A young girl experienced a horrific trauma on a Los Angeles freeway that nobody should ever have to go through. She witnessed the death of nearly her entire family, including both of her parents, in a fiery truck accident. Now a court has ruled that the truck driver in the crash was negligently responsible for the deadly collision and has ordered him and his employer to pay more than $150 million in wrongful death damages.

In 2009, the girl, who lived in Riverside, was 9 years old. She was travelling with her parents and brothers to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives in another state. While driving north on Interstate 210, the family’s SUV hit some debris in the road, causing the girl’s father to pull over onto the shoulder.

But a semi truck was already parked there, and in the darkness of the early morning the father did not see it. The SUV crashed into the rear of the truck and caught fire. The girl and one of her brothers were able to escape, but their parents and another brother were trapped inside. All three died as the siblings watched bystanders try to put out the fire.

Evidence from the wrongful death trial suggested that the truck driver had pulled over to sleep, even though that stretch of the shoulder was for emergencies only. The driver claimed that he had pulled over because he was suffering a headache, which qualified as an emergency. But jurors apparently did not believe his story.

The $150 million will be put into a trust until the girl is 18. Part of the award was given to the estate of her brother, who committed suicide before trial began.

We present horrible stories like this one not for entertainment value, but to show why survivors of people who die due to another’s negligence are able to obtain financial compensation in our civil court system.

Source: Associated Press, “LA jury awards $150M in wrongful death case,” Daisy Nguyen, Oct. 28, 2013