Recent years have seen a trend that is especially disturbing to car accident attorneys: at-fault drivers suing their victims or victims’ families. In 2010 a teenager on trial for the vehicular homicide of a pregnant woman and her son sued the victim’s family in civil court. In that case, a failed suicide attempt was the impetus for the crash. In what some might say was a weird twist of events, she then sought to be compensated for mental pain and suffering, loss of income and medical expenses she incurred following the car accident that she caused.
This week, almost two years later, a Tampa Bay man convicted of driving while under influence (DUI) and causing a crash that resulted in the deaths of three people, announced that he has decided to sue the victims, and his sibling lawyer stands beside him. Much like the teenager in the earlier case, David Belniak is seeking compensation from the estate of the deceased driver, claiming the other driver actually caused the crash. Belniak, who was convicted and is now serving a 12-year jail sentence, seeks more than $15,000 in compensation for medical bills, “pain and suffering,” and “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life” – also known as incarceration.
It’s a lawsuit that could definitely backfire on him – six witnesses identified him as the man who was driving 70 to 90 mph before rear-ending the victim’s car as he idled at a stoplight. Having already agreed to a plea deal to escape life imprisonment, Belniak’s new allegations could turn a sympathetic jury against him completely.
It’s also a lawsuit that once again calls to attention one Georgia representative’s recent efforts to pass a bill that would reduce the time in which DUI offenders could acquire a “clean slate.” The new proposal is sponsored by Representative Culver Kidd and would allow ex-offenders to potentially have a DUI conviction removed from their record following five years of driving with no driving offenses. The more strict current state law requires a clean record 10 years. Kidd’s proposal is seen as being especially controversial in Georgia following the death of a police officer who was struck and killed by a drunk driver a few weeks ago.
A CBS report covering the proposal reported that Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) believe this is not the time to soften DUI laws, given recent tragedies. If anything, some may think this trend towards suing victims’ is further demonstration of the need for more stringent DUI laws, especially in cases where the defendant has already been tried and convicted, yet appears to be counter-suing in retaliation and perpetuating a cycle of hurt for the families.
According to the National Center for Statistics & Analysis, in 2002, there were 17,419 alcohol related wrongful deaths, an average of one alcohol related death every 30 minutes. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a DUI accident, Georgia drunk driving accident attorneys are here to assist. Drunk driving accidents may have a long-lasting effects that extend past the initial wrongful death and/or injury.