When Negligence Steps Into Two Legal Worlds


Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as the Olympian and reality TV star, Bruce Jenner, has obviously been getting a lot of press and attention about her lifestyle change. However, one point of attention she is not keen on wanting to continue has to do with a vehicle accident that occurred in February 2015 in which Jenner was an involved driver. The ongoing case is a classic example of how a personal injury incident that would normally end up in civil court debating who is responsible for damages could end up in criminal court as well.

Negligence in a number of states is legal scenario that can be covered by both civil and criminal statutes. The degree to which a case triggers criminal statutes, which runs on its merits but can easily use the civil case information as evidence, depends on the determination of the police as well as the prosecutor’s office to press charges. There’s a wide degree of discretion involved, but the general practice in some states has been to apply charges where a person or people were killed by the accident, even if negligence and not criminal intent was the cause. For Caitlyn Jenner’s case, the matter involved her vehicle traveling too fast for the wet conditions, hitting a car in front and pushing it into the range of oncoming traffic on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

The traffic accident killed the driver in front of Jenner as well as totaling two other vehicles. While the cost is significant for property loss, the resulting death triggered a full accident investigation by law enforcement who has now recommended criminal charges be filed. While Jenner’s risk in the matter is so far a potential misdemeanor, it could still result in a jail time up to a year.

The Jenner example is a vivid picture of why legal issues like personal injury or death don’t just sit in civil law realms. The law affecting negligence responsibility has been a crossover issues for decades; every lawyer knows this risk, from a Florida tort expert to an Oregon personal injury attorney. Again, a big initial factor is whether law enforcement decides to press charges, which they determine independently of anything else occurring or being filed. Granted, criminal liability doesn’t exist in every accident case due to a failure of duty. However, a criminal charge is almost always going to be considered where negligence involved someone being killed.

So will Caitlyn Jenner be facing jail time? A lot depends on how well her attorneys can negotiate early with the prosecutor’s office to reduce the charge and/or the punishment if a plea bargain is needed. However, even if the celebrity avoids incarceration, she’s almost guaranteed to face a lawsuit for both personal injury as well as a wrongful death in the civil arena; Jenner’s contact with the law and negligence is far from over.

Every attorney, whether a criminal defender in San Diego or an Oregon personal injury lawyer in Portland, is doing his or her job well by reminding clients of their dual risk involved when its apparent in negligence. To say otherwise is creating a very problematic false impression of safety that could blow up in the client’s face weeks later when an arrest comes knocking. There’s no need to needlessly scare a client, but they should be informed as soon as possible when the possibility of criminal charges becomes obvious to the civil attorney already involved. In fact, an early warning could some of the best client legal advice given for preparation, especially given that law enforcement often likes to surprise arrestees at the last minute of indictment.