A 57-year-old man in Allentown recently admitted in court that he was drunk when he caused a car accident that took the life of a 1-year-old girl. The crash happened in North Whitehall Township last year, when the man’s vehicle crossed the center line of the road and collided with an oncoming minivan. At the time of the accident, his blood-alcohol level was shown to be .21 percent — nearly three times the legal limit to drive.

The family of the young victim didn’t offer any comment after the recent hearing in Lehigh County Court, and the defendant only provided brief responses to the judge’s questions. It remains to be seen whether the family of the deceased infant will pursue a wrongful death claim.

The drunk driver in this case pleaded guilty to three charges: reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence. He struck a plea agreement with the prosecution, and he will serve a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of 22.5 years.

Suddenly losing a loved one in a car accident is devastating enough without the knowledge that the crash could have been prevented. In civil court cases involving personal injury or death, drunk driving is regarded as a form of negligence. The dangers linked to that kind of behavior are underscored by the collision in North Whitehall that took a baby’s life.

Pennsylvania residents who have been victimized by a DUI accident should be aware of their rights under our state’s personal injury and wrongful death laws. While drunk drivers are often sentenced for criminal violations, those same drivers can also be held liable for damages to other parties.

Source: The Republic, “Pa. man pleads guilty in crash that killed baby,” June 25, 2012