A recently released police report indicates that the woman who caused a fiery crash on the Taconic State Parkway in Mount Pleasant, NY looked ill on at least two occasions shortly before the wreck.

Police say that Diane Shuler was severely intoxicated and high on marijuana at the time of the crash that killed eight people, including herself. Toxicology reports show that Shuler’s blood alcohol content (BAC) measured .19 and that she had ingested marijuana during the hour prior to the wreck. The crash occurred as Shuler drove her minivan down the wrong-way of a scenic four-lane parkway.

Shortly before the crash, witnesses observed Shuler sitting on a guardrail beside her red minivan with her head down, looking sick. Another group of motorists described seeing Shuler driving down the middle of two lanes, staring straight ahead, both hands on the wheel, with a look of sheer panic on her face.

Tragically, Shuler’s 2 year old daughter, her 8 and 7 year old nieces, and a 5 year old little girl were in the vehicle with Shuler and died in the crash. Three other adults were also killed as a result of the wreck. Shuler’s son was the only survivor in the minivan.

If this crash had happened in North Carolina, then Shuler would be facing felony death by motor vehicle charges and probably a decent amount of time behind bars for each death that she caused. The most up to date information indicates that there are still a significant number of North Carolina citizens driving while impaired. Approximately 29% of all fatal crashes in North Carolina involve alcohol. In Buncombe County, more than 33% of all fatal crashes involve the use of alcohol.

Those who suffer injury or death at the hands of drunk drivers have the right to seek redress and the right to punish the drunk driver. In a civil lawsuit arising out of a drunk driving wreck, we always advise our clients to seek both compensatory damages and punitive damages. By punishing the drunk driver, one hopes to prevent the drunk driver and others from committing similar wrongs in the future. In the above New York case, each of the victims who were killed would have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Shuler.

Wrongful death cases can seek both compensatory and punitive damages for a host of harms and losses, such as the victim’s family’s loss of companionship, loss of society, loss of income and other related harms. Unfortunately, most insurance liability policies do not cover punitive damages.