$300k Settlement in Fatal Hit-and-Run Lawsuit That Killed Grandmother
Gregg Hollander | December 7, 2016 | Pedestrian Accidents
A grandmother walking her young grandson home from church was killed nearly four years ago when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Now, her family has reached a settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the driver. They will receive $300,000 from his insurance company.
According to SILive.com, the 56-year-old New Yorker was fatally struck by a sport utility vehicle driven by a 44-year-old man who did not stop after impact. Driver was reportedly traveling at speeds “well in excess” of the posted 45 mph speed limit along that road. The grandmother reportedly pushed her 8-year-old grandson out of the way just a split second before the SUV, careening toward them, made impact. The boy suffered several fractures, but survived. His injuries have largely healed, but his family says the emotional trauma of watching his grandmother die in so violent a way right before his eyes will likely never leave him.
The crash occurred around 9:50 p.m., and the driver, who said he was “in shock,” surrendered to police about 2.5 hours after the crash. However, he did not submit to a blood-alcohol test at that time, and officers had no probable cause to seek a warrant for it at that point because he showed no obvious signs of impairment. Although the judge in his criminal case noted there was no evidence presented that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit alleged defendant had been drinking at a baseball game that afternoon, just a few hours before the incident. They also alleged he drank more at a bar shortly before the crash.
Investigators say even if a blood-alcohol test was taken, it would not necessarily have shown defendant was drunk/ impaired at the time of the crash because his absence for a period of several hours would have called into question whether he was drunk at the time or whether he drank afterward. This likely mattered more in the criminal case, for which defendant, who had no prior criminal record, was ultimately convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash. He was sentenced to just six months in jail, plus five years of probation and 250 hours of community service.
In the civil case, while evidence of drunk driving can be used to establish negligence, it’s not always critical so long as plaintiff can prove the defendant was at-fault.
In this case, defendant driver had a liability insurance limit of $300,000 per incident, $100,000 per person. There were three plaintiffs – the grandmother’s estate, the grandson and her daughter (the boy’s mother). Each received the maximum allowable, for a total payout of $300,000. Of course, the argument could be made in a wrongful death action that this amount is actually inadequate to full compensate for economic damages. In these situations, our Naples pedestrian accident lawyers generally advise looking into whether decedent/ victims were covered under an uninsured/ underinsured motorist policy. This option is available to insureds when they are injured by the negligence of someone who:
- Isn’t located;
- Doesn’t have insurance;
- Doesn’t have enough insurance to fully cover the damages.
In hit-and-run cases, UM/UIM coverage is often the only means of compensation because the at-fault driver, if found, usually doesn’t have insurance at all.
Here, plaintiff had previously named other defendants under New York’s dram shop laws. Specifically, the lawsuit named the baseball team, the company that handles the team’s food and alcohol service at the stadium and the bar where the driver allegedly drank afterward. New York’s dram shop law is far more permissive than Florida’s allowing plaintiff’s to recover damages for drunk driving injuries from those who serve alcohol to someone who is clearly already intoxicated. Florida, however, only allows such compensation when the defendant establishment served alcohol to someone under-21 or someone who is habitually addicted to alcohol.
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$300K settlement in fatal hit-and-run lawsuit; grandmother mowed down in front of grandson, Nov. 29, 2016, By Frank Donnelly, SILive.com