Four-Car Crash Kills Woman, Injures Four

Date: December 26, 2009
Location: Highway 42, east of Remote, Oregon
Names: Sigrid Wilma Wheeler, Sarah Helen Beck, Amber Nicole Olson, Ronald Eugene Beck, Robert D. Beck, Brett Dean Bishop

According to the Oregon State Police Report, a four-car crash on Highway 42 in Coos County, Oregon, east of the town of Remote, killed a Coos Bay woman the morning of December 26, 2009. Four people were injured, and Sigrid Wilma Wheeler, 74, was killed.

The crash happened on an icy stretch of road, when Brett Dean Bishop, 25, of Warrenton, lost control of his 2003 Dodge truck and slid into the eastbound lane. The truck sideswiped a car, then hit a PT Cruiser driven by Ronald Eugene Beck, 58, of Prosser. The collision pushed the PT Cruiser into the van behind it.

Two passengers in the PT Cruiser, Sarah Helen Beck, 54, and Amber Nicole Olson, 22, both of Prosser, were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. They were released from the hospital by December 27.

The PT Cruiser’s driver, Ronald Eugene Beck, 58, of Prosser, and another passenger, Robert D. Beck, also of Prosser, suffered minor injuries.

No one else was injured in the crash. It was the second accident in that area within a few days.

The death of a loved family member is tragic, and our hearts go out to the Wheeler family. We also send our wishes to everyone who was injured in this crash to recover fully.

Icy conditions obviously played a part in this accident. But the investigation is ongoing, which means any number of things could happen.

  1. Police could find that no one was at fault. But this is never the last word. The police usually do a great job, but every once in a while a committed lawyer and team of investigators ends up showing that the police version of events was not what actually happened.
  2. Police could find the driver of the Dodge truck was traveling too fast for the road conditions. If that’s true, the injured parties may have a valid lawsuit against Mr. Bishop.
  3. If there’s evidence that this is a high-risk area that has been ignored by the city, county, or state, despite repeated warnings that something should be done, there may be a potential lawsuit against the county for failing to maintain the road in a safe condition. In this case, a tort claim notice would have to be mailed within 180 days to preserve any claim.

Wrongful death claims are allowed by law. ORS 30.010-30.100.

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is tricky. It is “three years after the injury causing the death . . . is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. . . .”  In other words, it’s not three years from the date of death; it’s three years from the date of the original injury that ultimately caused the death. If a person goes into a coma from a car crash, and dies eight months later, the case will have to be brought within three years from the date of the car crash, not from the date of the death.

If a city, state, county, or other public body is being sued, a Tort Claim Notice must be received by the entity being sued within 180 days of the injury.

Compensation available includes charges for medical expenses; memorial and burial services; compensation for the person’s pain, suffering, disability, and loss of income from the time of the injury through the time of death; financial losses to the person’s family or other heirs; compensation for the loss of companionship and services to the person’s spouse, children, stepchildren, stepparents and parents; and punitive damages may sometimes be available as well.

The law caps the amount of noneconomic damages at $500,000. This does not apply to economic damages, which are not capped.

This is a complicated case, as many accidents can be. That is why anyone who is involved in an Oregon accident should educate themselves about their rights, responsibilities, and what to do next. It’s also why we offer our help, either through our free book, 7 Common Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Oregon Accident Case, on our website, or by scheduling a free phone consultation with one of our attorneys. No matter what you decide to do after an Oregon accident case (whether you settle, sue, or hire a lawyer), there are things we think you should know that can affect your decision.