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Settlement sought in distracted driving personal injury case

Drivers in Montgomery County witness it every day. Some might even be guilty of it themselves; distracted driving. In a town where a lot of politicos are on the phone most of the time, it's bound to occur. And, sadly, so are car wrecks that can end in wrongful death or life-changing personal injury.

What a major utility company in another state is learning, though, is that if a driver's source of distraction involves business, it may well share in the burden of liability. The case in point involves a 2009 crash involving a car driven by a utility lobbyist and an SUV driven by a 23-year-old woman and carrying her 86-year-old grandmother.

The official report of the incident says that the lobbyist made an unsafe change of lanes and caused the SUV to roll over and crash. The 86-year-old woman died as a result of her injuries and the granddaughter suffered scalp and brain injuries. The lobbyist pleaded guilty to criminal charges in March of this year. He served a 29-day sentence and was ordered to fulfill 200 hours of community service. He also no longer works for the utility.

Meanwhile, the women's family is pursuing a civil suit and wants the company included. Their lawyer says that the man was on his cell phone, without the benefit of a hands-free system, and registered three business-related phone calls about the time of the crash. Under that state's laws, companies are liable for injuries caused by employees in the performance of their duties.

The company is fighting that claim. Negotiations are under way to reach an out-of-court settlement. Failing that, a civil trial is slated for November.

It's not clear how much the family may be seeking in damages for their losses. Wisely, they have enlisted the aid of an attorney.

Source: Novato Patch, "PG&E, Family seek settlement 2 years after fatal crash," Brent Ainsworth, Sept. 8, 2011

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