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Hit-And-Run Victim's Mother Wants Negligence Law Changed

The mother of a hit-and-run victim says she will fight to change a state law that keeps the victim's family members from collecting insurance because of "contributory negligence."

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Pictures of a car crushed like an accordion with its windshield smashed out tell only party of the story from a Sept. 7 wreck on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. A grieving mother tells the rest.

"At first, it's all shock. I think it's all settling in, it's sinking in now that you know, we've lost a son," said Jenny Hanna, the victim's mother.

Her 23-year-old son, Neil Anderson, was crossing the dark roadway near Durant Road early in the morning when he was hit and killed. Police charged Yokairi Diaz, 25, with hit-and-run and drunken driving.

But because of a law called "contributory negligence," Anderson's family cannot collect any insurance benefits. The law states that if the victim is in any part responsible for his or her own injuries, the family cannot make a civil claim.

"Basically, he doesn't have any legal rights, is the way I read it," Hanna said.

The criminal law is similar to the civil law: Dunken-driving must be the sole cause of death for police to charge someone with death by motor vehicle. Because Anderson had been drinking and was not in a crosswalk at the time of the hit-and-run, Diaz was charged with lesser crimes.

Hanna wants the law changed because she thinks it is unfair. She has hired an attorney and is planning a petition.

"It affects everybody in their everyday life, not just somebody who has been killed," Hanna said.

North Carolina is one of only four states that still has the contributory negligence law. Insurance companies say that without it, rates would increase dramatically.

Hanna said she, along with the rest of her son's family and friends, intend to follow the case through the court system every step of the way.