San Jose woman who killed gardener in DUI crash gets 6 years

Posted on in Wrongful Death

A San Jose woman who lost control of her car and struck a grandmother outside her home has been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. The fatal accident happened on the first day of May 2011 -- in theory, a perfect day for the 79-year-old woman to garden in her front yard. There would have been no way for her to predict that an SUV would come speeding down her street and onto her property.

The accident was actually the second of three the driver of the Chevy Suburban caused that day. Shortly before the fatal crash, the woman struck a sedan just off Highway 85 in San Jose. Although the damage was minor, the driver left the scene, according to police. The Honda's driver followed the SUV as it went south, then attempted to make a sudden left turn. That's when it jumped the curb and a stone wall in front of the gardening woman's house.

After hitting the woman and her house, the front corner of which was crushed in the accident, the woman driving the SUV fled that crash scene, too, according to police. After making several more turns the vehicle struck a parked car. Police said the driver and her three passengers got out of the SUV and tried to abandon it, but police were able to stop them before they fled.

The driver had a blood alcohol content of at least .15 percent, nearly twice the legal driving limit. She pleaded guilty in January to gross vehicular manslaughter and other charges. At her sentencing last week, the daughter of the victim read a prepared statement about the effect her mother's death has had on her family. Although she said she doesn't feel anger toward the driver, she requested the maximum sentence of just over 12 years in prison.

It's natural for survivors of fatal accident victims to seek a lengthy sentence for those who caused the crash. While such a sentence might seem to offer some comfort, it doesn't offer any compensation for the loss of a loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit may, however, particularly if the plaintiffs can effectively demonstrate that the defendant's negligence led to the victim's death. A successful civil lawsuit allows the family members of the victims to recoup some of the financial and emotional costs that come with the loss of life.

Source: Mercury News, "San Jose woman sentenced for DUI crash that killed a grandmother," Mark Gomez, July 3, 2012

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