Most families in Louisiana won’t ever have to know how it feels to wait two and a half years for some sense of closure after the death of a loved one. That’s how long it has taken for one family to see the sentencing of a woman who caused a fatal car wreck in December 2009. In late June, the Point Coupee Parish criminal court sentenced the woman to five years in prison, with two of them suspended, along with two years of felony probation.
The sentence was the result of a plea bargain for vehicular manslaughter charges following an accident that took the life of a 23-year-old woman and seriously injured another individual. The “no contest” plea deal was accepted by the victims’ families. The convicted driver also received a three-year prison term for first-degree negligent injury, to run concurrently with the partially suspended five-year sentence.
It is unknown whether the families of the deceased woman or the other seriously injured victim have filed cival lawsuits as a result of the car wreck. Now that criminal proceedings have concluded, the conviction may be offered as evidence of liability in the civil actions, which have a less stringent burden of proof than in criminal court. Further, a full investigation may indicate other potentially negligent parties, particularly if the convicted woman, who was driving drunk at the time of the crash, was served alcohol at a bar or restaurant beforehand.
Having a loved one taken from you in a car wreck is tragic and many say that the pain never truly goes away. The parties have waited nearly three years for the criminal proceedings to work their way through the Louisiana court system. Now they face the question of whether to pursue claims for monetary damages in the state’s civil court system. In doing so, they would likely seek reimbursement for the damages they have suffered, while also striving to hold negligent parties fully accountable for their actions that caused or contributed to the fatality and injuries suffered.