San Diego Drunk Driving Statistics Improve On The New Year

Union Tribune  Pauline Repard reported that DUI arrest in San Diego County and statewide improved compared to a year ago. Drivers arrested for drunk driving and fatalities during the New Year’s weekend were substantially less than last year, most likely due to the fact that it lasted for three days this year as compared to four a year ago. CHP officer, Jesse Udovic said that  there were 60 arrests and one fatality in San Diego over the holiday weekend in sharp contrast to last year when there were 101 DUI arrests and three fatalities. Statewide statistics were equally dramatic  with 961 drunk driving arrests and 25 DUI related deaths compared to 1388 arrests and 36 deaths a year ago.

One of the fatalities on New Year’s eve happened when Kelly McPherson, 53, of Mission Valley was fatally injured when he tried to walk across Murray Drive in La Mesa at around 1:30 a.m. on January 1, 2011. The driver of the vehicle that hit him, 48-year-old Dana Lohner, was later arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Our sympathy goes out to the McPherson family and friends.

Applicable California Law

 Lohner will face felony criminal charges for driving under the influence and causing death or injury (see my prior Blog post  San Diego Woman Arrested For Fatal Coronado Traffic Accident  for California DUI Law). In addition, McPherson’s heirs will have wrongful death claims against Lohner (see my prior Blog post San Diego Woman Killed by Auto Accident Debris on California Wrongful Death Law). Furthermore, Lohner could face additional claims for punitive damages for her reckless conduct of driving while intoxicated (see my prior Blog post Justice For Family Of Nursing Home Abuse Victim on California Punitive Damage Law).

The  new year started out on a positive trend;  however,  it was still tainted by tragedy. Wrongful death or serious injuries caused by auto accidents or truck accidents involving pedestrians are catastrophic.  The counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney is critical to obtaining justice.

San Marcos Car Accident Injuries Convenience Store Customer

San Diego News 6 reported that San Marcos resident Teresa Peterson drove her car into a 7-Eleven convenience store seriously injuring a customer on December 2, 2010. The auto accident happened at about 11 p.m. when Peterson, who was driving her Mercury Grand Marquis northbound on Rancho Santa Fe Rd.,  jumped the curb and drove her vehicle through the parking lot and into the front door of the store at the corner of San Marcos Blvd. and Rancho Santa Fe Rd.. Her car continued through the store hitting Carlos Martinez a customer  causing multiple serious injuries including head trauma.

Applicable California Law

California Vehicle Code 21658 requires a driver of a vehicle to drive within a marked lane and remain within the lane until it is safe to move from the lane. Peterson will face claims for the  damage to the 7-Eleven and the bodily injury to Mr. Martinez this would include his medical expenses, loss of earnings and earning capacity, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. If further investigation  determines that Peterson was driving recklessly and was grossly negligent, she could also face claims for punitive damages (see my prior Blog post on California  Law on Punitive Damages).

A casual visit to the 7-Eleven results in serious injury. Auto accidents, involving pedestrians often cause serious injuries such as head trauma and brain injuries that can last a lifetime. Discussing your options with an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial to obtaining fair compensation and justice.


San Diego South Bay DUI Auto Accident Injuries Victims

UNION TRIBUNE Caroline Dipping reported that a woman, 34, her daughter 17, and the passenger in a vehicle whose driver was suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) were injured on November 7, 2010. The auto accident happened at around 1:00 a.m., on the 2200 block of Palm Avenue. The unnamed 29-year-old driver of a 2006 BMW was reported to having been driving under the influence and speeding when he sideswiped the victims’ vehicle causing it to hit a parked car. San Diego Police officer David Stafford said that the unnamed woman victim was taken to a local hospital with a broken femur along with her daughter who was also injured.  The driver of the BMW, and his passenger were also taken to the hospital with injuries. The driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Applicable California Law

The driver of the BMW will face potential criminal charges for violation of California Vehicle Code 23152 driving under the influence (see my prior Blog post San Diego Woman Arrested For Fatal Coronado Traffic Accident for California’s DIU laws). In addition, he will face claims for the personal injuries sustained by his passenger , and the victims in the other vehicle. However, his passenger’s claim could  be reduced if she knew he was driving under the influence and thus contributing to her own injuries. If the actions of the driver of the BMW  are deemed to having been reckless enough to constitute gross negligence, he could also be subject to claims for punitive damages (see my prior Blog post Justice For Family Of Nursing Home Abuse Victim for California’s law on punitive damages).

Motorists who drive under the influence pose a great danger to other motorists and pedestrians. Auto accidents, truck accidents, and bus accidents involving intoxicated drivers often result in serious injuries or wrongful death. Having your case analyzed by an experienced personal injury attorney is key to getting you fair compensation.

