Month After Civil Claims in Fatal Crash Resolved, Driver Goes to Jail

For his role in a 2014 Maine car accident that left his pregnant girlfriend permanently disabled, killed another woman and injured her teenage son, a 20-year-old from Spruce Head was sentenced to 12 years in prison. However, he will only serve nine months of that at a local jail because the judge suspended the bulk of the sentence. He had admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the crash and THC and amphetamines were found in his system. He was reportedly driving recklessly and crossed the center line, striking the decedent’s vehicle. drivingsleepy

The criminal sentencing came one month after jurors in a civil trial brought by the estate of the woman who died awarded plaintiffs $1.1 million in a judgement against the driver. Six months before that, a personal injury lawsuit filed by the man’s former girlfriend, 19, settled out-of-court for $5 million.

In both cases where The Bangor Daily News reported on the civil lawsuits, the reporter noted, “Whether that money will be collected is uncertain.” That’s because the driver was not insured. 

Our Bangor auto accident attorneys know families may be able to recover in this situation, after a finding of liability on the part of the driver.

First of all, it’s important to point out that you can’t start out by suing an insurance company in a car accident lawsuit. The insurance company only becomes liable to pay the damages if the courts first determine responsibility for the accident. From there, the courts deem the insurer on the hook for damages, either because the negligent party or injured person was an insured.

So the lawsuit against the negligent driver is usually just the first step. If the driver does not have insurance, those injured have a couple options. The first is uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage). This type of coverage is mandatory for all drivers in Maine (it’s optional for those in many other states). UM coverage protects drivers who are injured or survivors of those killed in a crash. Each policy is different, but can cover family members or others injured in the covered vehicle. It can also be provided to the insured when he or she is not in the covered vehicle. So if the girlfriend’s parents had a UM policy that extended coverage to her, it may extend to this situation. Same with the surviving teen and his mother’s estate.

The second way victims may be able to collect is by seeking damages from the owner of the vehicle the at-fault driver was operating. If he had permission to drive that car – even though he had no license – it’s possible victims may still secure damages.

Finally, it may be possible to collect damages by going after plaintiff’s assets and/or wages. This is a somewhat unusual route because often, uninsured drivers don’t have much in the way of assets or salary – especially if they are incarcerated. But it shouldn’t be totally overlooked as an option.

It will be important for these victims to explore all possible collection avenues.

Defendant’s former girlfriend gave birth to her daughter after the crash, but said in a statement read in court that she was robbed of bonding with her daughter for the first year. She had to re-learn basic skills, like walking, talking and feeding herself. She has also lost most use in her left leg and arm.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Spruce Head man sentenced to nine months in fatal car crash, Jan. 22, 2016, By Stephen Betts, Bangor Daily news

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Maine Winter Weather Proves Challenging for Many Drivers, Jan. 16, 2016, Bangor Accident Lawyer Blog