This past July, a 27-year-old man was walking home at about 2:30 a.m., pushing a full grocery cart toward his home in Millcreek Township. He was walking alongside Peach Street, not too far from his residence off of Kuntz Road.

Meanwhile, a Waterford Township man driving a minivan on Peach Street approached from the south. Police would later find that the driver was intoxicated and speeding. His vehicle drifted to the right and struck the pedestrian, who suffered fatal injuries as a result of the collision.

After the accident, police tested the 50-year-old driver for intoxication, and his blood-alcohol content was determined to be 0.19 percent, which is more than two times the legal limit for drivers. According to an attorney who later prosecuted the case, the driver also tested positive for marijuana and the anti-depressant Prozac.

A charge of homicide by vehicle was brought against the driver, in addition to charges related to drug paraphernalia and drunken driving. He recently pleaded guilty to those charges, and his sentencing is scheduled for late March. He could face years in prison.

In addition to criminal charges, an intoxicated driver whose negligence caused a person’s death can be held accountable in civil court. Family members whose loved ones have died as a result of another party’s negligence may seek compensation for damages through a wrongful death claim.

The criminal conviction of a wrongdoer may bolster a claim of , but a conviction isn’t always necessary to achieve a favorable outcome for the plaintiff.

Source: Erie Times-News, “Man pleads guilty in Millcreek DUI fatality,” Jan. 9, 2014