Family of boy injured in ‘affluenza’ DUI crash refuse settlement

Families of other victims killed or injured in last year's crash have already settled

The family of a 13-year-old boy, who was injured when a 16-year-old drunk driver killed four people and injured 12 others with his vehicle in Tarrant County last June, will pursue a civil suit against the driver and his family, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The other families who were also pursuing lawsuits against the driver and his family have all reportedly reached settlements for undisclosed amounts.

'Affluenza' case sparks fury

While all fatal car crashes caused by a drunk driver are tragic, this case sparked a media uproar when a psychologist at the trial said that the driver's extreme wealth, what the psychologist termed 'affluenza,' made it difficult for him to understand the consequences of his actions. 'Affluenza' is not a recognized diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, according to the Global Post.

The driver, who admitted to driving while under the influence of alcohol, managed to avoid jail time and was instead sentenced to 10 years on probation and ordered to attend an addiction treatment facility. The verdict led many to accuse the teen and his family of using their wealth in order to get a more lenient sentence.

Civil trial more public

While most of the families of the victims have already settled with the driver and his family, the 13-year-old boy and his family say they have rejected a settlement offer. The boy's family will instead pursue a trial by jury in civil court, which could mean that more evidence is released to the public.

Because the driver was a minor at the time of the accident, he was tried in juvenile court, which tends to place greater restrictions on what can be reported by the media. Because civil courts tend to be more open, however, much of the information that was not reported during the original case could be made public in the future.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs in this case says that the defendants have not yet been held accountable for their actions nor have they paid a sufficient financial sum to reflect the seriousness of the crime. The suit alleges that the driver was speeding and driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Furthermore, it alleges the driver's parents allowed their son to drive, although they knew he had a restriction on his license that required him to have a passenger in the front-seat who was at least 21, a restriction that the driver allegedly disregarded at the time of the accident.

Seeking responsibility

As this case shows, holding people responsible for the harm they cause other families is as much about seeking justice as it is about compensation. Any person injured by a drunk or reckless driver should not feel as though they have to suffer alone with the pain and suffering caused by another person's bad decisions. By contacting a personal injury lawyer, victims of negligent drivers can make sure they receive the compensation they are entitled to and that the negligent driver will be held responsible for his actions.