The parents of a 15-year-old girl tragically killed in a 2006 car accident have recently settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $50,000. The parents of Hannah Smallwood, who died in a crash in 2006, settled their claim against the driver’s insurance company for $25,000 each. As a Missouri car crash attorney, I know how much pain this couple must feel after losing their daughter to a senseless, preventable accident, and I wish them well. Wrongful-death lawsuits are an important way for victims and their families to fight back against those who harmed them.
Smallwood, of Carthage, Mo., died on December 8, 2006, just outside Carthage. She was a passenger in a Mazda Millenia along with two other teenagers, driven by Jarub R. Baird, now 20. Baird was speeding on County Road 120 when the car left the road, hit a utility pole and sheared it off at its base, crashed through a barbed-wire fence, and rolled about the length of a football field. Only one person in the car was wearing a seatbelt, which she put on just seconds before the crash. She and Baird suffered only minor injuries. Unfortunately, the others weren’t so lucky. Smallwood was thrown from the back seat through the windshield. She died at the scene. Her 16-year-old boyfriend, Colby Johnson, was also thrown from the car and suffered a brain injury, a broken femur, and three broken bones in his hand.
A jury convicted Baird of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. Baird is now incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections, serving consecutive sentences of four years and three years. Notably, when Baird was on trial in 2008 for manslaughter and vehicular assault, a witness testified that as Baird walked away from his car after the accident, he said to a friend on his cell phone, “Dude, we flew, man. Seriously, dude.” It must be especially painful for parents who have lost a child to hear that the person whose recklessness caused their child’s death thought of the accident as a source of amusement. Hannah’s parents, Andy and Debbie Smallwood, sued Baird for wrongful death and settled recently with his insurer, which ended their lawsuit.
Of course, the settlement that the Smallwoods will receive can never make up for their daughter’s death. As a St. Louis auto accident attorney, I know that every parent who has lost a child to a car crash would much rather have their child back than the money that comes from a wrongful-death settlement. But at the same time, most parents who have lost a child to someone else’s negligent behavior want that person to be held responsible for the harm that he or she caused. A criminal trial and conviction hold the negligent person responsible for breaking the law, but this is accountability to the state, not to the individuals who were devastated by the person’s actions. In a civil suit, family members can make the wrongdoer face what he or she has done to hurt them and their loved ones. A lawsuit can also help those left behind deal with the high bills caused by an unexpected hospitalization, funeral and loss of income.
The southern Illinois car crash attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe specialize in helping victims of reckless, negligent drivers seek justice after a crash has hurt them, their loved ones or their property. A reckless driver who took a loved one from a family may be required to pay for that family’s medical bills and burial expenses, along with financial compensation to the family members for the pain and suffering that they have experienced because of the loss of their loved one. If you have lost a loved one or have been injured by a negligent driver, it’s important to consult an experienced lawyer with special expertise in personal injury cases as soon as possible after an accident. This way, you can preserve your right to recover the greatest amount of compensation from the reckless driver’s insurance company.
Carey, Danis & Lowe helps people who have been injured through no fault of their own recover compensation for their costs, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. For a free consultation in which you can learn about your options, please call us at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email through our website.