NYC Girl Awarded $4 Million Settlement for Crash That Killed Her Father

Nearly ten years after losing her father in a car crash, a New York City girl received a $4 million settlement from the trucking company involved in the accident.

NYC Girl Awarded $4 Million Settlement for Crash That Killed Her Father

ByDani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.


Published on January 26, 2024

NYC Girl Awarded $4 Million Settlement for Crash That Killed Her Father

The Facts of the Case

The girl was only nine months old when her father died in a car accident involving a garbage truck in Flatbush. The girl’s father was riding in the passenger seat of a friend’s BMW. The friend, who had been drinking, crashed the BMW into a 40-foot garbage truck on Utica Avenue. The crash killed two passengers, the girl’s father and another passenger in the back seat. The driver survived.

The driver pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter after the accident and served a seven-year prison sentence connected to the crash. A judge found, however, that the driver of the garbage truck was also at fault, having made an unsafe turn that contributed to the collision.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other events delayed the related wrongful death case for several years. At trial, questions of fault arose, as well as questions about damages. One issue was whether the girl’s deceased father had experienced pain and suffering in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

At trial, the 9-year-old took the stand to discuss her current activities and life without her father. The latter topic moved her to tears in front of the jury. The girl’s mother, who was engaged to the girl’s father at the time of the crash, described him as doting on their baby from her birth until his death.

The Terms of the Settlement

The 19-day trial ended as the sanitation company offered a $4 million settlement shortly before jury deliberations began. The driver of the BMW also paid $50,000 in damages under the limits of his insurance coverage. The award covers several losses, including the “loss of parental guidance” the girl suffered with the loss of her father.

The case does not cover damages for the backseat passenger, who was unrelated to the girl or her father and who also died in the crash. That passenger’s family settled their claim several years ago for $300,000.

The terms of the settlement call for the girl to receive the money over the course of several years, beginning at age 18. However, the girl’s mother has asked the court to release some funds sooner so the girl can receive tutoring and guitar lessons. She plans to use the bulk of the money to send her daughter to college.

Takeaways for Attorneys

A crash in which a drunk driver rams another vehicle may feel, on its surface, like an open and shut case of fault. As this case demonstrates, however, the question of fault should never be closed without interrogation.

In this case, security camera footage of the collision helped lay the groundwork for an argument that the BMW driver did not bear 100 percent of the fault in the crash, despite being intoxicated.

Similarly, this case demonstrates that juries may not automatically accept the testimony of expert witnesses over that of lay witnesses. Here, an expert’s testimony that the girl’s father was unconscious immediately after the crash contested with EMT testimony that the man was conscious and spoke to them in the moments after the crash. Knowing where to deploy experts for maximum effectiveness is essential in litigation.

Finally, attorneys gain much by never discounting the emotional impact of a case. Here, the girl’s own testimony before the jury likely had a profound impact on establishing the magnitude of her loss - as well as the loss experienced by a father who never got to see the person his daughter has become.

About the author

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D., is a multifaceted legal professional with a background in insurance defense, personal injury, and medical malpractice law. She has garnered valuable experience through internships in criminal defense, enhancing her understanding of various legal sectors.

A key part of her legal journey includes serving as the Executive Note Editor of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review. Dani graduated with a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007, after completing her B.A. in English, summa cum laude, in 2004. She is a member of the Michigan State Bar and the American Bar Association, reflecting her deep commitment to the legal profession.

Currently, Dani Alexis has channeled her legal expertise into a successful career as a freelance writer and book critic, primarily focusing on the legal and literary markets. Her writing portfolio includes articles on diverse topics such as landmark settlements in medical negligence cases, jury awards in personal injury lawsuits, and analyses of legal trial tactics. Her work not only showcases her legal acumen but also her ability to communicate complex legal issues effectively to a wider audience. Dani's blend of legal practice experience and her prowess in legal writing positions her uniquely in the intersection of law and literature.

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