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Three years after the accident that ended the life a 22-year-old Lake Village woman, her family is set to receive a settlement of more than $4.5 million.

Carrie Varlan was about to finish the dental hygienist program at Indiana University Northwest, becoming the first member of her working class family to earn a degree. She also was planning to get married.

But her life was cut short when the car in which she was riding was crushed from behind by a pickup truck whose driver was charged with reckless driving.

Now, more than three years after the fatal accident, Varlan's parents, Cliff and Debra Varlan, formerly of Lake Village and now of south Porter County, will be receiving a settlement of more than $4.5 million. Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who represented the family, said the settlement was reached earlier this week on the first day of the trial.

Allen said the settlement, which is higher than any previous verdict or settlement in Indiana for parents who lost a child, is a testament to the type of woman Varlan was.

"She was really an outstanding child, the kind of child we'd all like to have," Allen said.

Varlan, who worked her way through college while living with her parents in Lake Village, was planning to move out on her own but still live near her parents. Varlan's father is ill and, if she had not been killed, she would have been able to provide comfort to her parents, Allen said.

Allen and the Varlans are teaming up to use $130,000 of the settlement to fund scholarships for other young people who want to become dental hygienists. The money will pay full tuition for 10 students.

"I'm proud to be a part of it," Allen said.

"Carrie's nickname was Sunshine," her mother said in a statement. "She was the light in our lives. Not a day has gone by since the accident that we haven't thought about her and cried. But at least with the scholarship we will help another parent's child make her way through college without the financial pressure. I know Carrie would be happy."

The crash that killed Varlan occurred Jan. 3, 2000, in Gary. Varlan was riding in a small car driven by her fiance, Danny Resendez, when they were struck from behind by a truck driven by Eric Brown of Miller. Resendez and Miller both survived the crash. The settlement is being paid by the defendants, who include Brown and the company for which he was a driver.

Ken Kosky can be reached at kkosky@nwitimes.com or (219) 462-5151, ext. 354.

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