Q: What can be done to help a mother find some justice for the death of her son?
Last april a man driving without a license, without insurance, in an truck he’d had for nearly a month without registering it properly turned left into oncoming traffic. He struck and killed a man and seriously injured a woman on a motorcycle. Even with prior charges in another state for driving without insurance, speeding, dui with minor in vehicle, and an active warrant for charges stemming from domestic assault, and his continued ignorance of the same laws following the accident the driver at fault has yet to receive any charges or even a traffic ticket for the many laws he broke intentionally. As April will be the statute of limitation on any charges being filed what can be done to ensure some form of justice for the family of the victim. The prosecutor has told them “negligence cannot be proven” and refuses to take action. Any lawsuits regarding monetary compensation at this point would be pointless as the man responsible(at 28 y/o) is on permanent disability status.
A: I'm so very sorry for your loss. In rare circumstances, it is possible to seek damages from the state itself (e.g., police and others acting as its agents). This is called the public duty doctrine, and its application depends on the particular statutes/court cases of a particular state. Under this doctrine, for a person to recover tort damages from a governmental entity, it must be shown that the governmental entity breached a duty owed to that person, depending on the circumstance involved, but this is not considered a the same as a breach of a duty owed to the entire public. The answer is very fact specific, but in certain admittedly rare circumstances, the doctrine is available. (As always, this is not legal advice.)
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