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Vigil protests hit-and-run driver's lenient sentence

In any hit-and-run case where the victim succumbs to his or her injuries and passes away, the surviving family members can be thrust into the criminal and civil justice systems. The impact of fatal car accidents can be far-reaching and severe for those who are unfamiliar with the legal issues involved, especially as they deal with already-strained emotions. In a recent case out of New York, the friends of a hit-and-run victim have planned an active protest against the man that took the life of their loved one.

Virginians read about fatal car accidents every day in their own metro areas, seeing for themselves the devastation these types of crashes can cause. In the New York case, a 30-year-old man was driving a vehicle that struck and killed a man last fall. In court, the driver pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the accident as well as tampering with some of the physical evidence. Both actions were felony counts.

The driver initially pleaded not guilty to the counts in February, but a police investigation into the 61-year-old victim's death revealed evidence linked to the driver's car. In March, he pleaded guilty, possibly due to the evidence pointing directly at him. With a sentencing scheduled for later this April, friends of the victim have planned a candlelight vigil to protest what they consider a too-lenient sentence. According to a spokesman for the local District Attorney, authorities will seek a sentence of two to six years in state prison for the offender.

In Virginia, there exists a complicated set of conditions that must be met in order to convict someone in criminal court on a hit-and-run charge. However, in civil courts, a wrongful death lawsuit can be an effective way for grieving friends and family to hold the proper party accountable. If an accident that kills a pedestrian is caused by negligence or intentional act, a wrongful death lawsuit can help compensate survivors for funeral expenses and mental pain and suffering. Wrongful death suits can also offer punitive damages when a driver's willful or wanton behavior causes the death of a loved one.

Source: 27East.com, "Amagansett victim's friends protest hit-and-run driver's sentence; vigil planned for Monday," Virginia Garrison, March 22, 2013

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