Painfully Low Settlement for Family of Young Woman Killed By Drunk Driver

In October of 2010, Mary Grace Paez was fatally injured at a difficult intersection in Lawrence, Kansas, when a Jeep Grand Cherokee struck her vehicle on the driver’s side. The local news website, LJWorld.com, reported several times on a case that shocked the community.

Sean Walker, 22, whose blood alcohol level tested nearly three times the legal limit, drove the Jeep that struck Mary’s car. The tragic accident cut short the life of a vibrant young woman. Adding to the family’s pain was the insurance that left them with a settlement woefully inadequate to compensate their loss.

A Devastating and Unnecessary Accident

A Devastating and Unnecessary Accident

The intersection is challenging because it lies at the foot of a hill, and approaching cross-traffic can be difficult to see. During the day, a traffic light controls the flow of traffic through the intersection, but late at night, the signal flashes red and yellow instead of following the usual alternating signal pattern. Paez, who was 19, was driving down the hill southbound and is believed to have stopped at the flashing red light before pulling into the intersection.

Walker, who had a flashing yellow caution light, was allegedly traveling at about 10 miles over the legal speed limit when he pulled into the intersection and struck the woman’s vehicle. In the incident report, the attending officer cited slurred speech and the odor of alcohol around Walker. Police obtained a warrant to draw blood after Walker refused to voluntarily submit to the test, and his blood-alcohol content was 0.23 percent approximately two hours after the crash. The legal limit in Kansas is 0.08 percent.

Painfully Low Settlement

Now, a little more than one year after this horrible crash, Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild has approved a $100,000 settlement offer by Walker’s insurance company to close the case. The $100,000 figure was determined by the limitations of the insurance policy. Walker is currently serving out the remainder of a prison term for an unrelated 2006 battery and attempted robbery conviction. The District Attorney has not yet decided whether to file criminal charges against the man.

In the State of Kansas, all motor vehicle operators are required to carry auto insurance with a minimum coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury claims. With $100,000 coverage, the driver of the second vehicle had legally adequate insurance. Auto insurance policies in Kansas automatically include uninsured and underinsured motorist protection, but these would be of scant value to the dead victim, unless the policy had carried higher limits. Neither the drunk driver nor the victim carried enough insurance to cover the tragedy.

The $100,000 settlement is painfully low compensation for the loss of a beloved daughter who had graduated from the local high school barely four months before her death. While the family could pursue a wrongful death claim against Walker, he is unlikely to have the financial resources to cover the family’s claim. In some situations, justice simply cannot be done.

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If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an auto accident, contact our office for a free consultation while there is still time to file a claim. The law limits the time window for filing damages. Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the settlement process, ensuring you and your family receives the maximum compensation available.

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