This Wednesday, a Brooksville jury awarded Angela Stone, a mother who lost her 12-year-old daughter in a DUI crash, $330 million in civil damages for wrongful death. This verdict is believed to be the largest award of its kind in Hernando County history. Tony Marrero from the St. Petersburg Times interviewed the jury foreperson after the verdict was rendered and she said that the award was so large because the jury felt that “Nothing can compensate her [the mother]…but if the figure that sits in the newspaper looks so enormous it stops one person and spares one family that kind of tragedy, it’s enough.”
The Defendant, Christopher Marcone is already serving 13 years in Florida State prison for DUI manslaughter. It is unlikely that Ms. Stone will recover the entirety of the $330 million, since the defendant is incarcerated, but that’s not really the point.
What’s important to take away from this case is that many people do not know what rights they have when they lose a loved one to a DUI crash. When someone dies in a DUI accident caused by another driver, the personal representative from the decedant’s estate has the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit and to ask for punitive damages, not just compensatory damages. Under Florida law, there is no cap on punitive damages. However, there is a sort of “race to the courts” in wrongful death cases because the estate representative has only two (2) years to file their lawsuit. And in order to do this, they must first set up an estate on their loved one’s behalf to be able to sue.
Even though it is difficult to think of these issues when you have just lost someone you care about, it is so important to contact an experienced civil attorney as soon as possible after a family member dies in DUI accident. The attorneys at Whittel & Melton, LLC have experience handling wrongful death and other accident cases on behalf of those injured or killed by a DUI driver. If you have a family member who has been involved in a DUI accident, please contact our offices online or at 352-666-2121 to schedule a consultation. Time is of the essence.