At the same time a 23-year-old University of Tennessee Honors graduate was getting behind the wheel of his vehicle after drinking, a young, pregnant mother was heading out to help a friend who had run out of gas.
Their worlds collided violently when that 23-year-old student slammed into the young mother, killing her, her unborn child and another good Samaritan. The Samaritan was a 45-year-old man who lived nearby and had stopped to see if the women needed assistance.
Our Knoxville personal injury lawyers, like so many in this community, encourage you to drink responsibly as we head into the heart of the spring and summer travel season.
A reconstructionist expert with the Knoxville Police Department testified there is no indication that the young driver even touched his brakes or made any effort to stop after the crash. Instead, he fled to his nearby residence, where detectives found him a short time later. By the time they arrived, officers said there was evidence that the defendant had already attempted to wash the blood from his sport utility vehicle.
The woman who had run out of gas was not injured, but she took her own life several months later.
The crash occurred last spring. The defendant is now on trial on 11 felony charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide, DUI, reckless endangerment and hit-and-run. The emotional trial has been heavily covered by local media. One of the latest revelations came from the student's roommate, who testified that the driver admitted to being drunk that night when he arrived back home.
The defendant's lawyer is attempting to argue that while his client was drinking, he was not legally drunk. It's going to be a hard-sell defense, but even if he's successful, it doesn't change the fact that three innocent people are dead as a result of gross negligence.
Many times in cases like this, regardless of the criminal trial outcome, survivors of drunk driving crashes will pursue civil action.
Criminal cases are all about penalties that the defendant must pay for his crime against society. Civil cases are about repaying damages to you for your great loss. This may include out-of-pocket medical expenses, medical bills, actual or potential lost earnings, emotional distress and pain and suffering. Survivors who have lost a spouse or child or parent may also sue for loss of companionship or services.
While nothing will ever bring your loved one back, the idea is to help restore you, to whatever extent is possible.
In cases of drunk drivers, it's also possible for claimants to seek damages from third parties. For example, if the defendant was under the age of 21, you may pursue damages from whoever served or sold him alcohol. If he was drunk and had just left a bar, you may be able to seek damages from the bar for failing to serve alcohol responsibly.
It's important to remember the consequences of drinking and driving as we head into summer. If more drivers pictured themselves standing trial for killing a family, fewer might take the chance when it comes to climbing behind the wheel after having too much to drink.