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Kansas man received 28-month term for fleeing fatal horse crash

When a Pittsburg civil court reviews a motor vehicle accident liability case, it considers a defendant's state of mind at the time of a victim's injury or death. The court wants to know whether a defendant cared about the victim's safety. Kansas drivers, whether they realize it or not, owe something to others on the road – a duty of care to prevent harm.

A 26-year-old Wichita man recently received a 28-month prison sentence for causing a fatal accident in July 2013. The Wichita Eagle reported the defendant's car was the first of two vehicles that struck a man and child riding a horse along a Sedgwick County road. The convicted driver didn't wait to find out what happened to the victims; he fled.

The horse owner died and the 6-year-old boy suffered severe injuries, but survived. It took several days and a tip call for police to find the vehicle involved in the fatal car crash. The defendant was taken into custody in August, along with a woman accused of hiding the car and two other women; however, authorities were forced to free the defendants for lack of evidence.

The defendant was arrested a second time in November, accused of leaving the crash scene and interference with law enforcement, and pleaded guilty in February. The female defendants received probation sentences for interference charges. At the sentencing hearing, the driver told the court he fled due to panic; the man had been driving without a license or car insurance.

A civil jury measures what a reasonable driver would do against a defendant's behavior at the time of an accident. Drivers are obligated by law to remain at an accident scene, but they are also bound by responsibility for victims. Taking flight and abandoning injured parties after a crash are criminal actions that also breach a civil duty, resulting in damage awards for plaintiffs.

Source: KWCH, "Man sentenced to prison, probation in deadly hit-and-run" Sia Nyorkor and Hali Rowland, Apr. 22, 2014

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