Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

Single-Car Collision Kills Four in San Bernardino Auto Accident

San Bernardino Auto Accident

A single-vehicle accident in San Bernardino about an hour east of Los Angeles in mid-March took the lives of four women. The facts as reported indicate that a 1997 Toyota Camry was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver attempted to pass another car. At this point, the driver lost control of the Camry and left the road, crashing through a steel barricade guarding a concrete flood channel about 20 feet below the road. Three of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, while the fourth was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died later from her injuries.

An automobile driver owes a duty to her passengers to drive with reasonable care, and the families of those passengers who were killed may have a cause of action for wrongful death against the driver if they can prove that this duty was breached. Typically in a one-car collision, the fact that the driver went off the road and hit another object (a wall, a fence, a tree, etc.) is evidence of negligence. A possible exception to this rule is when some sudden and unexpected occurrence caused the driver to lose control, such as when a medical emergency occurs to the driver or an animal darts into the road. Given the reported facts that the driver was speeding while attempting to pass another vehicle and then lost control of the car, it seems likely in this case that the driver of the Camry could be found negligent and liable to the passengers.

In two-car collisions or cases involving another vehicle where it may be unclear which driver was at fault, an injured passenger can make a claim against both drivers. The drivers and their insurance companies may argue over who was at fault, and if they cannot agree, then the case can go to trial and a jury will decide who was to blame. The jury may assign a percentage of fault to each driver, and each driver will be liable to pay their respective percentage of the injured passenger’s damages.

In the case where multiple passengers are injured or killed by a single driver, all the passengers or their families may be making claims against the driver or the driver’s estate. Liability insurance typically includes a per-person amount of coverage and a higher per-occurrence amount of coverage to cover all claims that arose from the crash. In a situation where several people lost their lives in a collision, the liability insurance may be inadequate to cover the damages imposed on the families who suffered from the wrongful death.

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