Vehicular homicide is a very serious charge, compounded in some cases by a additional charges of drinking and driving or driving under the influence of prescription medication or illegal drugs. In such cases, it’s conceivable that the family of the victim may bring a wrongful death civil suit against the individual for their negligent actions in the death of the family’s loved one.
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we have seen the progression of litigation, from the initial traffic accident to courtroom. With the cost of medical care these days, a tragic automobile or trucking wreck can place extreme financial stress on the victim’s family, especially in cases of long-term physical injury, permanent disability and other life-long and life-altering conditions.
Last month, a U.S. District Court jury found 23-year-old motorist guilty of killing her friend, Ashley Roberta, and injuring Washington, D.C., soccer player Charlie Davies in an October 2009 single-vehicle traffic accident. According to news articles, Maria A. Espinoza pled guilty late last year to charges of involuntary manslaughter as well as maiming while driving in an intoxicated state prior to the deadly crash.
The accident occurred in the early morning hours after the three friends left a nightclub in the District. Based on court records, the three individuals got into an Infiniti FX35 with Espinoza at the wheel and headed south along the George Washington Memorial Pkwy. Espinoza was reportedly unfamiliar with the area and apparently wasn’t certain how to get to the road and how to get to Davies’s hotel in Crystal City, according to court documents.
Using a GPS device to find the hotel, Espinoza missed an exit; while looking away from the road to recalculate their route, the defendant apparently lost control of the vehicle, which veered off the road and hit a guardrail. The force of the collision reportedly split the vehicle in two; the rear of the Infiniti rolled down a 17-foot embankment, fatally injuring Roberta who died at the scene.
Davies was pinned in the back of the vehicle but survived the accident, albeit with severe injuries including broken fibula, tibia and femur of his right leg, as well as torn ligaments in his left knee. His other injuries included a traumatic head injury, fractured elbow and lacerated bladder. It took nearly two years of various surgeries and extensive rehab to allow Davies to return to the D.C. United soccer team.
Following the accident, Espinoza’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was measured at nearly two times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to court records. Although Espinoza’s sentence was expected to be up to four years, based on sentencing guidelines, she actually received a sentenced of just two years in prison for her part in the accident.
In the month prior to her sentencing, the district court judge in the case, Claude M. Hilton, ordered Espinoza to serve home detention after a private investigator working for the deceased victim’s family testified that she saw the defendant allegedly drinking wine at a restaurant, as well as downing shots at a Baltimore nightclub. Following the guilty please last year, the court had released her from custody on her own recognizance pending sentencing, however the release included a court order for Espinoza not to consume any alcohol.
2 years for woman in deadly crash, WashingtonPost.com, March 18, 2011