Tragedy can strike at a moment’s notice. Here at Ledger Law and Associates, we specialize in helping people deal with the monotonous legal details that are associated with unthinkable and unspeakable life heartbreak. As personal injury advocates, we stand for the rights of personal injury victims and stop at nothing to see justice done for those injured at the hands of unreasonably careless defendants.
One such tragedy occurred last evening in Santa Ana, California. A 60-year old woman was horrifically killed after she was struck by an oncoming vehicle while crossing the street. Reports have surfaced that the victim had crossed the street at an unmarked, non-crosswalk area; a minor offense known as jaywalking.
Despite the current rash of hit-and-run accidents plaguing southern California as of late, the driver involved in this accident remained on scene and was completely cooperative with authorities. This is a nice change from recent news stories about motorists striking pedestrians and cyclists and driving away to avoid liability and criminal charges.
You may be wondering if the fact that the victim was jaywalking will have any bearing on whether the driver of the vehicle will be held at fault in any capacity in this case. In a simple one-word answer: maybe.
In order for the driver to charged with a criminal offense in this case, it must be found that he had a requisite intent to injure or kill the victim or conducted himself with such a reckless disregard of the substantial risk of serious bodily injury that he should be held responsible. This will involve a careful analysis of the facts of the case. If he was speeding, driving erratically, text messaging and driving or otherwise distracted, the police and prosecutors could conclude that he was disregarding a substantial risk of bodily harm or death. However, if the driver was following all traffic laws, operating his vehicle at or below the speed limit and was otherwise following the laws of the jurisdiction, it is likely the prosecution will decline to bring charges upon him and the situation will be categorized as an unfortunate accident. As always, the facts of the case will dictate whether criminal charges are appropriate in this situation.
Another option is for the victim’s family to bring a wrongful death action upon the driver. Wrongful death actions are civil in nature and require a finding of negligence or substantial disregard for the risk of bodily injury or death. The evidentiary standard is much lower in a civil case and if found liable, the driver may have to compensate the victim’s spouse or immediate family for damages sustained as a result of the tragic death of the pedestrian.