In 2009, a 23-year-old New Roads, Louisiana, mother was killed after a 25-year-old woman from nearby Ventress blew past a red light and crashed into a car that was turning left. An on-duty police officer was nearby and watched the accident unfold, but he was unable to stop what turned into a horrific crash that claimed the life of the mother and injured the driver of the car in which she was riding.
Now, more than two years later, the 25-year-old driver has pled no contest to criminal charges arising from the fatal accident. The woman had been charged with vehicular homicide and first-degree negligent vehicular injuring after she drove through the streets of New Roads with a suspected blood alcohol content of 0.30, nearly four times the legal limit. While family members of the 23-year-old may take some comfort in the 25-year-old’s five-year jail sentence, her no contest plea will not make it easier for the family to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
When a defendant pleads no contest, he or she is saying that he or she does not accept the facts put forth by the prosecution, but will not contest the criminal charges. As opposed to a guilty plea in which the defendant takes full responsibility for his or her actions, a no contest plea cannot be used in a wrongful death lawsuit to prove civil liability. Since the defendant did not admit that she was drunk driving or that she ignored a red light, causing a crash that killed the young mother, the mother’s family will need to work with a motor vehicle accident lawyer and start from the very beginning if it wishes to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
The police officer had previously testified that as he sat in an empty lot, he saw the driver traveling at high speed as it approached an intersection. Instead of stopping or even slowing, the woman entered the intersection and smashed into the left-turning vehicle. Both cars started to spin and the officer saw the woman’s body travel through the air and land 30 feet from where she was hit. When he went to arrest the woman, he said she smelled of alcohol and was so aggressive that she needed to be restrained.
Source: The Advocate, “Gosserand pleads; will get jail time,” Koran Addo, March 15, 2012