Families may have good reasons for not filing wrongful death claims.

DUIWhen it comes to car accidents involving drunk driving, the good news is negligence on the part of the inebriated driver causing the accident is typically easy to prove. The bad news is injuries are often severe or even fatal.

Such was the case in one DUI auto accident last November. A group of friends were out celebrating the birthday of Anagraciela Cuadra, who had just turned 22. Leaving a club in downtown LA at around 1:30 am, they piled into Jeanette Romero’s Nissan Sentra and got on the 110 Freeway. Shortly after entering the freeway, Romero hit a curb, veered into a chain link fence, and crashed head on into a tree. Cuadra and another friend were killed, while Romero and two other passengers were cut from the mangled wreckage and rushed to the hospital.

Romero was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter and a DUI and was facing up to 13 years in prison. However, at her recent hearing Romero accepted a plea deal that resulted in the DUI count being dropped and her prison time being reduced to just two years and three months.

It would seem that this DUI accident offers at least the potential for a wrongful death claim by the families of the two young women who were killed and/or a personal injury claim by the friends who were injured in the accident. However, to date no claims have been filed that we know of. It is worth speculating on the possible reasons for this as you may find similar circumstances affecting your own personal injury case:

Personal Connections: In this case, the victims were all good friends. It is entirely possible that the families of the victims do not wish to visit more harm and suffering on the driver and her family, perhaps believing criminal penalties are enough. This is of course a personal decision that would be different in every unique case.

Lack of Assets: In order to collect damages in a personal injury or wrongful death case, the person liable for the accident must have the ability to pay those damages in a lump sum or in installments. If you win a judgment and the person refuses to pay, you could get the court to seize their assets or garnish their wages, but of course this assumes that they have any income or assets in the first place. Sadly, in some cases it simply does not make good financial sense to seek damages from a person who does not have the means to pay them, especially if they do not have insurance to help.

Feelings of Guilt: In the case of the surviving victims, it is possible that they might feel that they contributed to the accident by perhaps encouraging Romero to drink or assuring her she was ok to drive. They might feel guilt for this, or they might even feel that had things gone differently they could have been in her shoes. They might not feel good about bringing a suit, even if they have every legal right to do so.

Settlement Already Accepted: Remember, as soon as you accept a settlement from the insurance company, you have pretty much ruled out the possibility of seeking damages in court. Be sure the settlement is sufficient to your needs and suffering before accepting.