The road to recovering compensation can be long after a loved one is injured or killed by a reckless driver
L.A. County Sheriff’s investigators have concluded Caitlyn (formerly, Bruce) Jenner, the openly transgender reality TV star and gold medal Olympic athlete, could be charged with manslaughter in connection with a February four-car collision in Malibu which resulted in the death of 69-year-old Kim Howe. The crash, which was captured by surveillance video, appears to have occurred after Jenner’s Cadillac Escalade collided with both a white Lexus, driven by Kim Howe, and a black Prius. The impact pushed Howe’s Lexus into oncoming traffic where it was struck head-on by a black Hummer. Howe was pronounced dead at the scene and another two adults and five children were hospitalized. Jenner was not injured and passed a voluntary field sobriety test following the crash.
The L.A. County Sherrif’s Department’s found Jenner “was going at an unsafe speed for the prevailing conditions, even though he was traveling under the posted speed limit,” when she had to suddenly stop as vehicles in front of her slowed. If convicted, Jenner could face up to a year in county jail, though this is unlikely, given that drugs and alcohol were not contributing factors and no gross negligence was found. It is now up to the District Attorney’s office as to whether to press charges against Jenner. Proving that a driver was traveling at an unsafe speed for existing traffic conditions is difficult, especially given that Jenner was traveling below the posted speed limit and the jury cannot see or experience the conditions for themselves.
Jessica Steindorff, the driver of the black Prius, and the family of Kim Howe may have to rely on the civil court system to obtain justice. Both Steindorff and Howe’s two adult stepchildren have filed suit against Jenner, Steindorff for personal injuries sustained during the crash and Howe’s stepchildren for the wrongful death of their loved one. Howe’s children allege that Jenner’s reckless driving directly resulted in the crash which killed her. In Maryland, reckless driving is partly defined as operating a motor vehicle “in a manner that indicates a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Howe’s stepchildren will try to demonstrate that Jenner’s excessive speed given the winding stretch of highway on the Pacific Coast Highway where the crash occurred, coupled with inclement weather and perhaps her being distracted, indicates her disregard for the safety of the other drivers on the road. If successful, they may be entitled to compensation for Howe’s loss of income, medical costs, as well as their own personal suffering.
While it is easier to see how Steindorff was directly injured by the crash, Jenner’s lawyers have asked that the case brought by Howe’s surviving stepchildren be dismissed because they are “financially independent” and do not rely on Howe for “the necessities of life.” Howe’s stepchildren have alternatively argued that they suffered “enormous damages and losses” as a result of her death. It will be up to their attorney to demonstrate the damages they suffered as a result of Howe’s death and why they’re entitled to compensation.
A confounding factor for both Howe and Steindorff is the allegation made by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department that the crash chain-of-events may have been kicked off when Howe rear-ended Steindorff. Both Steindorff’s attorney and some sources in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department reject that claim, and continue to cite Jenner’s collision with Howe as the initial collision. If Jenner can convince a jury that Howe’s actions contributed to the accident, it might significantly and negatively impact both Howe’s and Steindorff’s claims against Jenner. This dispute demonstrates how complex personal injury and wrongful death suits can become, and the importance of having an experienced attorney who can effectively present your side of the story to a jury.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your wrongful death claim. Don’t wait to seek the compensation you and your family deserve. At Mallon & McCool, LLC, our Baltimore car accident attorneys have more than 15 years of experience fighting for families affected by auto accidents. Contact our Baltimore office at (410) 727-7887, toll free at (800) 918-8872 or contact us online today for a free consultation.