A 19 year-old student at Western Connecticut State University died after a hit-and-run accident on Tuesday, November 22, 2011. Dong Lin, a commuter student at the university who resided in Brookfield, was struck by a car around 5:30 p.m. while crossing White Street in Danbury. Police responded to a call at about 5:35 p.m. Lin was later pronounced dead at Danbury Hospital. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests in the case. Both Danbury and university police are reportedly investigating the accident, and have asked any witnesses to come forward. The only available witness description was of a “dark-colored, boxy car.” The university is also making additional counseling resources available to its community in the wake of the accident.
Hit-and-run accidents have consequences far beyond the people directly injured or killed. When a person flees the scene of an accident, especially one with a fatality, that person creates further difficulties for both the victims and the authorities. The case could eventually have both criminal and civil components.
The driver, if apprehended, will likely face a charge of “misconduct with a motor vehicle” or “negligent homicide with a motor vehicle,” as defined by Connecticut law. The misconduct charge involves “criminal negligence” in operating a motor vehicle that causes another person’s death. It is a class D felony with a penalty of one to five years imprisonment. The negligent homicide offense, considered a lesser included offense of the misconduct charge, involves merely negligent operation of a motor vehicle that causes a person’s death. It carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment. Considering that the driver apparently fled the scene of the accident in this case, a misconduct charge, if not an outright charge of manslaughter, seems likely.
The driver also faces potential civil liability for wrongful death. This is a civil claim brought by the heirs of someone who died as a result of another person’s illegal or negligent conduct. Unlike a criminal case, which is brought by the state and seeks to punish the defendant, a wrongful death claim seeks financial compensation for the loss of the decedent’s support and companionship.