SXSW Tragedy – What Happens Next?

SXSW TragedyOne of Austin’s greatest traditions, South by Southwest Festival, was marred by tragedy this year when a Killeen man drove away from police and slammed into numerous people on a closed-off street.  To date, 4 people have died, several people have traumatic brain injuries, and many more are injured.

Obviously, the criminal justice system is handling the criminal side of this incident; the driver has been indicted with over 20 crimes and likely faces life in prison.  But what about the civil justice remedies the victims have?

Unfortunately, for several reasons, options are very limited and these victims likely will not be compensated for what they went through.  Here are the main possible avenues of recovery:

1. Driver’s InsuranceIn a situation like this, we would first look to recover money against the driver’s insurance company – that is, the insurance coverage on the car he was driving.  However, this will pose very problematic for numerous reasons.  First, according to media reports, the car was stolen.  If that is the case, the insurance company covering the car can deny coverage.  They can also deny coverage because this was arguably an intentional act; insurance companies do not cover criminal acts.  On top of that, if there is insurance, there is likely only a minimum insurance policy ($30,000).  Obviously, with the number of victims, that doesn’t even begin to remotely cover what occurred here.

2.  Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) – The next avenue of recovery would be each victim’s Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM).  UIM is sold as part of car insurance policies and in short, it provides coverage if you are hit by someone who doesn’t have enough insurance, or has no insurance.  That is the case here.  We cannot stress this enough: call your insurance company today and increase your UIM coverage to the highest level you can afford.  It is such important insurance yet no one knows what it is.  In this case, it would be fairly simple to get the UIM coverage for each victim – assuming of course, the victim has UIM.  This is the best possible hope for recovery.

3.  Lawsuit v. APD – We handle civil rights cases and have handled cases where a high speed chase caused injuries.  These cases are very tough.  In this specific instance, we don’t think there is a viable case against the police officer chasing this felon because the chase only lasted about a block.  In other words, the cop didn’t cause this; the felon did.  So we don’t see any potential case against the police here.

4.  Lawsuit v. SXSW – If the driver had been at a SXSW party and been overserved with alcohol, there could be a case against SXSW.  However, that is not the case here and therefore we don’t see any sort of case against SXSW.

In short, the victims will have very limited avenues of recovery in this incident.  It will compound what is already a terrible tragedy.  We cannot stress this enough – call your insurance company and increase your UIM coverage today.  This is the only insurance coverage that will help you if you are in a situation like this.