Fatal Denver Hit-and-Run Highlights Accident Victims' Rights
November 15, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- There are few things worse than losing a loved one to a fatal car accident. However, when the at-fault driver refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions, the pain of the loss is often accompanied by an unshakable sense of injustice.
Thankfully, Colorado police take fatal hit-and-run car accidents seriously. They will investigate the crash and work to identify and apprehend the responsible driver. If found, the driver will face serious criminal penalties.
Take, for example, the case of a recent fatal hit-and-run accident on South Broadway in Denver. A 32-year-old woman was crossing the street when she was struck by a Toyota Corolla. The Corolla's driver was proceeding at more than twice the street's 30 mph speed limit.
The driver fled the scene of the accident, but was apprehended after a group of people spotted an abandoned car that matched the description of the suspect vehicle. They reported the vehicle to police, who were able to trace it back to the driver who caused the accident.
That man is now facing serious felony charges. In October 2012, he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and vehicular homicide. He is now awaiting trial. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison.
Colorado wrongful death lawsuits
After a Colorado fatal accident, criminal charges can go a long way toward helping grieving families achieve a sense of justice. However, it is important to understand that criminal charges are intended to punish illegal conduct, not to make survivors whole.
Instead, Colorado law allows the families of those killed to pursue wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to provide financial compensation for many of the expenses and losses families incur, including medical bills, funeral expenses, lost income, lost retirement or pension benefits, loss of companionship and marital consortium, and the survivors' grief and suffering.
Wrongful death lawsuits exist independently from any criminal case. As such, wrongful death claims can be pursued even if criminal charges were never brought. Since the thresholds for civil and criminal liability are different, wrongful death lawsuits can also be pursued in cases where the driver was ultimately found not to be criminally liable.
Lawsuits in hit-and-run accidents
Further, it is important to understand that the survivors of fatal hit-and-run accident victims have rights, even if the at-fault driver is never found. After a fatal accident, the police will work diligently to identify the responsible driver. Unfortunately, though, sometimes this just isn't possible. In those cases, the family may be able to pursue compensation from the victim's uninsured motorist insurance policy.
However, since uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory in Colorado, many drivers don't purchase it. As such, access to this type of recovery is not available in all accidents.
The importance of talking to an attorney
After a fatal car accident, most families are rightly focused on grieving their loss. Many don't know about their right to seek compensation or how to protect it.
If your loved one has been killed in a car accident, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney. He or she will be able to evaluate the case to determine what options exist. Often, these initial consultations are provided free of charge.