Post Date: July 13th, 2010
Tragedy occurred on Highway 54 just west of Route A this past Sunday, July 11, 2010. Three cars were involved in an accident in Audrain County, just east of Mexico, that left one dead and many others seriously injured. The fatal wreck occurred when a 1998 Pontiac driven by Charles Howdeshell attempted to pass a 2004 Mazda. The 2004 Mazda, driven by Douglas Hill, was in the right lane and Howdeshell tried to pass them on the left. While attempting to do so, Howdeshell somehow struck the 2004 Mazda causing it to lose control. This sent Douglas Hill’s Mazda into oncoming traffic where it then collided head on with a 2008 Chevy driven by Robert Becker. This caused extensive damage to both Hill and Becker’s car.
Seated in Hill’s 2004 Mazda were Jay Ballenger and Karen Ballenger of Tipton, Iowa. Also in the car was Lynn Fraker. Unfortunately, Fraker was killed in the accident and pronounced dead at the scene. Both Karen and Jay Ballenger were described as seriously injured and were taken by ambulance to the Audrain Medical Center.
Seated in Robert Becker’s 2008 Chevrolet was the rest of his family which included Alexander Becker, Christopher Becker, Denise Becker, and Mackenzie Becker. The entire Becker family sustained injuries and were taken to the Audrain Medical Center except for Mr. Robert Becker who was later flown by helicopter to University Hospital.
The most disturbing part of this crash is that the man, who caused it all, Charles Howdeshell, was arrested and charged with numerous crimes including involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, driving under the influence of drugs (DUI), possession of marijuana, and careless driving. Incredibly, he has been reported as posting $250,000.00 bail to get out of jail for the time being.
If Mr. Howdeshell was in fact driving under the influence of drugs, I hope they throw the book at him for all of the devastation he has caused. As a St. Louis, Missouri car accident lawyer, I have seen first-hand the damage that can be caused by driving under the influence. In this case, several people lives have been changed forever.
From a legal perspective, there are a number of things involved here. First, Mr. Howdeshell is listed as being insured by American Family Insurance. Undoubtedly, there is not enough insurance to go around to compensate for all of the damage caused by this. In these instances, a very smart personal injury lawyer would try to set American Family up for bad faith (which the way they operate, is not hard to do). This means that an unqualified settlement demand for the policy limits must be sent, giving them a very short time frame. If they don’t pay it pursuant to those terms within the time given, the case can then proceed to a jury who will assess by their verdict the full amount of the damages for the destruction caused by Mr. Howdeshell. Later case can be pursed directly against American Family to make them pay the entire amount of that verdict. This is called a bad faith lawsuit.
Additionally, given that he has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs and was also in possession of drugs, a claim can be made against the owner of the vehicle for negligently allowing him to driver their vehicle. The only reason these types of claims are made is to find additional insurance coverage to compensate these injuries.
Finally, in these events where the defendant does not have enough insurance to pay for all of the damage, the injured parties may have underinsured motorist coverage on their own car insurance policy. Underinsured motorist coverage is specifically for this type of incident where there is not enough coverage to go around. Essentially, a claim is made against your own coverage for that additional benefit.
For now, our hearts go out to the Fraker family and we hope that everyone else recovers quickly from their injuries. Finally, we hope that the justice system does its part to ensure that Mr. Howdeshell never drives again.
Joshua P. Myers is a Premier Missouri Car Accident Attorney. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, his firm handles catastrophic car accident cases throughout the entire state. He is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the state. He is also inductee of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum limited to those attorneys, which have achieved single case recoveries of two million dollars or more. He can be reached directly at 888-956-2487 or 314-720-2706. It is always free to call and talk about a case and there are never any fees or money required up front. Rather all fees are taken as a percentage of the recovery he obtains for his clients.
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