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Civil lawsuits filed against family in 'affluenza' DUI case

People all across Georgia are likely aware of a drunk driving story that has made national headlines. It involved a 16-year-old driver, alcohol and the tragic deaths of four people. Reports indicate that the teen was heavily intoxicated when he got behind the wheel of his truck and crashed into a group of people fixing a vehicle on the side of the road.

The accident itself was bad enough, but what made matters even worse is the fact that the young man convicted of drunk driving was sentenced to probation, rather than jail time. While he may have escaped serious criminal penalties for his actions, the young man and his family are now facing several civil lawsuits seeking millions of dollars.

In the criminal case, it was argued that the teen suffers from a condition referred to affluenza. It was explained by the defense that the boy's family is so wealthy and he is from such an affluent background that he does not appreciate the fact that his actions have consequences. Noting this, a judge sentenced the teen to probation and alcohol treatment, rather than jail.

People all across the country argued that the family's wealth is what got him such a lenient treatment, and were understandably upset. However, that wealth may not last much longer as the families of those injured or killed in the accident have recently filed civil lawsuits against the driver, his parents and his parents' company. According to reports, there have been five civil claims filed seeking a total of more than $21 million in damages.

As tragic of a case as this is, it is a good reminder that victims of a drunk driving accident and their families may not always agree that criminal penalties are sufficient in punishing a negligent driver. Under these circumstances, it can be important for people to remember that they can also pursue a civil case seeking compensation and further punishment. Money cannot undo a catastrophic event like this one, but it can help families recover from a devastating accident and serve as a way to hold a driver liable for his or her actions.

Source: KFOR-TV, "Victims' families file multimillion dollar lawsuits against 'affluenza' teen," Dec. 16, 2013

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