Drunk driver Humberto A. Orduna hit and killed Francisco Rivera, Jr., a 20-month old baby, in a Florida mobile home park in 2004. After his arrest for DUI, he fled the country to Mexico – but his actions have incurred a hefty price in the United States, where he was recently convicted in absentia. The family, who was emotionally traumatized by witnessing the accident and who endured both the sight of their baby son’s brain injury and death and a bill for nearly $17,000, was awarded $7.25 million by the jury in Orduna’s absence. Now they’re going after the defendant’s insurance company, who allegedly failed to pay the entire $10,000 covered by Orduna’s insurance policy.
This tragic incident demonstrates not only the harsh toll wrongful death can take on a family, but the rights surviving family members have under the law when wrongful death is involved. The family not only recovered direct medical costs related to the drunk driving accident – they filed for and received damages covering their severe emotional distress.
While Orduna was convicted of liability for the accident by default in his absence, the jury still had to rule on damages. Their $7.25 million award to the plaintiffs demonstrates the incident’s severe emotional impact on the family. It also shows the power of a jury trial to send a clear message to drunk drivers like Orduna – if you endanger and kill others, you will be held responsible for your actions in a court of law. The verdict can’t bring back little Francisco, but it can reassure the family, who knows that by pursuing their wrongful death case in court they have carried out a responsibility to their deceased baby.
If your family has experienced wrongful death, know that you have more options than a simple criminal case – you can fight and win a wrongful death lawsuit that pays in part for the emotional and financial damages suffered in the incident.