A Texas teen was sentenced to 10 years probation in early December for his role in a deadly drunk driving accident that killed four and severely injured two others. The sentence has victims’ families furious. Some are complaining that the driver’s wealthy parents were able to buy the lenient sentence for their child. But the criminal trial won’t be the end of the road for the teen and his parents, as civil personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are likely to follow.
Ethan Couch, 16, hit four people who were on foot at the scene of a stalled vehicle. Two of Couch’s friends were riding in the bed of his pickup truck at the time of the accident. One was left paralyzed and unable to speak after the crash. Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit at the time of the accident, and he admitted to police that he was driving drunk. The sentence doesn’t mean that Couch walked free. As part of the sentence, Couch will be required to undergo long-term, inpatient treatment. He was held after the sentence while a decision was made about where that treatment will take place.
The criminal trial in the Ethan Couch drunk driving case left a lot of people dissatisfied, believing that justice was not served for the four people killed by his actions. But a criminal action isn’t necessarily the end of the process. It’s very likely that the victim’s families will bring lawsuits against Ethan and his family for the deaths of their loved ones.
A wrongful death claim can be brought by the victims’ families against Ethan and possibly his parents. While a successful civil suit won’t reduce the pain that surviving family members feel, it is sometimes the last option for resolution of a case when the criminal justice system has run its course. If you or a loved one has had your lives torn apart by a drunk driver, speak with a St. Louis car accident attorney, who will evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.