The Complex Problem of Substance Abuse Fueled Auto Collisions

In addition to dangers posed by distracted drivers, pedestrians and drivers must contend with drivers impaired by substance abuse.  In a tragic incident on Monday, March 25, while crossing the street in front of Eckstein Middle School in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, a family was struck down by drunk driver Mark Mullan. Killed were new grandparents Dennis and Judy Schulte.  The Schulte’s daughter-in-law and newborn grandchild remain hospitalized in critical condition.  As reported by the Seattle Times, Mullan has a history of dui arrests, speeding, hit and run, inattentive driving, and did not have a valid license when he crashed his pickup into the Schulte family.  Mullan was unharmed in the collision and remains in custody.

See the Seattle Time article

Substance Abuse Threatens Everyone

A single person’s substance abuse has wide ranging effects on the community.  Despite a caring family, numerous arrests and court interventions, Mullan’s destructive addiction continued until the worst thing imaginable happened.  Mullan’s sister-in-law, Megan Mullan, is quoted in the Seattle Times:

“He had struggled and struggled with the bottle,” she said. “He’s a terrific guy, but he couldn’t stop drinking.”

“We were all afraid he was going to kill himself, but never imagined this. We are all just sick, sick, sick over this,” she said.

See Seattle Times article

Tragedy Highlights Flaws in Prevention Measures

Prior to the collision, Mullan had been ordered by the courts to install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle.  He failed to do so.  The device, which detects whether the driver has any alcohol on his breath, would have prevented Mullan from starting his vehicle on the day of the crash.  In hindsight, it was a mistake to trust Mullan to follow through with getting an interlock device installed.   The tragedy has spurred lawmakers to consider better ways to enforce device installation.

See Seattle times Article

The Value of Legal Help Amidst Crisis

For the Schulte family, lawsuits and monetary recovery are not likely in their minds as they pray for the recovery of their loved ones.  But an experienced attorney may still play an important role on the recovery team.   A personal injury attorney can relieve some of the extraordinary stress on the family by coordinating resources to help cover immediate medical bills and other needs.  Such resources may include accessing the state’s Victim’s Compensation Assistance fund, applying for public or private disability funds, and working with a defendant’s attorney to start receiving payments on a future judgment.  Additionally, an attorney can immediately begin documenting the nature and extent of catastrophic injuries and future needs, crucial information when the time does come to bring claims against the party or parties responsible for the tragedy.

James Dixon and Jennifer Cannon-Unione are experienced wrongful death and catastrophic injury attorneys.  They’ve worked closely with clients whose lives were instantly and dramatically changed as the result of auto collisions caused by substance abuse.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a chemically impaired driver, please do not hesitate to contact Jim and Jennifer at (206) 957-2247.

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