As reported by WBRZ News 2 Louisiana, 17 year old Ramie Martinez of Greenwell Springs was killed in a recent two vehicle crash in Denham Springs. The tragic accident happened on Lockhart Road near Cockerham Road. According to state police, Cherish D. McConn, 26, was impaired and driving east when she crossed the center line and her 2000 Chevy Cavalier struck the side of a 1994 GMC truck. The two people in the truck had minor injuries but were not hospitalized.
Ramie and one other passenger was in the car with McConn. The other passenger received minor injuries and was transported to the hospital for treatment. Ramie was pronounced dead at the scene and was later identified. McConn was also injured and hospitalized for injuries. She will be arrested for reckless operation, negligent injury, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), and vehicular homicide once she is released.
McConn will likely have more to deal with than criminal charges in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. The family of Ramie Martinez may be entitled to collect compensation against McConn in a civil action as well since she was at fault for the accident that killed their daughter. Through a wrongful death claim, survivors can recover the cost of medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages or benefits, or even compensation for pain and suffering. Because McConn has been charged with DWI, the family of the deceased may be able to collect additional damages as well.
While many causes of action only allow general and special damages the Louisiana Civil Code allows exemplary damages should a defendant have caused injury due to them driving while under the influence of alcohol. Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4
The exemplary damages mentioned here are punitive damages or damages that are meant to punish the party at fault (in this case the intoxicated driver). Punitive damages are awarded in addition to actual damages or special damages. Punitive damages can be collected anytime there was impaired driving, not just when the impairment was due to alcohol, if the following three elements are proven:
-The driver was under the influence of alcohol and lost normal control of his ability to think and react clearly.
-The influence of alcohol contributed to the injury. The contribution does not require that the influence of alcohol was the only factor, but at least a substantial factor in the injury.
-The intoxicated driver was consciously indifferent to the consequences of his actions.
Whether or not these elements are present is a question of fact that is given to the jury to decide. This can make proving a punitive damages claim very difficult. A toxicology report showing the defendant had a high BAC level at the time of the accident is helpful. Expert witness testimony is also often used.
If you or a loved one was in an accident and an intoxicated driver was at fault you need an attorney who will work hard to protect your right to recover all of the damages you are entitled to under the law.