Grandmother, Baby Grandson Killed in Rollover

Date: September 27, 2009
Location: I-84 near Baker City, Oregon
Names: Juana Lopez-Lopez, Jonathan Mendoza-Lopez, Raul Mendoza-Lopez, Mireya Lopez, Hahir Emmanuel Mendoza-Lopez

A family vacation turned tragic September 27, 2009, when a car containing five family members swerved off the road and rolled down an embankment, killing a 60-year-old grandmother and a 4-month-old infant. Dead in the crash were Juana Lopez-Lopez and her tiny grandson, Jonathan Mendoza-Lopez.

According to Idaho Press-Tribune, the accident took place at about 6:25 AM, near Baker City, Oregon, on Interstate 84. Five members of the Lopez family were returning from a weekend gathering. Raul Mendoza-Lopez, 25, his wife, Mireya Lopez, 23, and the baby’s brother, Hahir Emmanuel Mendoza-Lopez, 4, all of Nampa, Idaho, were injured in the crash.

The devastating chain of events began as the family traveled east on the freeway, when their Ford Explorer started to drift to the left onto the gravel shoulder of the center median. Raul Mendoza-Lopez tried to steer back onto the road, but overcorrected, driving back across two eastbound lanes before swerving off the south shoulder onto an embankment. The vehicle then rolled several times, coming to rest about 50 feet away from the highway.

When the car finally stopped, Juana and Jonathan were dead. All the car’s occupants were wearing safety restraints. But Jonathan, who was in an infant seat in front, was thrown from the vehicle. According to news reports, authorities are checking on whether the safety seat was properly installed.

The driver and 4-year-old Hahir, who was in a booster seat in the back, were transported to St. Elizabeth Health Services with non-life-threatening injuries. Mireya Lopez was treated and released from Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

Eastbound lanes of the interstate were partially blocked for approximately six hours while emergency crews responded to and investigated the crash.

When children are injured, the law can get complicated fast. For example, while the standard Oregon injury case must be filed within two years of the accident, the statute of limitations for children, on the other hand, is not so straightforward. ORS 12.160 steps you through the process for figuring out the statute of limitations. First, the regular statute of limitations applies. Second, it doesn’t start running until the child turns 18 years old. But, third, the statute cannot be extended more than five years, and fourth, it cannot be extended beyond the child’s 19th birthday.

While accidents like this one can seem black or white, a closer investigation will sometimes turn up a surprise.  Some might assume that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, or stopped paying attention for some other reason. And perhaps that is exactly what happened. But there are many other possibilities as well. Poor road conditions may have caused this wreck – for all we know, there may have been a large pothole that has already caused three prior accidents, or maybe there’s a blind curve with a missing warning sign. If that is the case, there may be a lawsuit available against the city/county/state. Such a lawsuit would allow the injured person to receive compensation and hopefully prevent future accidents on that stretch of road.

Maybe the car was recently brought in for a tune-up, and the mechanic replaced the steering mechanism carelessly, and the car lost steering.  These things do happen, and when someone is seriously injured, a competent Oregon personal injury attorney can investigate and find out what truly happened.  Usually at no cost.  For more information on what to do in the case of an Oregon accident, contact our office or read 7 Common Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Oregon Accident Case.

Shulman DuBois LLC is located in Portland, Oregon, and serves clients in all Oregon cities and counties, including: Portland, Beaverton, Multnomah County, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin, Troutdale, Sellwood, Corvallis, Salem, Eugene, and Albany.