NEWS

They cause deaths, but go unpunished

About 1,500 people lose their life in a car accident every year in Greece, but what is even more tragic is that neither the penalties nor the compensations given are fair. The number of people that caused a fatal car crash and went to jail for it is slim. This happens because most of the penalties are paid off either before or after the trial. Also the victims and their families are poorly compensated, especially in the last three years, not to mention the time one has to wait until an irrevocable judgment is issued. «Can you imagine what it is like for the parents of a child that lost its life in a car crash to hear that the defendant, who is not even present, is sentenced with the most lenient of penalties? The victim is merely an extra,» says Nikos Papadatos, lawyer and member of the European Federation for Road Traffic Victims. The cases in which no one is punished are countless. A few years ago a man was badly burnt when his car burst into flames after colliding with another vehicle. The person responsible was sentenced to six months. Both the driver and his friends, who were present at the trial, mocked the disfigured appearance of the victim, who had to undergo a series of plastic surgery operations. Even the compensation of the victims is «unacceptable,» as their lawyers say. «How is it possible to give only 20,000 euros to a victim with 80 percent disability and 5,000 euros to someone whose leg has been amputated?» says Nikos Malliaris, a lawyer. Things become even worse when judges fail to decide early on, and the financial burden rests with the victim’s family. «Some judges appoint an investigator and ask for unnecessary medical opinions, in order to avoid issuing a final judgment. The investigator’s costs are around 1,500 euros, which are paid by the family,» says Papadatos, who concludes: «Unfortunately, the state underestimates car accidents and the victims. If the penalties are not severe, the number of accidents will not decrease.» A Stop sign violation, even if not fatal for someone, can become a huge problem for an entire family. A seemingly simple accident, which sent a 20-year-old victim to hospital with a broken hand and leg five years ago, has turned into a nightmare for both him and his family. For five years the Karathanasis family have been entangled in judicial processes and have incurred considerable surgery and hospitalization expenses, without seeing a single euro in compensation. «We asked for 105,000 euros from the driver’s insurance company, of which only 10,000 euros has been awarded, but even this we haven’t received. We have already spent a great deal of money and a lot more will be needed for the upcoming operations. «Five years on and the case is still not closed. Two investigators determined that my son is 30-35 percent disabled. Unfortunately, the case was postponed again for next December or January,» explains Athanasios Karathanasis.