Texas Teen Loses Life in Moab Car Crash

A 15 year-old Texas teenager from San Angelo lost her life following a crash between two cars just outside the entrance to Arches National Park on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

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According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the crash happened when a driver of a 2012 Jeep CJ failed to see oncoming traffic and made a left-hand turn onto southbound State Road 191, pulling right in front of a 2013 Toyota Rav4 which was heading north. The force of the crash caused the Jeep to roll and the Rav4 to spin out. A teenage female passenger in the Rav4 was taken to Regional Medical Center in Colorado where she was later pronounced dead. According to reports, the teenager was wearing her seatbelt incorrectly. The other three in the car who were reported to have been wearing their seatbelts correctly only suffered minor injuries.

I send my condolences to the victims of this tragic crash that could have been so easily prevented had the driver of the Jeep just maintained a proper lookout and had seen what was there to be seen. The sad reality is that when you are negligent and cause a crash such as this, you cannot choose the fate of what happens to your victims. Some may go unscathed or suffer only minor injuries. Yet others – who may have been impacted more directly or who may have not been properly restrained – will suffer the maximum harm of losing their life.

Legally speaking, the parents of the young teenager have a “wrongful death” claim against the driver of the Jeep and/or its owner if the driver is less than 18 years-old. As the value of the claim will likely exceed apparent insurance limits, an under-insured claim should also be made on the policy covering the Toyot

Lake Powell Drowning Takes Man’s Life

A man from Lewiston Montana, lost his life on May 5, 2016, when he was thrown out of his kayak and drowned in Lake Powell. According to KSL News, the man was paddling his kayak in the Wahweap Bay area of Lake Powell when high winds knocked him out of the kayak and into the water.

Wahweap Bay

Unfortunately, the man was not wearing a life jacket and drowned. Search and rescue were able to find his body the next day using sonar. The Kane County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement to all boaters to be vigilant of changing weather conditions and to always wear a life jacket.

I echo the need to wear a life jacket. I’m sure the paddler thought he would be fine when he started out, probably when the weather was much calmer. Perhaps he was a good swimmer and didn’t think there would be a problem. But none of us know what might happen once we get out in the middle of the lake. I know that boaters have lost their lives on Utah Lake because of high wind conditions. This is why every vessel – even a kayak – should have a life jacket in it. And I would say that if you are in a kayak, you should be wearing it at all times for unexpected emergencies that can come up. A life jacket combined with another safety item, a whistle, could have helped to preserve this man’s life.

As we head into the warmer months, boaters need to make sure that they have life jackets for every person who is on board their boat. They need also to make sure those children 14 and under are actually wearing their life jacket when they are on the water. (Kids will often take them off when adults are not looking!) Emergencies can happen quickly, such as a boat on boat crash, and the most vulnerable members of our society need that special protection.

Judge Finds Dog Owner Guilty After Bear Lake Dog Attack

This past Thursday, April 28, Rich County Justice Court Judge Ross McKinnon found a dog owner guilty of a class B misdemeanor in allowing a vicious animal to be at large. According to KSL News, the incident happened at a restaurant in Bear Lake, where a woman had her Great Pyrenees with her as she ate with her family in the outdoor eating area.

According to reports and a video camera that recorded the action, the dog “Lilly” first growled and nipped at a child that had come close to her. About 15 minutes later, the video surveillance shows the dog lashing out and biting a 2 year-old child that had come near her and shows the same dog dragging the child under the table.

For her part, the dog owner was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay a $680 fine. In addition, the dog owner has been asked to dispose of the dog. According to Judge McKinnon: “The dog needs to be put down, or the dog can be given to a ranch.” While the dog owner protests the sentence and disputes what happened — suggesting that the child stepped on her dog’s tail — the video very clearly shows the dog latch onto the helpless child and pull him under the table. According to Rich County Attorney Gary Heward, putting the dog down is a “public safety issue.”

Legally speaking, dog owners are required to not let their dogs run at large, especially those with “vicious propensities.” In this case, the dog was brought to a very public place – a restaurant – where she was allowed to come in contact with a small child. The local ordinance, sometimes referred to as a “leash law,” is designed to prevent against this very thing from happening, if dog owners would follow it.

The parents of this young child certainly have a claim against the dog owner for past and future medical bills, for psychological therapies he might need, for any scar revision procedures, and an amount for “general damages” for the trauma of having to go through this and the expected anxiety that this child will most likely have because of this event.

Herriman Wrong-Way Car Crash Sends 9 To Hospital

A 16 year-old driving north in the southbound lanes of Mountain View Corridor, crashed into a fully-loaded minivan in the evening hours of April 23, 2016. According to KSL News, the 16-year-old driver was driving with a friend – another 16 year-old – at the time the crash occurred. According to Herriman police, the driver told them that he was traveling at 55 miles per hour at the time his car collided violently with the minivan. While drunk driving was ruled out, police are investigating whether the driver was distracted or just not paying attention.

The unlucky victims of this crash were treated at a local hospital and are said not to have life-threatening injuries. Thankfully, all were wearing their seat belts, or this crash may have had a different ending.

Legally speaking, I first question whether a 16 year-old driver can legally have another 16 year-old in the car who is not a family member. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, a new driver may not drive with a passenger in the car until at least six months after they receive their license, unless the passenger is an immediate family member. The obvious reason for this rule is to prevent unneeded distraction while a young driver learns how to focus on the roads they’re driving down.

Victims of car crashes caused by drivers less than 18 years old also need to know that owners of cars driven by these under-age drivers are “jointly and severally” responsible for damages from that crash. See: http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53/Chapter3/53-3-S212.html. In other words, the car owner also bears financial responsibility for property damage as well as personal injuries.

Finally, it is common for under-aged drivers living with their parents to be insured by the parent’s insurance company. (This helps explain why insurance rates for families with teen drivers are so high!) The good news is that parents tend to have higher insurance limits than young adults who don’t live at home.

Magna Man Crashes Into Parked Semi on I-15

A 61 year-old man, Chris Hulse of Magna, crashed into a semi-truck that was parked on the shoulder of I-15 near Centerville, Utah. According to the Standard Examiner, a trucker had pulled over on the southbound shoulder of the road and was parked around 5:30 a.m. when this crash happened. The trucker reported that he pulled over because of a high-wind advisory. Officers believe that it may have been these strong wind conditions that pushed Hulse’s Ford F-350 pickup truck to the right and into the rear of the parked semi. Per reports, Mr. Hulse was not wearing a seatbelt. My condolences to the family for this tragic loss.

Legally speaking, drivers are not allowed to stop on a roadway unless their vehicle is disabled. See Utah Code 41-6a-1404(1): “Outside a business or residence district, a person may not stop, park, or leave standing a vehicle, whether attended or unattended, on the roadway when it is practical to stop, park, or leave the vehicle off the roadway.”

From the reports, it appeared the trucker could have pulled his truck off the highway to wait out the storm. It’s foreseeable that a heavy wind gust can cause vehicles to swerve out of their lane. All the more reason not to stop on the freeway when the next off ramp could have been taken. The facts and the law suggest that there is a claim here for wrongful death. Wrongful death claimants in Utah include the spouse, parents and children of the deceased.