Closure could be elusive to those who have lost loved ones in the thousands of car crashes that happen each year across the country, including many that occur here in Missouri. Many drunk driving accidents end up in criminal courts. However, the inebriated driver might not get the sentence the family of the victim believes would provide them the closure they are seeking.
One Missouri family was disappointed with the 12 month sentence received by the intoxicated driver who caused the crash that killed their loved one in February 2014. The deceased man was a designated driver on the night that he and the other man crossed paths. After a night at a bar, the two men's vehicles were at a stoplight, side-by-side. Someone threw coins at the designated driver's vehicle, and the intoxicated driver sped away.
During an apparent road rage pursuit on Interstate 70, the intoxicated driver's pickup truck ended up behind the other vehicle, which had slowed to approximately 16 mph to make a turn. The pickup truck slammed into the back of the car going approximately 75 mph. The designated driver was killed in the crash, and the impaired driver was criminally charged. A jury recently found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the second-degree.
This family, like many others here in Missouri who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents, did not receive the closure and sense of justice they needed from the criminal proceedings. Families in similar situations retain the right to file wrongful death claims against the party or parties believed to be responsible for the death of their family members. The burden of proof in civil actions is not as stringent as it is in criminal actions. Therefore, it might be possible to obtain a verdict and award of damages that will provide a family with the solace it desires.
Source: stltoday.com, "Hazelwood man gets one year in county jail for fatal road rage crash", Joel Currier, July 22, 2016