Posted on Jul 19, 2011
An unlicensed driver who killed a woman on Manhattan's Upper East Side earlier this year was handed a sentence of $500 last week.

On January 24, Laurence "Lulu" Renard, 35, a well-known fashion stylist originally from France, was crossing the street on the corner of 1st Avenue and 90th Street, when she was hit by a garbage truck. The truck was operated by Diego Tapia-Ulloa, 23, an unlicensed driver, who "came around the corner like a bat out of hell" according to a witness. Renard died at the scene and Tapia-Ulloa was taken in for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree.

Pedestrian safety advocates are up in arms over the $500 fine handed to Tapia-Ulloa. Renard's death, among others, was used earlier this year by local residents and officials to push for stronger enforcement of VTL 1146, a law that mandates minimum sentences for reckless driving like that of Tapia-Ulloa. Unfortunately, besides encountering the growing pains of a law's early implementation, the law has certain flaws. First, the DA's office can only apply it to repeat offenders. Second, its mandate for minimal sentences encourages light sentences, where heavier penalties are appropriate, such as in Tapia-Ulloa's case.

Furthermore, pedestrian safety advocates are pointing to this tragedy to call for quicker implementation of recent legislation that requires New York police to disclose traffic crash information to the public. Until such information is fully released, advocates point out, there is little chance that the public will be able to know whether justice has been served in cases like Ms. Renard's.

Although this criminal fine may be insignificant, it only applies to the criminal charge. It says nothing of any civil lawsuit that is sure to arise from this accident. In a wrongful death lawsuit in New York, there are different types of compensation that her family can try and recover.

The most well-known is (1) Pain & Suffering. That is for her pain that she experienced from the time of the accident until she died. It is unclear from the report how long she remained alive before she died.Then, there is (2) "Pecuniary Loss." This is the financial loss to her family as a result of her death. The well-known 35-year-old was, in all likelihood, earning a good living. This can be a substantial portion of damages. (3) Medical and funeral expenses, (4) future lost earnings, (5) loss of a spouse, if she was married and (6) loss of a parent, if she had children.

If you would like more information about how  wrongful death and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website If you have legal questions,  I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.

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