Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on March 4th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

New Douglas Man Sentenced to 8 Years in Illinois Fatal Drunk Driving

Posted on March 4th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

Sentencing in Madison County, Illinois

drunk drivingA 25-year old New Douglas man was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison in the fatal drunk driving accident that killed one woman and severely injured another.  The young man pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated drunk driving from the October 20, 2012 accident where he rear-ended a pickup truck at the interchange of Interstates 270 and 55 near Troy, Illinois around 8 a.m.

The Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli sentenced him to 8 years in prison of which means must serve 85%. Prosecutors asked for 12 years and the charge itself could have spanned 3-14 years.  The convicted man had been out on bail and was taken into custody after sentencing.

According to reports, the family has been angered because sentencing for the drunk driver had been delayed twice and it was thought at one time, the drunk driver might only be sentenced to three years in prison.  Apparently, the delays were caused when an attorney called in sick for one sentencing date and the judge was ill for the next.  The Madison County State Attorney’s office said the delays have been out of their control but they were ready to move forward with sentencing.  Ballion, the daughter of the deceased was furious when the sentencing hearings were delayed, “My mom was brutally killed in this car wreck. It wasn’t like she bonked her head. My mother was brutally murdered”.

But the rescheduled sentencing hearing did occur yesterday as scheduled.  While no reports have been released regarding the family’s response to the sentence, however, from my experience when a sentence finally does happen, it can sometimes help the family put a portion of the tragedy behind them.

The Crash

The crash killed a 62-year old Granite City woman who as a passenger in the truck with her daughter who was 27 years-old at the time.  Prosecutors say the toxicology reports showed the drunk driver had a blood-alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 and multiple witnesses reported he was driving recklessly. The collision flipped the victims’ truck and sent the drunk driver’s car down an embankment.

The daughter was ejected from her vehicle and suffered “moderate injuries” according to the article.  No article clarified the nature of the daughter’s injuries, but being ejected from a vehicle usually causes some serious injuries whether they are life-threatening or not. Usually, when reports are made regarding “injuries”, they are referenced in regard to “life-threatening injuries”, however, we all know that many injuries can be “life changing injuries” even if they do not threaten our life.  Numerous spinal injuries such as disc damage or fractures can impact an individual for the rest of their lives.

Wrongful Death Cases

The grieving process in a preventable tragic death is extremely difficult.  Family members not only feel the loss of a loved one but they have to deal with the fact that it was completely preventable. It is hard to cope with the fact that because of someone’s negligent choice to drink and drive, they no longer have their family member.  Criminal charges in drunk driving fatality are just that, criminal charges and possible jail sentencing, however, it does not compensate the family in any way for the loss of their family member.

Can monetary compensation make it okay? Absolutely not.  Frankly, it’s more the principle of it.  If you chose to drink and drive, then you should be held accountable criminally and should be held responsible for harms caused.  Certainly, there is no amount of compensation that will bring back the family’s mother, but what about what they lost in financial support, companionship and grief.  These damages do equate to a financial sum.

Who can decide that amount of compensation for damages?  Only a jury can truly decide that amount in accordance with the community standard.  Wrongful death claims are rarely about getting a lot of money, they are more about telling the story of who the victim was, what the loss of their life means to the rest of the family and how the world would be a better place if this tragic choice had not been made.   Often a wrongful death claim is the next step in achieving “what is fair” in a situation that was brutally “unfair” for the victim and their family. The news articles did not indicate whether the family of the deceased had filed a wrongful death claim or if the daughter had filed a personal injury claim for injuries she sustained due to the negligent choices of the drunk driver.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent act of another such as drinking and driving, you will need legal representation in order to do several things. One, the victim’s “story” is rarely really told in a criminal sentencing trial.  A criminal sentencing is about the person charged, not about the victim’s experiences.  More often than not, a family member must file a third party wrongful death claim to attempt to get any of the compensation that they deserve following such a tragic death.

We represent family members in wrongful death claims frequently. We understand that the grieving process is one of the most difficult experiences- period.  Loss of an integral part of your family is a financial and emotional hardship.  We have been fortunate to share the stories of many people who were tragically killed in such preventable accidents.  The actual accident is not always the victim’s real story, rather the story of the victim is who he/she was and who or what they were to their family, friends and co-workers. Often it is the way in which the victim supported others financially and emotionally and what loss means.  If you have lost a loved one, you deserve to have their story shared if for no other reason than to have an impact on others who may choose to drink and drive and often to have the accident thoroughly investigated.  Our attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm are available seven days a week and we assist victims in Illinois and Missouri. Consultations are always free at 1.800.685.3.302 or locally 314.276.1681

The deceased woman was the owner of the Luna Café in Mitchell and retired from Southern University Edwardsville’s food service in 2006. She was survived by four children and seven grandchildren

Source:  Drunken driver sentenced in death of Granite City woman. Bellville News-Democrat, 3/3/14