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Increased penalties for drivers at fault in fatal hit-and-runs

When it comes to the safety of those traveling on the roadways, specific laws and regulations have been put into place. In hopes of reducing fatal accidents on the road, strict or harsh penalties may ensue for those who are accused of being negligent drivers, especially those who drive while under the influence. Furthermore, when the rates of automobile crashes in a state are not declining as lawmakers had hoped, new legislation could be passed to further their goal to reduce negligent drivers and drunk driving incidents.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have expressed concerns about the current laws regarding hit-and-run accidents and drunk driving accidents. A State Representative has pointed out a loophole in the current law and has planned to introduce new legislation that seeks to reduce hit-and-run accidents by increasing the penalties for fleeing the scene of a fatal accident.

The current law provides that a drunk driver who causes a fatal accident faces at least three years in prison; however, if a driver is charged with fleeing the scene of a fatal accident, he or she faces a mandatory minimum sentence of only one year. As the law stands, it almost acts as an incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene of the accident, because they might receive a lesser sentence as a result. The proposed bill would increase the mandatory minimum sentences in fatal hit-and-run accidents to three years.

When a negligent or drunk driver causes a fatal accident, they not only face criminal penalties, but they also may be civilly liable for any resulting damages. The loved ones of those killed by the driver at fault could file a wrongful death claim against the driver. This type of claim may provide them with a monetary award that could be applied toward expenses associated with the fatal accident. Compensation is commonly used for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, damages and pain and suffering.

Following a fatal crash, it is important to conduct a full investigation. This will help establish cause and fault. Seeking the assistance and guidance of a wrongful death attorney could help loved ones file a cause of action against any responsible parties. This step also will help protect their interests and rights.

Source: ABC 27 WHTM, "Pa. bill would hike penalty for fleeing fatal crash," Myles Snyder, May 7, 2014

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