Date: March 26, 2010
Location: Highway 7 near Sumpter, Oregon
Names: Kayla Petty, Kasey Knaus, Jeffery Givens, Katirah Huff
A 17-year-old girl was killed and three other Baker High School students were seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash when their car rolled over as they drove back from an overnight camping trip, according to an Oregon State Police press release.
The tragic end to the spring break trip came around 1:20 PM, on Highway 7 near Sumpter, Oregon. Kasey Knaus, 16, attempted to turn, and the car he was driving drifted into the loose gravel on the side of the road. Knaus tried to steer the car back onto the highway, but lost control. The car rolled before it came to rest on the opposite side of the guardrail, ejecting Knaus and two of the three passengers.
Middle rear passenger Kayla Petty, 17, was ejected; she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Left rear passenger Jeffery Givens, 18, was also ejected and suffered serious injuries. He was first taken to a Baker City hospital, then airlifted to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.
Passenger Katirah Huff, 15, was not ejected, but was seriously injured. She was transported by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City.
Knaus, the driver, who was ejected, had non-life-threatening injuries and was also taken to St. Elizabeth.
All four teens are from Baker City.
Comments on OregonLive.com and other sites were full of grief and anguish for Kayla’s young life, along with many prayers for those who were injured: “I am so sorry for the family and friends of Kayla Petty, as well as those who were injured in this crash,” wrote one commenter. Another wrote, “Kayla I love you and I miss you with all my heart. You didn’t deserve this, none of you did.”
We, too, would like to offer our prayers to Kayla’s family and friends. It is so hard to lose a beloved daughter, a caring friend, a dear family member. It is much, much harder when the victim is someone so young, with so much ahead of her. We also want to send special thoughts to Kasey, Jeffery, and Katirah, and we hope their hospital stay is a short one and their recovery complete.
Many people tend to think a single-car accident is always the driver’s fault. However, this is not always the case, and the law looks at many things. An investigation might turn up a number of factors. Perhaps poor road conditions caused the Oregon car crash. For all we know, there may have been a large pothole that has already caused three accidents, or maybe there’s a blind curve and the warning sign is missing. If that is the case, there may be a lawsuit against the city, county, or state. Such a lawsuit would allow the injured person to receive compensation and, we hope, prevent future accidents.
But a claim against the city, county, or state can mean shorter deadlines and less time to file a claim. If a city, state, county, or other public body is being sued, a Tort Claim Notice must be received by the entity being sued within 180 days of the injury.
When children are injured, the law can get complicated fast. For example, while the standard Oregon injury case must be filed within 2 years of the accident, the statute of limitations for children, on the other hand, is not so straightforward. ORS 12.160 takes you through the process for figuring out the statute of limitations. First, the regular statute of limitations applies. Second, it doesn’t start running until the child turns 18 years old. But, third, the statute cannot be extended more than five years. And fourth, it cannot be extended beyond the child’s 19th birthday. In addition to the statute of limitations, there’s also the issue of money. Money recovered belongs to the injured child, not to his or her parents. In certain cases, a judge will need to oversee the situation to make sure this happens.
Wrongful death claims are allowed by law. ORS 30.010-30.100. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is tricky. It is “three years after the injury causing the death . . . is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. . . .” In other words, it’s not three years from the date of death; it’s three years from the date of the original injury that ultimately caused the death. If a person goes into a coma from a car crash, and dies eight months later, the case will have to be brought within three years from the date of the car crash, not from the date of the death.
There’s also a question about the vehicle. Some vehicles are sold with a propensity to rollover that is entirely unnecessary and could be easily changed by the maker. Other vehicles are made in an unsafe manner in other ways. For example, a few years ago a Texas jury found Ford Motor Company liable for the deaths of two occupants of a Ford Explorer and delivered a verdict of $28 million. It was proven to the jury in that case that Ford’s use of the wrong sort of glass in its side windows made it far more likely that passengers would be ejected from the vehicle in a rollover.
If there is ever a possibility of a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a vehicle, it is crucial that the vehicle itself be preserved just as it is in a safe place. This usually means hiring an attorney at least for the purpose of safeguarding the vehicle. The best Portland injury attorneys will provide this service for free, store the vehicle until the family is in a state to make decisions, and only then discuss lawsuit possibilities.
After an accident, you may want to contact a good Portland personal injury attorney, who can investigate and find out what happened. We can answer many questions at no cost. For more information on what to do in the case of an Oregon accident, contact our office or read our free book, 7 Common Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Oregon Accident Case.