$4.6 million settlement for Gloucester County woman injured in car crash caused by a volunteer firefighter.

October 28, 2019   

A Gloucester County woman who was permanently injured in a 2018 car accident received a court-approved settlement agreement for $4.6 million today. Attorney Brian Fritz of the law firm Fritz and Bianculli handled the case and said his client Melinda Baker’s life will never be the same.

Baker, who was 56 at the time of the accident, suffered life-threatening injuries on January 26, 2018 after being struck by a speeding car driven by Richard Campbell, a volunteer firefighter of the Wenonah Volunteer Fire Company. While racing to the scene of a fire, Campbell blew through a red light and struck the car that Baker was driving. As a result of the accident, Baker, a woman who had climbed mountains during her foreign missionary work, will never again be able to climb a simple flight of stairs. She now uses a wheelchair and a chair lift to move inside her home.

“This settlement agreement gives Melinda Baker a financial safety net that she desperately needed in the aftermath of a horrific accident that decimated her body and destroyed her quality of life,” said Fritz, who litigated the case. “Although we’re grateful to have secured this settlement for her, no amount of money can buy back all that she’s lost. This kind and gentle woman has touched so many lives through her missionary work and she continues to inspire everyone she meets with her faith, strength and courage in the face of such adversity. Her spirit is amazing.”

Attorney Kristy McCabe who co-counseled the case with Fritz, explained that defendant Richard Campbell was cited for careless driving, failure to obey a traffic signal and creating a risk of a motor vehicle crash. She also stated that the officer also found Campbell to be in violation of Title 39:3-54:12, “Rights of Motor Vehicle with Light in Operation,” which provides in relevant part: “Nothing contained herein is intended to grant to any member of the volunteer fire any privileges or exemptions denied to the drivers of other vehicles, and such members displaying emergency warning lights shall drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and shall obey all the traffic laws of this state”.

When emergency medical team arrived at the scene of the accident, Baker was trapped in her vehicle and the paramedics could not safely remove her. The paramedics had to wait for the “jaws of life” to arrive in order to extricate her from the vehicle. Paramedics told her they needed to take her to Cooper University Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center. Baker lost consciousness during transport to the hospital.

Baker had sustained more than 14 fractures to bones in legs, neck, arms and ribs, tremendous blood loss and a dissected artery. Baker endured many painful surgeries in the months following the traumatic accident.

Her life will never be the same.

Prior to the accident she had been living and working as a missionary in Malaysia where her help to transition women who had been subjected to sex trafficking. A very spiritual woman, Melinda’s passion was for missionary work and what she felt was her true calling in life. Her plan was always to return to her missionary work. However, that is no longer an option for her. In spite of that, her faith in God is stronger than ever.

“When the accident happened, I prayed to God for help,” Baker said. “God first sent me the paramedics to pull me from the wreck, then sent me the doctors to stabilize my body, and next He sent me Brian Fritz to help get me through the rest of my life.”

Brian Fritz further indicated that there was no question of liability in this tragic matter. Richard Campbell caused the accident. Campbell was an agent of the Wenonah Volunteer Fire Company. Wenonah Fire was responsible for Campbell’s reckless actions and inactions.