A recent crash in Holly Ridge, N.C. brought home the dangers of drunk driving in tragic fashion. Jacob Bietz was allegedly driving intoxicated on Highway 17 when he crashed into the back of a sedan and an SUV at approximately 80 mph. The wreck ultimately killed 19 year-old Jacinta Fischer. Two children in the sedan were treated for serious injuries at two nearby hospitals. The driver and passenger in the SUV were uninjured.
Fischer, who had graduated from high school the year before, was enrolled in post-secondary education and wanted to be a dentist.
Prosecutors have filed 18 criminal charges against Beitz, among them DWI, careless and reckless driving, felony death by motor vehicle and voluntary manslaughter. Bietz reportedly had another DUI case pending at the time of the accident from a previous incident.
When authorities arrived at the crash site Bietz allegedly attempted to flee the scene, forcing law enforcement officers to taze him before his arrest. Bietz is currently in jail on a $635,000 bond.
Civil Remedies and Wrongful Death
In addition to facing criminal charges and the possibility of extensive jail time, Beitz's actions may result in a civil wrongful-death case. When a drunk or reckless driver kills someone on the road, the victim's family has rights regarding possible compensation for the costs associated with the car accident.
By filing a wrongful death claim, the victim's loved ones may get help with funeral costs, hospital treatment and other medical expenses. The victim's family can also receive compensation for pain and suffering the victim endured.
In cases involving intoxicated drivers, a North Carolina jury could potentially award punitive damages to punish the drunk driver and discourage actions that caused the wrongful death. Finally, the victim's family may receive the net "present value" of the deceased individual's worth. This amount may include what the victim would have earned from a lifetime of work (after deducting for living expenses of the decedent), calculated from the time of the victim's death. Heirs may also recover for loss of the society, companionship, comfort, guidance and advice of the decedent.
It goes without saying that money is nothing compared to the life of a victim killed by the negligent, reckless or criminal behavior of another. However, the monetary recovery from a civil claim for wrongful death can help the victim's family get through the tough times that lie ahead.