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Sacramento County settles lawsuit with historic $27 million payout

A July 2017 crash involving a Sacramento County Sheriff's deputy left a girl with permanent brain damage. The county has settled with the family for $27 million.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Sacramento County has paid out nearly $27 million in one of its largest settlements ever in a personal injury case.

Raed Awad, his wife Nevin Awad, and their three children were a half-block from home just after midnight on July 14, 2017, when their lives changed in a matter of seconds.

Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy Sean Steen was rushing to a call, when his vehicle collided with the Awad family in their Honda CRV. The Awads were turning left onto Pope Avenue, where they live. The crash happened on Fulton Avenue in Arden Arcade.

The Awad's attorneys Robert Buccola and Jason Sigel said the crash came down to one serious mistake. Deputy Steen did not have his lights and sirens on at the time, while driving more than 80 MPH responding to a serious call.

"Our clients...made the turn believing they had plenty of room to negotiate that turn and were struck as they were completing the turn," Buccola said. "They were just leaving a relative's house. They were heading home. No alcohol, no drugs, nothing illicit going on, everyone properly belted."

The parents and youngest child, a then-6-year-old boy, were not seriously injured, but the crash fractured the femur and a leg of the oldest child, a boy who was 12 years old at the time.

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The middle child, a 10-year-old girl, was left with life-threatening injuries. She survived, but with permanent brain damage, Buccola told ABC10 News on Thursday, the day the settlement was completed and announced.

"She, unfortunately, cannot get up. She can't walk. She does require bowel and bladder care, and that's anticipated to be the case for the rest of her life,” Buccola said, talking about the now-12-year-old Awad girl’s injuries. “She really can't speak, no."

He said the girl was perfectly healthy before the crash.

Sacramento County settled with the Awad family for nearly $27 million, the majority of which is going into a trust for the girl, to help pay for medical expenses for the rest of her life.

"With this settlement, she'll have the additional resources to get the care she needs to continue to improve," Buccola said.

County spokesperson Kim Nava said that’s one of the largest – if not the largest – settlement for a personal injury case in the county’s history. That money is coming from the county’s insurance risk fund, not from taxpayer dollars.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. Tess Deterding said Deputy Steen is still working for SCSO. She shared a statement from Sheriff Scott Jones.

"This settlement reached between the county and the plaintiffs can not undo that moment in time of the horrific accident that changed their lives forever," Sheriff Jones said. "Although no amount of money can truly compensate them for what they’ve been through, I sincerely hope that in some way it helps them in their recovery and moving forward."

Buccola and Sigel said the Awad family has forgiven the deputy, who immediately jumped out to help the family after crashing into their vehicle.

“They don’t really harbor any ill will or animosity toward him," Buccola said. "In fact, they’ve expressed concerns that he makes a recovery and want him to know that they understand that accidents can happen, even to the most well-intentioned people.”

The attorneys say they and the family hope this settlement will prompt other law enforcement officers to be extra mindful of strictly following protocol, so that something like this doesn't happen to another family.

"Even a moment's lapse in following protocol - especially when you're traveling at those kinds of speeds - can have a really serious effect," Sigel said.

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