Bonsall Fatal Auto Accident Kills Teen

SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE  reported that Kelley Fritz, 12, of Hemet, was fatally injured at around 9:30 p.m. in a head-on auto accident on September 25, 2010. Kelley, who was returning from visiting family in San Diego, was  riding in a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle on state Route 76 near East Vista Way, when her father Rudy Fritz,45,  veered into oncoming traffic hitting a Buick. Both Kelley and Mr. Fritz who were not wearing any seatbelts, were ejected from their vehicle. Kelley was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Fritz was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and both occupants of the Buick were taken to Palomar Medical Center for treatment. Mr. Fritz was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs according to Teri Figueroa a reporter from  NORTH COUNTY TIMES.

Our condolences goes out to the Kelley’s family, and friends.

Applicable California Law

California Vehicle Code 21651 prohibits drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic unless they are making turns, or as otherwise provided by the code, and only when it is safe to do so. Mr. Fritz would be liable for any property that was damaged and personal injury to the driver and passenger of the Buick as well as the wrongful death of his daughter (see my prior Blog post Escondido Auto Accident Fatally Injures Man In Wheelchair for California law on wrongful death). In addition, he could be liable for punitive damages for gross negligence (see my prior Blog post Justice For Family Of Nursing Home Abuse Victim for California law on punitive damages).  Since the Bug was not equipped with seatbelts due to it’s age, Kelley did not contribute to causing her own death, which would not affect any claims arising out of her death. There are potential issue relating to whether or not Kelley’s wrongful death would be covered by her father’s insurance. It is not clear from the facts whether Kelley lived with her mother and also resided with her father. Most auto insurance policies have exclusions, which do not cover claims by family members living in the same household when making claims against each other.

A weekend visit with family causes the tragic death of a young girl and injury to others. Auto accidents, in which carless and or reckless driving is involved, often results in serious injuries or wrongful death. Issues relating to insurance coverage, causation, and damages require thorough analyses by experts and advice from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Carlsbad Police Car Chase Accident Injures Four

SAN DIEGO NEWS 10 reported that a high speed chase with a Carlsbad police officer resulted in an auto accident causing injuries to four people on September 22, 2010. The incident started when a Carlsbad police officer was investigating a report of reckless driving by the driver of a Honda Accord  whose occupants were throwing debris at passing vehicles. The 17-year-old driver of the Accord did not stop for the investigating officer and the pursuit began, according to Carlsbad Police Lt. Marc Reno. The driver then hit a street sign on the off-ramp at  Carlsbad Village Drive while exiting Interstate 5 and then hit a Jeep, which had stopped for  the traffic light at Monroe Street. The woman driver of the Jeep and a passengers in the Accord were transported to Palomar Medical Center. Two others who were involved in the accident,  sustained serious injuries were flown to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Since drug paraphernalia was found in the Accord,  investigators will determine if drugs were involved.

Applicable California Law

The driver of the Accord will face numerous felony criminal charges for evading a police officer, reckless driving, and possibly driving under the influence of drugs resulting in bodily injury.  In addition, he as well as the registered owner of the Accord will be liable for any claims for damage to property, personal injury to the woman in the Jeep, and his passengers as well as possible punitive damages for gross negligence (see my prior Blog post Justice For Family Of Nursing Home Abuse Victim for the law on punitive damages). If the passengers in the Accord contributed to causing their own injuries in any way, their claims would be reduced proportionately. If the police officer followed the Carlsbad police policy and procedure for high speed pursuit, he and the city would most likely be immune from any liability. However, a timely claim with the city should be filed pending further investigation as to procedures and protocol followed by the officer.

Teenage drivers often lack the discretion, experience, and maturity when driving creating dangerous circumstances, which result in serious accidents. Their indifference to road safety causes auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and danger to pedestrians and property. If you have sustained serious injuries, or lost a loved one due to a reckless driver, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Vista Car Accident Fatally Injures Three

UNION TRIBUNE Pauline Repard reported that a San Marcos woman, allegedly driving under the influence (DUI), is suspected in a fatal auto accident in Vista on August 13, 2010. The accident occurred  at around 12:30 a.m. just west of Sycamore when Erica Oliva, 23, of Fallbrook, pulled her car off to the shoulder because one of her passengers was getting sick. Erica along with two of her passengers, Susana Orozco, 23, of Escondido, who worked with her at Valley View Casino, and Omar Guzman of Oceanside, exited her Nissan Altima just before it was struck. Omar stepped away from the vehicle just before it was hit by a Jeep Cherokee, driven by Debbie Sumi, 23, of San Marcos and escaped injury. However, the collision killed the two woman and injuring Gerardo Cortez, 21, of Oceanside who was still sitting in the Nissan. CHP officer Eric Newbury said that Sumi, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from her vehicle, and  was seriously injured. Sumi’s passenger was crushed and received fatal injuries when the Jeep overturned. Newbury was quoted as saying,  “We’ve had a lot of fatalities from DUIs, it’s a tragedy. Only when something like this happens is there an outrage. All the people who died today, we can’t bring them back.” Sumi was taken into custody at the scene, on suspicion of drunk driving and felony vehicular manslaughter before being taken to a local trauma center.

