A family that was involved in a horrific car accident which resulted in the death of their six-year-old son has been awarded $32 million by a jury.
Their Unbearable Loss
One day, in 2012, parents and their two sons were on their way to a local mall to pick out a birthday present for the six-year-old son. While on the highway, the hood of the Pontiac Vibe the father was driving came loose and flipped up, obstructing his view of the road. His only choice was to stop the car in the center lane of the highway.
Before exiting the vehicle he turned to check on his children. He immediately realized that the truck behind them was not going to stop.
The driver of a Ford F-250 who was driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone struck the stopped vehicle. All four passengers suffered serious injuries and were rushed to the hospital. The parents and one son were hospitalized and eventually recovered. However, the other son died within an hour of the accident, despite his doctor’s best efforts.
When police arrived on the scene they did a thorough investigation of the accident. It was determined that the truck driver had almost 20 seconds to veer either left or right, however, tire tracks indicated that he made no attempt to do so until 0.6 seconds before impact.
The driver was charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and speeding. The parents of the deceased also pursued a civil complaint.
Why would any driver fail to maneuver their vehicle into a different lane to avoid a collision? The most common answer is that they simply didn’t know that an accident was going to happen – because they weren’t looking at the road.
Distracted driving comes in many forms – talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, drinking, using a GPS, reading, or grooming. Regardless of what is taking the driver’s attention away from the road, the result is always the same: a greatly increased risk of being involved in a car accident.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have broken down distracted driving even further. They believe that there are three main types of distracted driving:
- Visual: Engaging in an activity that keeps your eyes off of the road.
- Manual: Performing an act that takes your hands off of the wheel.
- Cognitive: Focusing mentally on something that prevents you from paying attention to driving.
This problem is big enough that almost 1 in 5 car accidents in which someone was injured was caused by a distracted driver.
What If The Other Drivers Involved Were Also At Fault?
Some may argue that the father in this case created a dangerous situation because he stopped in the middle of the road instead of pulling over and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Even if the jury determined that he was partially at fault, this would not prevent the family from recovering damages.
The state of New York recognizes comparative negligence. This means that plaintiffs who are also at fault are not barred from recovery, however, any damages that they are awarded will be reduced by a percentage that represents the portion of the accident that was their fault. For example, if the jury awards $10,000 but finds the plaintiff 50% at fault, they will ultimately receive $5,000 in damages.
Will I Get This Much For My Car Accident Case?
There is no way to estimate exactly how much every car accident case is worth. No two accidents are exactly alike and the injuries sustained can affect two people very differently.
When determining how much to award a plaintiff the judge and/or jury consider several factors:
- Are the injuries that were sustained by the plaintiff scarring or disfiguring?
- Do the injuries prevent the plaintiff from enjoying work or activities that they enjoyed prior to the accident?
- How much did the plaintiff have to spend on medical treatments?
- Are there additional medical expenses expected in the future?
- Did the plaintiff lose wages because of an inability to return to work?
- Did the accident cause the plaintiff emotional pain and suffering?
- Did the accident result in any fatalities?
Once all of these have been taken into consideration, an amount will be calculated to compensate the plaintiff for their losses.