Could drugs and or alcohol have been a factor in an auto accident that led to the death of two and injured three others? If so, and I can't say it was, that could explain the reasons behind criminal charges being filed.

On Tuesday October 20th the Benton County medical examiner's office ruled the death of Stephanie A. Dripps a homicide. Miss Dripps was the passenger of a car driven by Paul S. Lauritson who failed to yield and hit an oncoming sport utility vehicle near Garrison on Oct. 8th 2009.

The crash resulted in the death of both Miss Dripps and Mr. Lauritson and injured the driver of the sport utility vehicle Jennifer Engler and her two children. While the Deputy Medical examiner would not say more about why her death was ruled a homicide he said that she died due to "multi-system trauma caused by a motor vehicle accident."

Driving impaired is a crime and will normally result in the filing of criminal charges. When death results the penalties can be severe. It's the same in the world of civil litigation. When the actions that lead to the accident might lead to a criminal charge that doesn't preclude a civil action for money damages; in fact it often enhances the monetary damages that can be awarded. In many instances it simply adds to the types of compensation available to those injured. In this case punitive damages may be available along with the $150,000  civil penalty applied in cases where death results from drunk driving.

As an example take the 5-year sentence recently imposed on a 22-year-old man out of Manson, Iowa who plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 18-year-old passenger. The collision occurred on October 27, 2008 near Fort Dodge and sentencing just took place in late February 2010. For that entire time period this young man has been dealing with lawyers, the Court system and he may have been sitting in a jail cell. Most young adults when getting behind the wheel don't envision spending a couple of years dealing with criminal problems and then sitting in a jail cell for a few more years, but that is what this young man faces.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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