Our sympathy goes out to the families and friends of the deceased.

Applicable California Law

Sumi will face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter, for causing three deaths in violation of Penal Code 192. In addition Sumi will face civil claims for the wrongful death and personal injury to the victims and their families. The heirs of those who were killed will have claims for wrongful death against Sumi (see my prior Blog post for California Wrongful Death Law). Sumi might also face claims for punitive damages if her conduct amounted to gross negligence (see my prior Blog post on California Punitive Damage Law). Cortez will have a claim for his personal injury which will include past and future medical expenses, lost earnings and earning capacity as well as compensation for pain and suffering.

Drunk drivers causing serious accidents resulting in injuries or death are a daily occurrence. Drunk driving is also one of the leading causes of auto accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. They are a major cause of wrongful death, and serious injuries such as spinal injuries, causing paralyses or brain injuries. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed, conferring with an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial.

Motorcycle Accident Injures Two In Scripps Ranch

UNION TRIBUNE  Susan Shroder reported that a  21-year-old man riding his motorcycle lost control and collided with another motorcycle rider. According to officer David Stafford, the motorcycle accident happened at 6:30 p.m. on July 16, 2010,  on Carroll Canyon road near Businesspark Avenue. The Harley-Davidson’s rider heading southbound  at a high rate of speed, lost control of his motorcycle, and  slid into another Harley-Davidson being driven northbound on Carroll Canyon by a 25-year-old man. Both riders were seriously injured and taken to local trauma centers for treatment, according to Stafford.  Potential criminal charges are pending further investigation by the department’s Traffic Division.  According to CHP’s statistics (Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System), in 2008 there were 16 fatalities and 355 injuries involving motorcycle accidents in San Diego. In San Diego County as a whole, 51 people died and 1,081 were injured as a result of motorcycle accidents during the same year.

Applicable California Law

The rider who caused the accident faces potential criminal charges under California Vehicle Code 22350 and possibly reckless driving causing bodily injury in violation of Vehicle Code 23104. In addition, there would be civil liability claims for property damage and bodily injury including medical expenses, loss of earnings and earning capacity, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. If the speeding riders conduct is proved to be grossly negligent, punitive damages can also be claimed.

Driving a motorcycle can be exciting and exhilarating, but some young and inexperienced riders are tempted to push the limits when riding. However they can cause motorcycle accidents, and auto accidents, which usually results in serious injury and or wrongful death. Talking to an experienced personal injury attorney before any action is taken is the key receiving fair compensation and justice.

California Family Wrongful Death Settlement Means Justice For Survivors


SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT ‘S, Tyler Hayden, reported that Verizon has agreed to settle for the  wrongful death of Jose Vega, 49,  for $7 million. Vega, a Santa Barbara Housing Authority employee was fatally injured as a result of a September 23, 2009 auto accident involving Mark Selander, a Verizon employee, who was on the job and driving a Verizon truck the wrong way on Highway 101 when he hit Vega’s minivan head-on. Selander was suffering from a diabetic reaction when he got on the highway causing a six car accident. Verizon knew of Selander’s “condition” but failed to take any action. Selander was also sleep-deprived after working the night shift when the accident occurred.

Our condolences go out to the Vega family and friends.

Applicable California law

Vega’s wife Reyna, children, and grandchildren will share in the settlement proceeds pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement (see my prior Blog post on California wrongful death law). Under a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior” (Latin for “Let the superior answer”), an employer is legally responsible for the actions of its employees if the employee is acting within the course and scope of employment. In other words, the employer will  be liable for the employee’s actions while doing his or her job, carrying out company business, or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf when an incident takes place. The purpose of this rule is fairly simple: to hold employers responsible for the costs of doing business, including the costs of employee carelessness or misconduct. If the injury caused by the employee is simply one of the risks of the business, the employer will have to bear the responsibility. In this case Verizon allowed Selander to continue driving their trucks despite their knowledge of prior diabetic reaction incidents. Depending on the circumstances, Verizon could have been subject to punitive damages( see my prior Blog post on employer liability for punitive damages in California) if their conduct amounted to conscious disregard and gross negligence.

.A settlement or jury award in any wrongful death case is merely an attempt at compensating the injured for their loss. However, the loss of a loved one is devastating and cannot be adequately compensated. Death resulting from an auto accident, truck accident, or work accident requires the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney.

