When a DWI causes a death, the victim’s family is often left reeling. These tragedies are so senseless and so sudden that the family likely won’t have the closure they need to recover right away. In fact, some loved ones may never recover emotionally and may require emotional support for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, the person responsible for the crash may emerge unscathed and able to go about their business once they have faced their legal responsibility. It may seem senseless and unfair that such gross irresponsibility often goes lightly punished while the victim’s family is left without their loved one, who may have been the primary breadwinner or a parent who provided much-needed support and guidance. When such an accident robs a family of someone they deeply care about, it may be time to exercise a legal right to compensation.
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS BEHIND DWI CRIMES?
Death and serious injury are closely linked to intoxicated drivers, and the toll taken on American families is immense. Every day in the U.S., about 30 people are killed by drunk drivers, resulting in thousands of preventable fatalities. In all, about 2/3 of the U.S. population will be involved in a wreck caused by an intoxicated driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This epidemic of irresponsible driving costs the country approximately $200 billion annually, and the numbers pertaining to arrests are even more staggering. More than half of the drivers who are convicted of intoxicated driving continue to drive with their suspended license, and by the time an offender has been arrested on charges of intoxicated driving, they have already gotten away with the crime 80 times, on average.
WHAT SHOULD A FAMILY DO IF THEY HAVE LOST SOMEONE IN A DWI ACCIDENT?
The death of a close family member is extremely difficult to respond to, and it can take weeks before family members are able to grasp completely the extent of the tragedy. As soon as the family’s short-term emotional needs are taken care of, it may be time to weigh the available legal options.
In general, any damages caused by an intoxicated driver will be their liability. However, the establishment that served alcohol to the driver and anyone who loaned a vehicle may also share liability. This is particularly true if the driver was holding a suspended license at the time.
The damages available to a family in the wake of a wrongful death are extensive and may include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages involve:
- Funeral and medical expenses
- The victim’s lost wages and expected earnings
- The victim’s lost benefits, such as medical coverage or a pension
- The overall value of the services and goods the victim would have provided
Non-economic damages include:
- Emotional damage due to pain and suffering
- Loss of love and companionship provided by the deceased
- Loss of protection, guidance, training, care, and nurturing provided by the deceased
- Loss of consortium
If the driver was grossly negligent or had picked up prior DWI convictions, they may also be assessed punitive damages in an attempt to punish their carelessness.
Dealing with a settlement and trial may be the last thing a family wants to do in the wake of a deadly accident, but it can help loved ones move on with their lives and begin healing.