As personal injury lawyers in Maryland, I and my colleagues have felt the anguish of family members and relatives whose loved one has been taken from them in fatal car accident, truck collision or motorcycle wreck. Nothing anyone can say or do will bring that person back following a deadly traffic accident, yet it is our job to help families attain some amount of closure through legal means.
Wrongful death lawsuits are common when a person has died as a result of another driver’s negligence or willful breaking of the law. Especially in cases where the victim was the sole financial provider for his or her family, there is little alternative to the lost income to pay for the necessary living expenses, and likely medical bills related to the accident that claimed the life of that individual. If only to offset the lost future earning power, not to mention the loss of comfort and companionship, a wrongful death suit is often brought against the negligent party.
Many times, in the case of a fatal or even severe injury-related accident, police and local prosecutors will attempt to bring a negligent driver to justice in the way of criminal charges. In such cases, that person can end up being sent to jail for months or years, depending on the extent of the damage, injury or pain inflicted on others.
For those people who consciously and with malice attempt to injure or kill another person or persons, the law can be quite harsh; yet for the families of the victims, even the criminal justice system seems to come up short and emotions run high. We were certainly reminded of this not long ago when the sentencing phase of a criminal trial came to a conclusion.
According to news reports, a Calvert County man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his actions that caused a Christmas Day traffic wreck last year in Chesapeake Beach. In that so-called accident, 25-year-old Lusby, MD, resident Stephen Stanley reportedly rammed the work truck he was driving into the back of another vehicle, critically injuring an innocent woman.
Based on court records, Stanley told police that he was troubled over the breakup with his girlfriend and “wanted to hit something really hard and fast.” As a result of the man’s personal situation, the defendant was reported to have taken his four-ton commercial vehicle up to 125mph on a stretch of Rte 261 prior to slamming into the back end of a 2003 Ford Explorer carrying two women — the posted speed for that portion of the roadway was 40mph.
Police and emergency crews arriving on the scene following the collision found both women lying outside of the SUV, which was described as being virtually unrecognizable; in addition to destroying that vehicle, the force of the crash literally caused the victims’ seatbelts to fail, ejecting both occupants from the SUV. The driver of the Explorer, 17-year-old Alex Olynik, received only minor injuries, according to police.
The young man’s mother, Becky Olynik, was not so lucky. Reportedly suffering a traumatic brain injury during the crash, Olynik was comatose for about three weeks, and had to remain in the hospital for continuous medical treatment for almost 90 days. As might be expected, the woman testified in court regarding her continuing battle with the debilitating after-effects of that crash.
Stanley, who had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.14 percent a the time of the collision, was reportedly also driving on a suspended license. The man pleaded guilty back in June to second-degree assault and driving while intoxicated, as well as the suspended license charge. That plea to second-degree assault would typically call for a six-month to three-year jail sentence, however Calvert County prosecutors argued that three years in jail would hardly be appropriate in a case such as this, particularly given the level of harm. In response, prosecutors asked for a 10-year sentence — the maximum for vehicular homicide.
In the end, Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Warren J. Krug sentenced the defendant to 12 years active time. Meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to recover costs for the crash, Becky Olynik reportedly filed a motor tort case against the man and his father, who allegedly was his son’s employer at the time of the collision. The pretrial hearing for that lawsuit is scheduled for March of next year.
Man sentenced for Christmas Day crash, SoMdNews.com, October 05, 2011