San Diego Bus Driver Convicted For DUI

San Diego News 6 reports that Emily Knudson, a passenger on a North County bus, is being called a hero for her 911 call on June 1, 2010 when she suspected the driver of her bus was intoxicated. Knudson was riding on a  transit bus traveling between Oceanside and Encinitas when she noticed that the bus driver, 40-year-old David Costello, was driving erratically, appearing sweaty, making random stops, including once to go to the bathroom on the side of the road.

Police stopped the bus and administered several sobriety tests, which Costello failed, and was said to have a blood alcohol level of .25 which is six times the legal limit for commercial drivers. San Diego officer Deputy Weibe said, “His right eye was actually closed — and when I asked him to open his eyes, they were red, they were blood shot — swollen and droopy. His motor coordination was slow, his speech was slow and slurred.” Costello was taken into custody and transported to Vista jail. Authorities disclosed that Costello had been cited nine times for alcohol related incidents since 2006.

Applicable California Law

Costello will face various criminal charges including driving under the influence, public intoxication and possibly reckless endangerment In violation of California Vehicle Code 23152, among others. Furthermore, had he caused an accident, he would also face potential claims for damages. Taking into account his blood alcohol level, punitive damages for gross negligence could also be claimed. In addition, since Costello was in the course and scope of his employment, the North County Transit District would also be responsible for any damages. A timely claim must be filed with the proper agencies and strict compliance with the government claims statutes pursuant to Government code section 945.4. California Civil Code Section 3294 determines when punitive damages can be awarded. As applied to employers, punitive damages based on the conduct of an employee may be awarded in various situations such as where the employer :

  • Had advanced knowledge that the employee was unfit and employed him or her with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others
  • Authorized or ratified the bad conduct; or
  • Commits one or more acts of oppression; or
  • Commits fraud, such as a “cover up” or lying about .

The acts of good Samaritan averted a potential accident, which could have resulted in serious personal injury, or wrongful death to the passengers of the bus, pedestrians, or other motorists. Bus accidents, auto accidents, motorcycle accidents involving drunk drivers are tragic . In addition, route 309 is heavily traveled by bicycle riders, who are at great risk of serious injury. When injury, or wrongful death touches our lives, the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney is invaluable.

Corporation Punished for the Death Of Nursing Home Abuse Victim

 ASSOCIATED PRESS reported that a jury in Sacramento County awarded $29.1 million in the wrongful death case brought by the heirs of Frances Tanner, 79 of Stockton. The juries award included $28 million in punitive damages and $1.1 million in compensatory damages against Colonial Healthcare and its partner, Horizon West Healthcare Inc., for Tanner’s  death resulting from elder abuse in 2005.   Tanner’s daughter, Elizabeth Pao and her estate, who were represented by attorney Ed Dudensing, who was quoted as saying “the jury made the award they did because they rejected the way Horizon West did business.”  Tanner’s daughter, claimed her mother was experiencing dementia when she moved into the nursing home and then broke her hip in a fall and subsequently died from infected bedsore. Pao’s attorney presented evidence of substandard conditions such as chronic understaffing, poor medical documentation, and other acts involving neglect. In addition, evidence of the companies’ finances and business practices were key to the punitive damage award.

Our condolences go out to Mrs. Tanner’s family and friends.

Applicable California Law

Tanners heirs prevailed on their claim for her wrongful death (see my prior Blog post for California’s wrongful death law). California Civil Code Section 3294 details the criteria as to  when punitive damages can be awarded. As it relates to employers, punitive damages based on the conduct of an employee, may be awarded in special circumstances and when there is proof that the employer :

  1. Had advanced knowledge that the employee was unfit an employed him or her with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others
  2. Authorizes or ratifies the bad conduct; or
  3. Commits one or more acts of oppression; or
  4. Commits fraud, such as a “cover up” or lying about events;
  5. Engages in one or more malicious acts


In cases involving corporate  employers  the allegation of “conscious disregard ” must be the act of “an officer, director, or managing agent” of the corporation having the power to influence corporate policy. Punitive damages are awarded in limited cases and are designed to punish the wrongdoers and act as a deterrent.

Cases involving Nursing Home Negligence, which result in serious injury or wrongful death are increasing.  Large corporations that own and, in some cases, operate them are often more interested on profits than providing services, which increases the danger to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Other aggravating  factors such as insurance companies reducing benefits and reimbursement for services, results in the hiring of poorly screened, under qualified employees, and under staffed facilities. It is critical that family and friends are vigilant in monitoring nursing home residents. If a loved one or some one you know, shows any signs of neglect or abuse while living at a nursing home, contact a experienced personal injury attorney.