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Filmmakers Plead Guilty and Avoid Trial in Fatal Train Georgia Accident

A filmmaker who was in the process of shooting a Gregg Allman biographical movie has pleaded guilty to several criminal offenses for his role in the death of a camerawoman that occurred on the set of his film. According to a national news report, last February a freight train that was traveling around 55 mph rammed into the crew while they were filming on a Georgia railroad. Unfortunately, a young assistant was killed and six other members of the crew were also injured.

trestle-bridge-1261458-mWayne County state officials brought charges against the filmmaker, his wife, and their executive producer in relation to the death of the young crew member. The jury was set to determine whether this was a criminal act or just an unfortunate accident, and they faced over 10 years in a Georgia prison for criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter. However, shortly before trial the defendants entered into a plea agreement whereby they would all avoid prison time.

The railroad company that owns and operates the bridge where the accident occurred explained that they denied the film crew access to the bridge. The executive producer testified in a related civil case that he was told that only 1-2 trains passed on the bridge a day, likely trying to establish that they did not recklessly put their crew in danger.

Civil Versus Criminal Charges in Georgia

The legal system is separated into two main areas: criminal and civil. Both of these areas encompass a different analysis in determining liability. The burdens of proof, possibility of damages, and evidence required varies between the two areas.

The above case illustrates a situation where it seems that both a criminal charge was brought by the state, and the family of the victim also brought a civil lawsuit. Although it is generally easier for a victim or their family to have a favorable outcome in their civil suit if the wrongdoer is criminally convicted, that is not a necessary always going to be the case.

Civil Charges in Georgia

In a Georgia civil suit the plaintiff has the burden of establishing the elements necessary to their claim. The plaintiff must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence”. This is basically a “more likely than not” showing. The defendant is not required to prove any element in this type of case, although often defendants will try to shift the blame or appropriate some responsibility on the victim to lessen their damages.

Criminal Charges in Georgia

In a criminal case, the state rather than the victim is bringing the charge against a defendant. The burden of proof in these cases lies on the state to establish that the defendant is guilty. The defendant remains innocent until proven guilty. The state must present its case and prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This is a more stringent standard than in a civil case. This does not necessarily mean absolute certainty, but it reaches much closer to that level.

Have You Been Injured Because of Another’s Negligence in Georgia?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of another’s negligence you may consider bringing a personal injury or wrongful death suit against the culpable party. As the above illustrates, in many situations both criminal and civil charges may be brought against the wrongdoer. However, it is not a prerequisite to bringing a civil suit. It is important that you consult with one of the attorneys at the Miller Legal Services to determine what your rights and remedies may be. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries and possibly even punitive damages based on the circumstances of your case. Please contact us today at 770.284.3727 to schedule your free initial consultation.

See Related Blog Posts

Man Killed in Georgia Biking Accident, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2015.

Officers Searching For Truck in Georgia Hit-and-Run, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 21, 2015.