This month, a 48-year-old Aurora woman received a seven-year prison sentence for her role in a 2009 car crash that took the life of a 54-year-old man. Authorities say the woman has been free on bond since 2010; she was scheduled to begin serving her time on Jan. 30.
A seven year sentence may seem harsh for a car accident, but the details of the incident suggest a number of special circumstances that undoubtedly led to a stricter punishment.
The accident occurred in March of 2009. According to witness statements, the woman was driving erratically, making sudden lane changes and exceeding speed limit. In fact, police officers reportedly stopped the woman and issued her a citation just 15 minutes before the accident.
According to post-accident reconstructions, the fatal collision occurred as the woman was driving south in a northbound lane. She was apparently traveling at approximately 73 miles per hour at the time of the accident. She survived the impact; the driver of the other car did not. Later tests revealed that the woman had cocaine in her blood at the time of the accident.
Given that drugs were found in the woman's system, and that she apparently ignored a police officer's citation 15 minutes before the accident, it's hardly surprising that she received a lengthy prison sentence. The family of the victim will undoubtedly feel as though some measure of justice has been done in this case. However, while the family's need for justice may have been fulfilled, their financial needs may still be wanting. Families of car accident victims often see their fiscal security disrupted by medical bills and lost wages. In such situations, families can file a civil lawsuit against the negligent party, which can help them to recover compensation for their losses. This civil lawsuit can be done independently of the criminal proceedings; indeed, a guilty verdict in a criminal trial can increase the chances for a favorable outcome in civil court.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Aurora woman gets 7 years for 2009 fatal crash," Clifford Ward, Jan. 24, 2013