MoneyThe state of Washington will pay damages in the amount of $10 million after a tree struck and killed a couple who were driving in their sport utility vehicle. The damages will be paid to the couple's children and the couple's son-in-law.

The tragic accident happened in December 2012, while the man and woman were driving their sport utility vehicle along U.S. Highway 2. Their son-in-law and three adult children were riding in the car with them.

State Chose Not to Close the Road During Dangerous Conditions

Prior the the incident, the region had experienced severe weather and Chelan County, Washington, asked its residents to restrict their driving activities. However, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) did not reiterate the county's warnings, nor did the state close the road due to dangerous conditions.

While the family was driving, a tree made heavy by ice fell and hit their SUV. The man and woman were killed and their three children and son-in-law were disabled in the tragic accident. Additional trees continued to fall after the crash, but the WSDOT refused to close the roadway, even after the Washington Highway Patrol requested they do so. It was only after another vehicle was hit by a tree that the WSDOT closed the road for safety concerns.

$10 Million Settlement Achieved Through Mediation

The $10 million settlement of this matter was arrived at through mediation proceedings. According to the family's joint statement, they hope that the state of Washington will act sooner in the future to protect the lives and safety of the public from dangers. The family also said that the state acted with compassion during the mediation proceedings. According to a spokesperson for the state, they chose to mediate the settlement due to the expenses, complications and unpredictability of how a jury might have viewed the issue.

In this case, the family pursued a statutory complaint claim, requesting that mediated settlement negotiations be pursued rather than a legal suit. Although the mediation proceedings took one year to complete, it appears that both the state and the family were satisfied with the resolution of the matter. As is often the case with mediated settlements, it is likely that both sides saved a great deal in legal fees and other expenses by choosing the path of mediated settlement in this matter.