future income, emotional distress stemming from the trauma of losing a loved one, and loss of companionship.

The standard for proving a wrongful death case falls along the same lines of other negligence cases. Essentially, the driver’s family would have to prove that Stewart failed to use reasonable care while racing (given that the race was currently under a caution flag), and that the failure was the proximate cause of the accident that caused the driver’s death.

In the meantime, there are a number of questions to be answered in determining whether Stewart will be held liable. 

Source: Philly.com “NASCAR’s Stewart hits, kills driver on NY Track,” August 10, 2014

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