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Light sentence after Hawaii fatal accident, civil lawsuit pending

Being informed that your loved one has died at the hands of a drunk driver is news that no one should have to hear. For some families, seeing the drunk driver face consequences in the criminal justice system brings a small measure of comfort, but sometimes additional legal claims are necessary to achieve the full measure of justice.

Two Hawaii families are undoubtedly having difficulty coping with the loss of their loved ones after a light sentence was handed down to a driver involved in a 2012 accident. In addition to the criminal charges against the driver, one of the families has brought a civil lawsuit against the Seafood Bar in Kawaihae and the man who recently pleaded guilty to drunk driving.

The crash happened when a man driving a pickup truck slammed into a car occupied by three teenagers. Two passengers in the car were killed. One of the young men was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other later died at a hospital. Both of the deceased passengers were former athletes at Honokaa High School. Family members of the 19-year-old who died at the hospital have opted to seek some measure of legal compensation for their loss by bringing a civil lawsuit.

In connection with the fatal accident, the drunk driver was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He also has to complete a short alcohol education program and pay a $1,500 fine.

The light sentencing comes after prosecutors were unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the man was guilty of two counts of negligent homicide. Those charges were dropped. The driver, whose blood-alcohol content was found to be higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent, pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in April.

A criminal conviction isn’t necessary for a grieving family to hold a drunk driver legally responsible for a fatal accident. Hawaii dram shop laws also allow for victims or their families to hold restaurants and bars responsible if they over-serve a driver. You can learn more about these matters at our personal injury website.

Source: West Hawaii Today, "Waimea man sentenced to 30 days in jail for role in fatal 2012 crash," Bret Yager, June 6, 2014

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