Our judicial system has ways of dealing with those who have violated the laws put in place to make our land a safe and civilized place in which to live. Some individuals, whether through malice of forethought or through negligent actions, cross the line between good and bad; those people are often caught and brought to justice, where they face the penalties laid out by lawmakers and their fellow citizens.
As a Maryland personal injury lawyer, I have seen many families torn apart by the thoughtless actions of other people. Fatal traffic accidents, in particular, are instances where a life can be taken due only to the lack of consideration on the part of another driver. Whether the result of drinking and driving, distracted driving, aggressive or other thoughtless operation of motor vehicle, once a person is killed in a car or truck accident there is no bring that individual back to life.
A person found guilty of causing a fatal car, truck or motorcycle accident due to alcohol or drug use can many times be sent to jail for his or her offense. This may help the victims’ families feel that justice has been done, but the void left behind by the loss of those deceased family members can never truly be filled. When a person who killed a loved one out of negligence receives what the families of some victims deem a partial or incomplete criminal sentence, those family members may decide to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent individual.
This type of lawsuit seeks to punish further an individual by seeking a monetary award from the defendant. The grounds for such a lawsuit can be for the victims pain and suffering prior to his or her death, or it can be for the loss of love, affection and comfort that the victim can no longer provide to his or her family. A monetary award is surely a poor substitute for the life of a loved one, however it is many times the only way that a family can gain closure on a horrible chapter in their lives.
Last month, a man charged with the fatal drunken driving deaths of three of his friends was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his actions last spring. According to news reports, 20-year-old Kevin Coffay said he was “deeply sorry” for the car crash that killed 18-year-old Spencer Datt, 20-year-old John Hoover and 18-year-old Haeley McGuire. Coffey claimed that he didn’t know the others were still in the car when he walked away from the crash site in the early morning hours of May 15, 2011.
According to news reports, Coffay and the victims had been to two separate parties hours prior to the fatal wreck. Based on court records, the prosecution stated that Coffay had been seen drinking alcohol during at least one of the parties; witnesses told police that they had seen the defendant wobbling and stumbling prior to leaving the last party.
Only one other person survived the violent car crash at Volunteer Drive; according to court records, 19-year-old Charles Nardella, who was wearing a safety belt in the backseat at the time of the collision, reportedly to police that he asked Coffay to slow down just before the accident.
Following the crash, an off-duty police officer happened on the scene a little after 3am and saw Coffay walking away from the wreckage. According to court records, Coffay’s blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.16 percent (two times Maryland’s legal limit) nearly three hours after the crash.
The defendant’s attorneys asked the court for an 18-month jail sentence, suggesting that there was “no further need to teach Kevin a lesson.” However, while the judge in the case imposed a 40-year sentence, she suspended all but 20 years; the judge also ordered Coffay to serve five years probation following his release from jail.
Driver who fled fatal Olney crash gets 20-year sentence, WashingtonPost.com, January 5, 2012