Police arrest driver after hit-and-run death

drunk driving

On a dark Saturday night in Yakima, a driver slammed into a bicyclist and a parked truck. Two women got out of the car and walked away from the crash, leaving Ron Knowlton, who had been biking on South Sixth Avenue, with extensive injuries. Ron died at the scene, and police tracked down the driver shortly afterwards. Ron left behind a loving family and community; a GoFundMe page has been set up to assist Ron’s family. 

Police told reporters that the driver appeared to be intoxicated when they found her. A list of charges has not yet been released, but driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, and killing someone by driving recklessly are all crimes in Washington state. 

What do families need to know after a criminal takes their loved one's life?

Unfortunately, after a fatal accident, a bereaved family often faces financial strain. Funeral bills, grief counseling, care of dependent children, and other expenses can be difficult to pay for, especially after the loss of someone who was a financial provider.

Washington state offers certain services to victims of crimes. The civil court system also may help some families recover damages after an accident. Here are some facts about the available resources:

Crime Victims Compensation

Washington State has money set aside to assist the victims of violent crimes. Vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, felony hit-and-run, and causing an accident while intoxicated are all considered violent crimes, since a victim was hurt as the result of a criminal’s actions. The Washington state Crime Victims Compensation Program can help cover:

  • Funeral expenses up to a certain amount
  • Grief counseling sessions
  • Some wage replacement benefits, based on a percentage of the victim’s wages

Find out more about Washington state’s program here. (http://www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/CrimeVictims/Homicide/default.asp#Benefits)

Your own insurance policy

For victims with automobile insurance, some coverage may be available through their own insurance policy, even if they were a pedestrian or bicyclist who was hit by another person’s car. The exact specifics of how much money might be available would depend on the contract that the victim signed with their insurance carrier. Such policies may cover:

  • Funeral expenses up to a certain amount
  • Medical bills

Claims against the other driver’s insurance (3rd party insurance)

When the family of a victim opens a wrongful death case, that takes place in civil court. The aim of such cases is not usually to punish a criminal (punishments are doled out in criminal court), but to compensate the victim of an accident for their loss. In a wrongful death case, the law considers certain surviving family members like spouses and dependent children to be victims in the event of a person’s death.

In wrongful death cases, damages are usually covered by the insurance company that covers the person who was at fault in the accident. These cases are usually handled by personal injury attorneys.

Wrongful death cases may ask for compensation for these damages:

  • Health care expenses incurred before the victim died
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost net earning accumulations
  • Pre-death pain, suffering and fear of death
  • Loss of consortium (learn more about what this means here)

Learn more about damages in wrongful death cases here.

Restitution payments

In criminal court, when a criminal receives a fine as punishment, that money goes to the state, not to the victim. However, it’s also possible for a criminal court to order a criminal to make restitution payments, which would go to victims, not to the state. Restitutions payments may happen when a criminal is convicted of “an offense which results in injury to any person or damage to or loss of property.” In some cases, restitution payments may go towards paying back the Crime Victims Fund.

Learn more about restitution payments here

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