$500,000 Wrongful Death Settlement
[Orange County, CA- February 22, 2013] While driving home late at night and after work, our clients’ adult son lost control of the BMW he was operating. For an unknown reason, the BMW ended up stopped and sideways in the HOV lane of the 91 freeway. Within the next minute or two, a second vehicle traveling in the same direction and at about 65 mph broadsided the BMW killing our clients’ son instantly.
Before the fatal impact, other vehicles were able to notice the stopped BMW and change lanes. The driver of the vehicle that ultimately struck the BMW (the defendant) testified during his deposition that just before the collision, he was traveling at about 65 mph and didn’t see the stopped vehicle until he was only about 6 car lengths way. He also testified he didn’t have a chance to use his brakes. This testimony was given despite the fact that there was nothing interfering or otherwise blocking the defendant’s view.
After the collision, the investigating CHP officer determined that the defendant driver was inattentive and had operated his vehicle in an unsafe fashion. The officer even recommended that the Orange County District Attorneys Office prosecute the defendant for vehicular manslaughter.
At the same time, the very same CHP officer also determined that our clients’ son was operating the BMW at an unknown speed and in an unknown lane and for an unknown reason lost control of the vehicle resulting in it crashing in to the center divider. Blood test results later determined that our clients’ son allegedly had a blood alcohol level of .15-17% or about twice the legal limit. Because of the limited evidence, we’ll never know if the alleged blood alcohol level contributed to our clients’ son losing control of the BMW in the first place.
During the course of litigation, we presented the argument that regardless of what caused the BMW to lose control and come to a stop on the freeway, the second collision and fatality could have been avoided had the defendant driver paid attention and safely avoided the collision.
After settlement discussions reached an impasse, the matter was set for binding underinsured motorist arbitration. Prior to the arbitration and with the help of a skilled mediator, the case was settled during a 4 hour mediation.