Drunk Driver Hits Close to Home

Working at Bachus & Schanker, I typically find myself on the victim’s side of drunk driving collisions. As we represent plaintiffs in auto collisions (and other personal injury cases), I am well-versed in what happens to drunk defendants, how to set up claims with the various insurance companies, and how to help our clients make their way through the American legal and healthcare systems.

When I left for vacation last Thursday, I wasn’t expecting to use this knowledge for myself.

My boyfriend and I travelled to Seattle to see family this weekend. On Saturday night, we had dinner and caught some live music at a bar in Ballard called the Tractor. His sister and her husband even called the babysitter to ask her to stay late as we were having such a blast.

The following morning, Matt and I were ready to see Seattle in the daytime. We got geared up for a run at Green Lake, lunch at Pike’s Marketplace and a view of the Olympics from the Space Needle. As we drank our morning coffee on the porch and discussed our day, I watched Matt’s facial expression change. His eyes were glued to our rental car and he was ignoring me in that way he does sometimes when he becomes intensely distracted. I looked where he was looking, and my heart dropped into my stomach. The entire driver’s side of the car – from bumper to bumper – was crushed.

Matt immediately called the police to report the hit and run. No note was left on the car, and we could only guess it was a drunk driver barreling down the narrow road the previous night. As we had not opted for the rental insurance, I called our own auto insurance company. My heart sank further when I realized we had a $500 deductible. We could have stayed in the Ritz and taken cabs all over the city had we known we were going to spend $500 for nothing.

Over the course of the next several hours (waiting for the police to arrive at our non-emergency), we talked with neighbors and scanned the neighborhood for other damaged cars. The story that unfolded was an unbelievable string of coincidental events.

Early that morning, about 1:30a.m., Mr. Jones was in his living room getting ready for bed. He heard a terrible crashing sound and walked outside to see what happened. What he saw was a Dodge 4×4 pick-up truck pulled over on the wrong side of the road, halfway into Ms. Macabee’s driveway. The front of Ms. Macabee’s Subaru Outback was crushed, and Mr. Jones immediately called 9-1-1. Mr. Jones didn’t realize that the drunk driver was still in his truck – passed out on the steering wheel.

The cops arrived shortly thereafter to assess the damage. There they found Mr. Larkens, drunk and sleeping in his truck. After further investigation, it became clear that when Mr. Larkens’ truck collided with Ms. Macabee’s Subaru, the tie rod on Mr. Larkens’ Dodge 4×4 broke, rendering the truck immobile. With no opportunity for escape, Mr. Larkens passed out and was woken up with handcuffs and a ride to jail.

As Matt and I uncovered the details of what had happened that morning, we inspected the broken truck further. We found the paint from our rental car on Mr. Larkens’ truck. The damage on our car was perfectly aligned with the damage on his vehicle, and we feverishly took photos. Clearly, this guy’s truck had bounced off of our car and subsequently ended up in Ms. Macabee’s driveway. Relief overwhelmed me when Ms. Macabee offered up Mr. Larkens’ auto insurance information. Matt and I were not going to be on the hook for this damage. I stopped figuring out which of the summer’s remaining events would have to be cancelled to pay for the damage and started to get angry that this guy thought it perfectly acceptable to get wasted and drive home.

There were 9,000 things that could have been worse in this situation – and for that we felt tremendously lucky. Matt and I could have been in the car when it was hit. Matt’s little nieces could have been crossing the street when this guy was driving down the road. We could have been arriving home from the Tractor as Mr. Larkens was headed the opposite way down the street, meeting head on. The car could have been ours. Mr. Larkens could have been uninsured. Or we could have missed the evidence linking our collision with Ms. Macabee’s and been out $500.

After seeing the tragedy that some of our clients have endured due to drunk drivers, I know we are among the luckiest of victims. Yes, we waited for Seattle’s finest for 3 hours. And yes, we spent hours setting up claims, repeating information and filling out paperwork. And no, we didn’t get to run around Green Lake or summit the Space Needle. But we were fine. Just inconvenienced.

Ironically, at the same time Matt and I were setting up claims with Travelers and Progressive, taking photographs of the damage, chatting with the rental car agency and discussing the collision with the Seattle Police Department, Bachus & Schanker was sponsoring Denver’s Walk Like MADD event at Sloan’s Lake. In addition to the firm’s $8,500 corporate sponsorship, the staff raised an additional $915, money to be used for education and awareness in the hopes of eradicating drunk driving from our society. Our experience this weekend pointed out how much our society clearly needs MADD’s efforts. If you would like to volunteer for or contribute to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, please visit the MADD web site.

Jodie Sandell
Pre-Litigation Department Manager