The death of race car driver Kevin Ward in an incident that took place at New York's Canandaigua Motorsports Park has led to a wrongful death lawsuit by his surviving family members against fellow driver Tony Stewart. The events leading to the death were widely televised, showing Ward exiting his vehicle after an accident and walking onto the race track to confront Stewart, who hit him with his vehicle, causing fatal injuries to Ward.
A grand jury declined to indict Stewart in connection with the incident, but in a civil wrongful death action the standard of proof is "preponderance of the evidence" which is not as stringent as a criminal "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.
Issues that may come into play in an action of this nature include possible negligence (Could Stewart have avoided hitting Ward through the exercise of reasonable care?) contributory fault (Was Ward negligent for walking onto the racetrack into the path of Ward's car? Is his alleged use of marijuana before the race a factor?), and the possible measurement of any possible damages award (What would Ward's income expectancy have been as a race car driver? How might any pain and suffering damages be calculated?), or even whether such an award will be available.
Each wrongful death lawsuit is unique and depends on its own facts and circumstances. While no attorney can guarantee an outcome in the event of litigation, the analysis of how the facts and circumstances fit with the elements of a wrongful death cause of action is something that a personal injury attorney can provide essential assistance with in helping surviving relatives to decide what to do legally after the untimely death of a loved one.
Source: Sporting News, "Kevin Ward family has little chance in wrongful death suit against Tony Stewart, attorneys say," Steve Petrella, August 13, 2015