Teen disfigured in accident gets $17.5 million
Bucks County girl, family settle lawsuit with insurance company of driver who ran over her head.
December 06, 2002|By Frank Devlin Of The Morning Call
The family of a Bucks County teen who was run over by a sport utility vehicle on a Florida beach two years ago has reached a $17.5 million settlement with the driver’s insurance company, the family’s attorney said this week.
The accident left Megan Hamlin, a Central Bucks West High School student from New Britain Township, with disfiguring injuries and in a vegetative state.
Hamlin’s parents will use the money to move the 19-year-old from a Hatboro nursing home into a residential home where she can live with family and receive 24-hour-a-day professional medical care, Miami attorney Jeremy Alters said.
Hamlin and her friend, Jessica Rowen — also a Central Bucks student at the time — both sustained head injuries when they were run over near Jacksonville on June 20, 2000, by 47-year-old Joseph B. Edmonson of Green Cove Springs, Fla. Rowen required several reconstructive surgeries but has made a near-complete recovery.
Hamlin was vacationing with Rowen’s family when they were run over.
Edmonson did not face criminal charges in the case. He pleaded guilty to careless driving, lost his license for a year and was fined $1,000.
He has said he did not realize he hit the girls. Witnesses said he did not slow down after his truck rolled over their heads.
He was identified days later when a beachgoer recognized his SUV.
At the time, driving was allowed on the four-mile stretch of beach where the tragedy occurred, which is known as the Anastasia State Recreation Area and is owned by the state of Florida, Alters said. Driving, which is widely accepted on Florida beaches, has been banned at Anastasia the past two years, he said.
Alters said the Hamlin family’s “biggest goal since the beginning of this was to get Megan home and have her cared for 24 hours a day.”
Alters said he didn’t know what the exact living arrangements would be.
Hamlin’s parents, who are divorced, and Edmonson could not be reached for comment.
Alters said the girl’s father, Mark Hamlin, was “in the mountains somewhere” trying to collect himself in the aftermath of the settlement, which was reached in St. John’s County Circuit Court and announced Wednesday.
The attorney said the settlement agreement prevented him from giving the name of the driver’s insurance company. The family also has settled its claim against the state of Florida, Alters said.
Instead of a monetary settlement, the state has agreed to name a new boardwalk along the Anastasia beach in Megan Hamlin’s honor.
Alters said Hamlin has been making “baby steps” toward her family’s hope that she’ll be able to communicate in some way with them.
“She’s starting to respond a little bit,” he said. “She smiles when she hears her dad’s voice, but if I were to say something, she wouldn’t show any response.”
Now that Hamlin will be getting constant care and living with family, he said, “maybe the baby steps will speed up.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.