Driver in Jail after Fatal Crash

Date: May 24, 2010
Location: Highway 58 West of Oakridge
Names: Gregory Ralph Muller, Bonnie Puckett

Oregon State Police have completed a two-month investigation into a March 2010 fatal traffic crash on Highway 58 West of Oakridge, and have taken one of the drivers to jail, according to an OSP press release.

Police say Bonnie Puckett (a male), 43, of Christmas Valley, was arrested on May 24 at his home. He was indicted by a Lane County Grand Jury for Criminally Negligent Homicide and Felony Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver Involved in a Crash (aka: Hit and Run).

The original crash occurred on March 4, 2010 at approximately 5:25 AM, when a commercial truck operated by Gregory Ralph Muller, 37, of Sparks, Nevada, was eastbound on Highway 58. While negotiating a sharp curve, Miller passed a truck pulling two trailers loaded with bales of hay coming westbound. Several bales of hay each weighing about 1,000 lbs. fell off the lead trailer and struck the truck driven by Muller, completely demolishing the truck’s cab and resulting in Muller’s death.

Muller was driving for Sherwin Williams Company transporting clothes and furniture. His vehicle came to rest in a ditch along the eastbound side of the highway.

We send our most sincere condolences to Muller’s entire family as they struggle with their loss and shock. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

After hearing about Puckett’s traffic offenses, it’s a relief to know that he’s off the road for now. But it just emphasizes how careful we always need to be. And still, no matter how careful we are, accidents and tragic deaths can occur.

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

The statute of limitations for an Oregon 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.

We don’t try to talk anyone into taking legal action, but, since the laws applying to wrongful death can be complex, you may be well advised to find a good Oregon personal injury attorney. Please give us a call.