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Washington Settles Claims following Car Accident

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Seattle, WAWashington state will pay $10 million to settle claims filed after a tree fell on a vehicle, killing two people and causing serious back injuries in three others. The three people who survived the accident suffered permanent injuries, including a back injury that has left one of the victims a quadriplegic.

According to The Seattle Times (5/14/13), the claims were filed with the Attorney General’s Office by members of the Owen family, five of whom were in a vehicle on December 21, 2012, when it was crushed by a tree that fell on the SUV carrying them. Tim and Cheryl Reed Owen, the parents, died instantly. Jessica Owen was crushed and suffered a partial spinal-cord injury, rendering her a quadriplegic. Two other people, Jamie Owen-Mayer and her husband Steven Mayer, were seriously injured, while one person, Jeremy Owen, escaped the accident without serious injury.

The claims allege that in the days leading up to the accident, more than 100 trees had snapped because of heavy ice and snow, including at least three trees that fell on Highway 2. One of those trees fell less than a mile from the site of the Owen accident, the day before the accident occurred. Despite the fallen trees, and despite other roads being closed because of the risk of falling trees, Highway 2 was not closed until a second accident, after the Owen family’s accident, involving a tree falling on a car carrying a pregnant woman.

The family’s claims alleged that the state was responsible for failure to close down a dangerous roadway.

KOMO News (9/5/14) reports that Washington state has agreed to settle the claims for $10 million. The family says they faced massive medical bills following the accident and likely face future surgery as well. The settlement was reached through mediation.

Meanwhile, in a different lawsuit, a couple in Missouri was awarded $545,000 for injuries sustained in a car accident that left one plaintiff with long-term injuries and the other with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Columbia Missourian (8/26/14), Steven and Wanda Hartzler were involved in the accident seven years ago, when a semi-trailer failed to slow down and rear-ended them.

The accident aggravated pre-existing back and neck problems for Wanda. Steven had reportedly worked as a semi-truck driver but was unable to return to work after the accident.

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