A 51-year-old man faces second-offense DUI and child endangerment charges after striking and killing a toddler in Lee County, South Carolina (SC), on the evening of February 25, 2017. The fatal crash happened near the intersection of Racoon Road and Lower Lee School Road.
According to witnesses, the at-fault driver could not stop in time when the 21-monthold boy ran out into the street. The driver did swerve after hitting the young child and ran into another vehicle. He sustained injuries, but the two children in his back seat escaped the wreck unharmed.
Law enforcement officials have long recognized the dangers posed by people who continue to drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs despite getting convicted of doing so previously. In fact, South Carolina statutes authorize a prison sentence of up to 25 years for a person who takes a life while driving drunk after having once completed an earlier sentence for a DUI offense.
Few things other than personal responsibility will keep a drunk or stoned individual out of the driver's seat. Regardless, strict enforcement of existing penalties, expanded use of ignition interlock devices and constant vigilance by both police on patrol and people who have friends and relatives who are prone to driving under the influence can reduce the occurrence of tragedies like this fatal DUI crash in Lee County.
The at-fault drunk driver is likely to spend a good deal of time in prison and face high criminal penalties. He may never be permitted to drive again legally. That will serve the cause of justice, but questions exist regarding whether the family of the young victim will be able to hold the drunk driver financially and personally accountable.
Circumstances indicate that they should have strong grounds for filing wrongful death claims. Evidence collected by police to support a conviction on the DUI charge can also be used to substantiate a civil claim that the man was operating his vehicle in a reckless manner. Also, because the child who lost his life was so young, courts will be inclined to consider the adult driver completely responsible for causing the deadly accident.
Working with a caring and experienced Carolina wrongful death attorney will help the grieving parents understand and exercise all their options for holding the at-fault drunk driver to account.