In one recent year, 3,179 people died in collisions involving distracted drivers. Another 431,000 suffered injuries. All of these unnecessary deaths and injuries were due to drivers checking social media, texting and engaging in other non-driving behaviors behind the wheel.
If a distracted driver causes an accident that kills a beloved family member, survivors want the courts to mete out fitting punishments for the drivers’ fatal negligence. Nothing can ever replace the loss of their loved ones, but knowing that justice was served can help families reach much-needed closure.
Some families are denied justice
It’s a sad fact, then, when justice is not served. That can happen for a few different reasons. Perhaps the at-fault driver flees and is never identified and arrested. Possibly he or she could wind up acquitted of the charges in court. That can sting, but at least families know that all legal options were pursued.
Other times, the courts plea bargain with defendants so they wind up convicted of far less than the original charge(s). They may not serve any jail time and might even get off the hook with only a fine.
Distracted driver kills California mom
Such was the case for a family from Pasadena, California. Back in March of 2015, a wife and mother was involved in a collision with a distracted motorist in a residential neighborhood. The young woman driving the other car didn’t have a scratch on her, but the Pasadena mom was left with a severely fractured neck.
Despite multiple surgeries over a two-week period, the woman succumbed to her catastrophic injuries on the 15th day.
Crime without punishment
The woman’s family was shattered by their losses. They had slight comfort after the driver — who had initially tried to blame their relative for the crash, but eventually admitted “I don’t know what I was doing” — was arrested for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. While still a misdemeanor, the family hoped that she still might get jail time.
However, there was a prosecutorial shuffle. The new prosecutor on the case didn’t consult the grieving family members before cutting a plea deal with the defendant on a charge of reckless driving. The penalty was shockingly lax — a $250 fine plus court costs. There was no jail time, no license revocation, no community service. She didn’t even look at the deceased woman’s daughter while the daughter struggled to read her victim’s impact statement.
Civil justice can be won
When these miscarriages of justice occur, it’s important that families understand that they still have civil avenues to justice that are open to them. If the injured person survives, an attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company and the driver as well.
When the accident becomes a fatality, the administrator of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim against the same defendants for the family members’ loss of their beloved wife, mother, etc. If the decedent was a breadwinner for the family, the claims can reflect the future economic losses to the survivors.