Governor John Hickenlooper has signed HB-1084, a bill stiffening hit-and-run penalties that was inspired byTim Albo, who nearly died
after beingstruck by Brandon Mondragon in 2010
Albo's family is thrilled by this turn of events, but their enthusiasm is tempered by concern for Tim, who's struggling with a setback in his long, difficult recovery.
As you'll recall, Albo and companion Heather Kornman were badly injured in an October 2010 hit-and-run that left him in a coma. Mondragon was captured days later and subsequently given a sentence of six months -- a span much shorter than the time Albo has spent undergoing rehabilitation.
As Tim's sister Jennifer Albo told us in June 2011, the cost of his care was astronomical. "Our medical bills are in excess of $2 million," she said. "Tim was in Denver Health for 23 days, so that stay was close to $1 million, and then he went to Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital for 65 days, and I think that was over $1 million." And while Tim had insurance, the policy was more or less exhausted by the time he came home. He only received three-times-a-week therapy sessions that were continuing at the time of our conversation due to the kindness of a donor who offered to pay for them.
Albo's family saw a lack of equity in this situation -- and they were also frustrated by what they saw as a loophole in the state's hit-and-run statute. As noted by Melanie Casey, another of Tim's sisters, hit and run was previously a class-five felony, while driving under the influence was a class-four felony -- meaning anyone with drugs or alcohol in his system had an incentive to leave the scene and sober up rather than stopping to help their victim.
HB-1084, which goes into effect in August, changes that. At that time, hit-and-run will become a class-four felony, too, with jail time associated with the offense rising from between one and three years to three-to-six years.
Winning this victory wasn't easy, Casey admits. "We knew we were up against a battle," she says, "and to see it pass the first time around is wonderful," especially since similar crimes continue to occur. She points to the recent hit-and-run crash that killed DU student Masoud Bahramisasharif. Reports have circulated that Andrew Simpson, the man charged in the incident, had been at a bar before the crash, but because he wasn't picked up until days later, there's likely no way to prove he was intoxicated when Bahramisasharif was killed.
Once HB-1084 is in place, Casey hopes "human nature comes into play" in such circumstances, "and the driver stops to render aid. In our case, we were blessed that there were witnesses who could call for help. It was only seven minutes between the time of the accident and the time they had my brother back to Denver Health, and that's instrumental for survival. But if drivers would stay, the call could come after two minutes, or five minutes. And you need to stay, because that's someone's loved one you left there.
"That gentleman didn't hit just anyone. He hit my brother -- someone who means the world to us. And it's important to realize that everyone is someone's loved one. They're important -- and they don't just get over what happened. This isn't just another news story to us. This is our life, and it's changed my brother forever."
Indeed, Tim had been making steady progress from the head injury he sustained in the crash and was gaining independence; he was even able to work for four-hour stretches a couple of times a week. But about three weeks ago, "he suffered a seizure," Casey says. "We are very lucky because it wasn't a grand mal seizure. It was a petit mal seizure -- one of the smaller ones. But now we're back to square one, and the neurologist says even though it could be a one time thing, it could also happen regularly. So he's taken a few steps back."
Casey puts this situation in perspective. "We're feeling very, very blessed that he is where he is -- that he's alive and with us. And our heart breaks for other people who aren't as lucky as we were."
That's yet another reason why the passage of HB-1084 was so meaningful for the Albo family. "We hope it helps prevent other families from going through the trauma we did," Casey says.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Here's the bill.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.