Back in December, I wrote about the guilty plea of a former Sunset Hills police officer in the deaths of four students and serious injury to a fifth. That’s why, as a southern Illinois auto accident lawyer, I was interested to see a March 10 report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the officer’s sentence. Christine Miller, 43, was sentenced to eight years in prison for the deaths of Anita Lakshmi Veerapaneni; Anusha Anumolu; Priya Muppavarapu; and Satya Subhakar Chinta. She also received a seven-year sentence, to run concurrently, for second-degree assault on survivor Nitesh Adusumilli. The prosecution in the case had asked for a 20-year sentence; the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney called the eight-year sentence inappropriate under the circumstances.
Al five victims were Indian nationals in Missouri and Illinois for work and school; Adusumilli and Veerapaneni were engaged to be married. According to the article and past reports, Miller had had five drinks at a Sunset Hills bar the night of the wreck. She was driving the wrong way down Dougherty Ferry Road when Adusumilli made a legal right turn onto the road, on the way home from a trip to dinner and a bowling alley. The two vehicles crashed head-on, badly injuring Adusumilli and Miller and killing the others. Adusumilli testified at trial that he feels survivor’s guilt and couldn’t remember the crash for the first few days after it happened. Miller herself told the victims’ families, who had come from India, that she was remorseful. She sustained severe head injuries and used a wheelchair in court.
To me, as a Missouri car crash attorney, this sad story just underscores how easily drunk driving can cause preventable, senseless tragedies. Four young people are dead, another is injured and lost his fiancé, and a fifth person is permanently disabled and imprisoned, with her career at an end. I don’t know if the families of the victims agree with prosecutors that the sentence was unreasonably low — but if they do, they still have the option of pursuing auto accident lawsuits against Miller and her auto insurance company. A lawsuit can’t bring back the victims, unfortunately, but it can help the families deal with the financial and emotional damages the accident caused. In this case, that could include the considerable financial outlay it took them to come to St. Louis from India and bring their children’s bodies home.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we represent clients who are pursuing this kind of lawsuit against drivers who hurt them with unsafe decisions. All drivers in Missouri and Illinois owe each other a duty to take reasonable care on the road, which means avoiding careless driving and bad decisions, including the decision to drink and drive. When they fail in that duty and someone is hurt or killed, the victims can and should hold them legally liable for their actions. Our St. Louis auto accident lawyers help victims and their families do that, regardless of whether the government is also pursuing a criminal prosecution. In a lawsuit, families can win payment for all of the costs of the crash, as well as damages for their physical pain, emotional trauma and permanent losses.
If your family has been involved in a bad car wreck and you’d like to learn more about your legal rights, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. To set up a free, confidential case evaluation, send us a message online or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.