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Actress disputes cause of accident in NJ manslaughter trial

The New Jersey trial of an actress who appeared on several episodes of "Melrose Place" is well underway. The State of New Jersey charged the actress with aggravated manslaughter after the actress supposedly killed another woman in a hit and run collision as the woman was pulling her SUV into a driveway.

One of the State's witnesses -- who had followed the actress after she was rear-ended by her -- attempted to get the starlet's attention by honking and using her headlights. She described the actress as "wasted." However, the actress's attorneys suggested that by aggressively following the actress, the witness had contributed to the fatal car accident as well.

Alcohol is a contributing factor in too many car accidents that end in serious injury or death. However, while most drunk driving accidents involve some degree of negligence on the part of the driver who consumed alcohol. An injured person who wishes to seek compensation from that driver still has to prove that the driver's drunkenness caused the accident. The mere fact that someone had alcohol in his or her system will not, standing alone, give rise to liability for negligence.

While the ongoing trial involves criminal charges, the actress's defense that she did not solely cause the accident may have some bearing in any future personal injury action the woman's family against her.

If the jury in this cause rejects her claim and finds that her being "wasted" did in fact cause the fatal accident, it could be very difficult if not impossible for her to claim otherwise in a civil negligence case. Additionally, a civil case may focus on the fact that both women played a part in the death of the victim. In that case, the surviving family members may pursue both motorists in civil court.

Source: Associated Press, "NJ trial of 'Melrose Place' actress continues," Oct. 11, 2012

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