A police visual showing the chain of events that lead to the 2014 crash. Police officer Steven Sargent (car #1) was traveling eastbound on Main Street when he was struck by a police cruiser driven by officer Eric Lee (car #2). The force propelled Sargent’s car into the Kobayashi family’s vehicle (car #3), pushing them backwards. Image courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.

City of Bellevue pays $1M to Mercer Island family injured in 2014 police cruiser crash

  • Thursday, January 19, 2017 3:26pm
  • News

The city of Bellevue agreed to pay approximately $1 million late last month to a family of five who were struck and injured in a crash involving two police cars in 2014, an accident that permanently impaired one child’s sight.

Lawyers for the city finalized a settlement agreement in the case on Dec. 29. The parents’ settlement records were sealed, but one unrestricted court document revealed that the children — a then-12-year-old boy identified as “K.K.” in court documents and two girls aged 7 and 3 — will receive close to $1 million.

The sum is the largest personal-injury settlement the city has paid in over a decade.

“We are empathetic to how this multi-injury accident involving police vehicles affected the Kobayashi family. Through this settlement, the city along with the Kobayashi family now have resolution to an incident that happened nearly two-and-a-half years ago without having to endure a lengthy trial with uncertain results,” the city’s Chief Communications Officer Lenka Wright said in a statement.

The Kobayashi family was stopped in the left-hand turn lane on Main Street at 112th Avenue Southeast Aug. 25, 2014 when they were struck by a police cruiser after it and another police vehicle collided.

Bellevue police officer Steven Sargent was on his way to assist a superior with a stolen vehicle. Sargent was speeding eastbound on Main Street with his emergency lights activated when he was hit by fellow police officer Eric Lee.

The force of the impact propelled Sargent’s police vehicle into the Kobayashi’s car. All five members of the Mercer Island-based Kobayashi family were injured in the crash, as well as the officers.

Most of the family members had pain in their neck and back following the accident. But the crash had long-lasting impacts for K.K., who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

K.K. was diagnosed with bleeding inside his right eyeball and abrasions to his cornea. He underwent surgery in October 2016 but faces a lifetime of impairment.

“Unfortunately, even after completing treatment, the upper half of K.K.’s field of vision is compromised, and the lower half has poor acuity (worse than 20/500). The impairment appears to be permanent,” court documents read. “[K.K.] has suffered a severe injury, the effects of which he will feel for the rest of his life.”

The city will pay $950,000 to K.K., as well as more than $36,000 to his sisters.

The family, speaking through their lawyer, declined to comment on the case.

An analysis conducted by the Bellevue Police Department with assistance from other city departments showed that Sargent had time to stop his car before entering the intersection. However, the city denied that it was negligent.

In the moments prior to the crash, Sargent had activated a device inside his police cruiser that should have turned the red traffic light in front of him green, preventing Lee from entering the intersection. But, Sargent reported that the light did not change. Sargent accelerated to try and clear the intersection while Lee attempted to brake, but the pair collided.

Wright told the Reporter that traffic engineers cannot definitely say if the light changed, and if not, what the cause was. It is possible that a pedestrian pressed the crosswalk button, which would have delayed the traffic signal change.

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