August 1, 2012

Some drivers who hit the stretch of Interstate 75 engulfed in smoke and fog said it was like running into a wall — one second you could see, and the next second you had no idea where you were or what lay ahead in the road. A handful of drivers did not see the tractor-trailers stopped in their lanes; a few drivers did not slow down quickly enough to avoid the crashes ahead of them. This scenario played out in both the southbound and the northbound lanes of the highway.

As we discussed in our last post, the state (not Oregon) investigated the smash-up and concluded that the state highway patrol was at fault. The highway patrol had closed the highway earlier because of the fog and smoke but reopened the road less than an hour before the visibility dropped back to zero.

Some of the families of the 11 fatalities and dozens of injured motorists are looking to the state for compensation. While the law generally does not allow an individual to sue a government body or employee for damages, there are exceptions; if a drunken government courier kills another motorist while on official business, for example, the government could be liable.

Rather than put their clients through the trauma of reliving their losses, several attorneys approached the state with a proposal: Let’s discuss a settlement, they said. The state itself determined that a government agency was responsible for the crash, and a settlement would be in everyone’s best interest.

The state said no. If these people believe the state is liable, they will have to litigate.

There may, however, be another way.

To be continued.

Source: Herald Tribune, “State nixed I-75 crash settlement, lawyers say,” Nathan Crabbe and Jon Silman, Aug. 9, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Portland car accident page.


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