California Family Receives Record $9.75 Million Infant Death Settlement
On December 17, 2013, Steve Saechao was driving westbound on Highway I-80 in Rocklin with his 9-month-old infant son Raiden in the back, secured in his car seat. Traffic in the right lane came to a halt and a vehicle slammed right into the back of their car, sending it into a moving truck.
“There’s no braking; there’s no evasive maneuver,” John Demas, the family’s attorney said. “[The driver is] proceeding the same speed at 63 mph throughout the entire sequence.”
Raiden, the family’s only child at the time of the crash, experienced extreme head injuries at the scene despite being properly secure in his rear-facing seat and died in the hospital five days later. “The loss is unspeakable,” Demas said. “The tragedy that they’ve gone through in losing a perfectly healthy 9-month old has left a hole in their heart that obviously can never be filled.”
The driver of the other vehicle was a Sacramento Police officer and the Placer County District Attorney did not file charges. “I suspect that the fact that he’s a police officer probably had something to do with their decision not to bring charges against him,” Demas said. “As a community, we hold police officers to a higher standard, and his negligence caused a family to suffer a profound and permanent loss…The police officer rear ended a car not because he was in pursuit but because he was distracted or simply not paying attention…He testified that he has no memory of the time that he got on the freeway up until the time after the collision.”
The family had to take matters into their own hands and they decided to file a claim in civil court. The city of Sacramento denied repeatedly that the officer was on the clock, until just recently. “There’s some satisfaction in the city finally coming to the realization and accepting the fact that he was in the course of his employment,” Demas said.
The Saechao family is set to receive a settlement in the amount of $9.75 million. “This chapter is over but, you know, the chapter is going to last forever for this family because of the tragedy and loss that they’ve endured,” said Demas.
A statement that was just released from the city reads as follows: “The accident was a tragic one for all involved. The City hopes that the settlement provides the family the resources and an opportunity for some closure.”
The Saechao family plans to donate some of the funds to raise awareness about the danger of distracted driving, which is the number one causing of accidents. Steve said, “If we can share Raiden’s story and his tragic death with others, especially teenagers who are texting and driving, maybe we can save a life out there.”
Because there were no criminal charges brought specifically against the officer involved in the crash, he continues to serve on the Sacramento police force as a sergeant. The settlement is a record one for the State of California in an infant death case.