Family reaches a $750,000 settlement in a claim against the driver who killed their daughter in an I-405 collision. The woman was waiting for help in her disabled car when it was struck by a semitruck.
The family of a woman killed by a semitruck driver who rammed her disabled car on Interstate 405 near Bellevue has settled their claim against him for $750,000, according to her lawyers.
The settlement for the death of Alea S. Price, 25, came after the King County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file vehicular-homicide charges against the driver of the 28,000-pound semi.
Other, less serious charges filed against the driver, Kulwinder Singh, 48, were dismissed after a mix-up, and Singh was never fined or criminally prosecuted for the August 2013 accident.
Evidence at the scene indicated that Singh slammed into Price’s stalled vehicle about 4:30 a.m. while traveling at 60 mph and did not apply his brakes until after the crash. Price, whose car had been disabled in the left-center lane after hitting a deer, had its emergency flashers on and had been avoided by several other drivers, according to prosecutors and her civil attorney.
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On the prosecutor’s recommendation, the State Patrol filed negligent-driving charges and “every [commercial driver’s license] infraction” against Singh, according to a letter written on March 3, 2014 by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Freedheim.
“He is responsible for this young woman’s death and will hopefully be denied a [commercial driver’s license] for life,” Freedheim wrote.
However, those charges were dismissed because of a “procedural failure” in Redmond District Court, according to an email Freedheim sent to the family’s civil lawyer, Nathan Roberts, in January. The email said the charges were dismissed because of a missed discovery deadline in the case.
Privacy laws and the fact that his name is common make it difficult to determine through the state Department of Licensing, at this point, whether Singh continues to operate a commercial vehicle.
Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said that as a result the office has “put a system in place to have our criminal prosecutors handle infractions, including the handling of all discovery requests.”
Prosecutors declined to file vehicular-homicide charges against Singh after reviewing evidence. In her letter, Freedheim explained the decision by concluding that she did not believe, despite “strong” suspicions, that Singh had been watching a movie while driving. The device was powered up, according to her letter, but there was no disc in the player.
Still, she concluded he was responsible for her death because Singh “slammed into her car at freeway speeds.”
“His initial statements were that he ‘didn’t see her car.’ Then he made several conflicting statements about her stopping right in front of him for no reason.”
A reconstruction of the accident and a time-distance analysis “shows he had an unexplainable 18 second delay in reacting to the disabled car.”
The state, she said, would have to prove “more than ordinary” negligence to charge a felony and Freedheim did not believe she could do that.
“Given the dark conditions and the speed allowed on the freeway, we cannot prove more than ordinary negligence,” Freedheim wrote.
Price had called her boyfriend that morning to explain that she had struck a deer and that her car was disabled. According to the State Patrol investigation, she turned on her emergency flashers and then called 911. She was talking to the operator when Singh’s 53-foot semi-tractor trailer plowed into her car, killing her.
The accident raised questions about whether a driver should stay inside a vehicle stalled in freeway traffic lanes.
Trooper Chris Webb told KING-5 news at the time that he would have exited the vehicle and put the hazard lights on. That led to a debate on whether Price did the correct thing by staying inside her car.
In a statement, Roberts, the family’s attorney, pointed out that it was dark and that Price would have had to exit her car and run across several lanes with cars traveling at freeway speeds.
“Her family would like to see an effort made to inform the public about the best procedures in a situation like this one,” he wrote.