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Driver in Madison-area accident that killed 4 convicted

When you step into a car as a passenger, do you always trust the driver? What about after a night out drinking with friends? While it's always best to designate one person in the group to stay sober, too often friends end up simply choosing the least intoxicated person to transport everyone else. Sometimes that person underestimates his or her level of intoxication, or simply lies out of a desire to get home without relying on a cab.

These situations may start out as an awkward conversation -- friends are often reluctant to refuse to get in a car with someone who they know might be drunk, fearing hurt feelings and hoping that luck will hold out for the ride home. But when the result is a serious car accident that injures or kills someone, that initial awkwardness becomes entirely insignificant. Consider the accident in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, in February of last year that killed all four passengers. The driver, a 19-year-old Madison man who was found to be high on drugs and alcohol when he drove the car into a utility pole, was convicted earlier this week on eight counts of homicide, along with other charges.

The accident killed all four passengers; three were pronounced dead at the scene and the fourth died at a hospital. Police said the driver tried to avoid blame for the crash by crawling out of the car through a passenger-side window of the overturned car. A firefighter tracked his footprints and as they walked back toward the vehicle together, authorities said, the man feigned surprise at the crash scene and asked what had happened. Police said he claimed to have been sleeping in the back seat at the time of the crash, but an investigation ruled out that possibility.

All of us would hope that our designated drivers are sober and willing to take responsibility in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, it can be hard to predict what someone will do when faced with the possibility of criminal charges. It's possible that the families of the victims will file a civil wrongful death claim against the driver in this case to cover funeral and burial costs -- possibly even punitive damages for his actions after the crash. In cases like these, a personal injury attorney can help loved ones decide the best and most viable course of legal action against intoxicated drivers.

Source: LaCrosseTribune.com, "Jury convicts Madison man in crash that killed four," March 12, 2013

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