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California County Pays $27M for a Deputy’s High-Speed Crash that Left a Child With a Permanent Brain Injury

When a child is catastrophically injured in a crash, there are many things that must be addressed. In order to get to a truly successful result, you will need evidence that the person or entity you sued was at fault and you will need proof of the damages your child suffered. To make sure you get all the proof you need to get the outcome your family deserves, be sure you have retained an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney to represent you from the very start.

A recent report from the Sacramento Bee is a reminder of the horrible injuries that can sometimes befall children in vehicle crashes. 10-year-old J.A. suffered a massive head injury after a speeding SUV slammed into her family’s Honda CRV. The driver of the SUV was a sheriff’s deputy on his way to back up other officers in a police emergency.

J.A.’s was what’s called in medical practice a “closed-head” injury. Closed-head injuries can be just as severe and life-changing as an open-head injury. According to the family’s attorney, J.A.’s was one of those catastrophic closed-head injuries. The injury caused permanent brain damage that meant J.A. would “likely require 24/7 living care for the rest of her life.” For more than a year after the crash, J.A. did not respond to hearing her name called or hearing her favorite songs being played on an iPad, according to the report.

The deputy who hit the family was on his way to respond to a fight that was in progress. The deputy was unquestionably speeding. He estimated his speed at 60 mph. The family’s attorney estimated the deputy’s speed at 84. The speed at the crash’s location was 35, according to the Bee. The deputy did not, however, have his emergency lights and siren on at the time of the crash.

Suing a government entity for an officer’s negligence behind the wheel

Successfully suing a governmental entity for the negligence of someone like a sheriff’s deputy can sometimes be extremely difficult. There may be lots of situations where the law declares the law enforcement officer, and the governmental entity that employs him, to be immune, which means that the law doesn’t allow you to sue them.

The key to getting the compensation you need in a case like this is to establish that there was no immunity under your circumstances. For example, if the deputy had been traveling with his emergency lights and siren on when the crash happened, immunity probably would have existed, even if the deputy was, in fact, going 84 in a 35-mph zone. If the deputy was driving with no siren or emergency lights on, then there probably was no immunity.

Many times, though, a law enforcement officer, when he/she “gets the call,” may tend to begin speeding toward the scene right away and then activate lights and siren while en route. When that happens, though, and the officer causes a crash before turning on those lights and siren, there is still generally no immunity, even if the officer is traveling toward a police emergency.

That, J.A.’s attorneys were able to show, was what happened in this circumstance. The deputy was negligent because he was speeding without his lights and siren, and Sacramento County was potentially liable because there were no siren or emergency lights activated. That eventually led the county to settle with the family for the sum of $27 million, the largest ever in the county’s history.

If your child is seriously injured in a vehicle crash, you are likely experiencing an overwhelming amount of emotion and stress. You first focus is on caring for your child, as it should be. However, taking care of your child may, long term, mean obtaining compensation from those responsible for the crash. Let the pros at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos handle the legal work while you focus on caring for your family. Our thoughtful and determined San Mateo car accident attorneys have many years of experience helping families like yours. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.