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Munching burger, other distractions led to $15 million in police car crash settlement

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 22 (UPI) — Santa Clara County, Calif., agreed to settle for $15 million a suit stemming from a car crash triggered by a police officer eating a hamburger while driving.

Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Markovic took his eyes off the road three times on Jan. 9, 2012, in San Jose — once each for the burger, a stuck radio microphone and an accidentally switched-on light — and struck a Honda driven by Diem Van Lam, 78, the San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday.

“The take-home message from this case is that distracted driving can affect anyone, at any time, even at 4 o’clock in the morning and even when you think you’re the only one on the road,” said Michael M. Shea Jr., Van Lam’s lawyer.

Van Lam sustained a torn aorta, seven broken ribs and a skull fracture, the newspaper said.

Shea said the county is self-insured for the first $2 million of the settlement and its insurance company would cover the remainder.

Markovic is no longer working due to a permanent disability from an unrelated, subsequent incident — rescuing a child from a highway crash, a sheriff’s official said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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