The MetroNews reported on a civil action filed by a West Virginia father against a drunk driver who killed his 20-year-old daughter while she was walking in Morgantown. A Monongalia County jury was informed that there was no limit in deciding how much money to award the family over their mental anguish and sorrow. After deliberating for about 90 minutes, the jury determined that a justifiable and appropriate compensation was $7.6 million.
Although there is no amount of money that makes up for the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, the case presented here was about the issue of holding the drunk driver accountable for his actions. On January 17, 2016, the victim, a native of Charleston, was in town to visit a friend when she was fatally struck while walking to her friend’s apartment. The 19-year-old inebriated driver fled the scene of the accident and stated that he did not remember striking his victim with his vehicle.
The first-response paramedic who arrived at the scene of the accident, however, did recall this tragic incident and described it to the jury in court. The victim was still alive when she was brought to the hospital. A surgeon tried to save her life, but she eventually died from the severe swelling in her brain, two bruised lungs and pelvic fractures. At the time of her passing, she was a student studying hospitality management at Ole Miss. An economist testified in court with regard to the amount he believed she would have earned during her lifetime if she would have been able to graduate and begin working in her career.
The jury decided that the family should receive $3 million for her loss. It was also determined that the victim would have earned $2.4 million throughout her lifetime and her family was awarded an additional $500,000 for the pain and suffering she felt during the six hours between the impact and her death. $1,250,000 was awarded in punitive damages, which generally acts as a hoped-for deterrent so that other drivers may think twice before getting behind the wheel of their car while intoxicated. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, underage drunk drivers account for nearly 10% of fatalities occurring in the U.S.