The settlement is the largest Sacramento County has ever paid to end a civil suit.
Sacramento County will pay more than $25 million to settle claims following a car crash which left a 10-year old girl permanently disabled.
The family of Julian Awad, now 12, will receive a total of $27 million. The full amount, which includes legal fees, will be jointly paid by the county and its insurers. To date, it’s the largest civil settlement ever approved by Sacramento County.
Julian Awad—aged 10 in July 2017—was a passenger in a car driven by her father. While the pair were passing an unincorporated section of Sacramento County, they were struck by an SUV owned by the sheriff’s department. Both vehicles sustained considerable damage in the crash, with Awad, four of her family members, and the deputy all injured.
Awad’s vehicle was making a left turn when it was hit side-on. The deputy behind the wheel had been responding to a call of a fight in progress. However, the sheriff’s SUV wasn’t using its emergency lights and was traveling considerably over the posted speed limit—an attorney for the Awad family calculated the deputy’s speed at 88 miles per hour, while the deputy himself estimated 60 miles per hour.
The posted speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 miles per hour.
An investigation later conducted by the California Highway Patrol attributed responsibility to the sheriff’s department, finding the SUV’s excessive speed caused the crash. In its final report, the CHP noted that Section 20156 of the state’s vehicle code “does not relieve the driver of an [emergency] vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons.”
The Sacramento Bee notes that 10-year old Awad suffered what the Sacramento Bee calls “a massive closed-head injury.” She was diagnosed with extensive brain damage, with physicians saying she’d likely require 24/7 medical assistance for the rest of her life.
However, Jason Sigel, an attorney for the Awad family, said the girl’s made remarkable improvement in the past two years.
“For the first year and a half, you could call her name or play her favorite songs on the iPad and she wouldn’t respond,” Sigel said. “But now she’s beginning to turn to that stimulus. She’s beginning to reach out to things. By all accounts, it’s a pretty miraculous recovery.”
The Bee notes that, while the Awad family believes the deputy at-fault acted negligently, they aren’t angry at him.
“He did everything he could to help the family after the accident and they harbor absolutely no ill toward him,” attorney Robert Buccola told the Bee, adding that the Awads believe the deputy—whose identity hasn’t been publicly revealed—is an officer of the “highest moral character” who was profoundly affected by the accident.
In a separate, public statement, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said he hopes the settlement can help assist in Awad’s recovery.
“This settlement reached between the county and the plaintiffs can not undo that moment in time of the horrific accident that changed their lives forever,” Jones said. “Although no amount of money can truly compensate them for what they’ve been through, I sincerely hope that in some ways it helps them in their recovery and moving forward.