Many drivers are distracted by texting while driving, while many teenage drivers are distracted by looking at music on their ipods. But this time, it was a police officer’s distraction from eating a hamburger while driving that caused him to crash his car.
Santa Clara County, California, agreed to settle the lawsuit stemming from the police officer’s car crash caused by his distractions while driving.
Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Markovic took his eyes off the road not once, but three times, just before dawn on January 9, 2012, in San Jose; once for the hamburger he was eating, once for his stuck radio microphone and once for an accidentally switched-on light he was trying to turn off, causing him to crash his car into a 1994 Honda driven by 78-year-old Diem Van Lam, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
Van Lam sustained a torn aorta, seven broken ribs, as well as a skull fracture, the newspaper reported. He was on his way to deliver six newspapers, including The New York Times, USA Today, Korean Times and a Chinese daily. He can no longer drive and suffers from pain in his chest, left shoulder and head, and has difficulty with mental tracking and memory.
The Sheriff was allegedly traveling at 40 miles per hour. According to reports, the deputy “looked down and bit into his hamburger,” which he had just purchased at a nearby McDonald’s. He then put the burger down and reached for his radio microphone, but it was either stuck or slipped, forcing him to fumble with it.
His arm accidentally brushed against a light switch, which turned on his rear amber warning lights. He again “looked down” to turn off the lights and crashed into the driver’s-side door of Van Lam’s car.
Markovic is no longer working due to a permanent disability from an unrelated, subsequent incident when he was rescuing a child from a highway crash, a sheriff’s official said.
Santa Clara County taxpayers are now on the hook for the $5 million settlement. The county is self-insured for the first $2 million of the settlement and its insurance company will cover the rest.
Even though there were very few drivers on the road when this crash occurred in the early morning hours, the carelessness of the sheriff was to blame for the victim’s serious injuries.
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