On Feb. 4, 2016, a jury unanimously awarded more than $3.5 million to two plaintiffs, the successors of the deceased, in a wrongful death case in San Bernardino. Damages included funeral expenses, past and future costs for bodily injury for one of the plaintiffs, and past and future non-economic losses.
Facts of the Case
On July 6, 2011, the plaintiff was driving her minivan with her two children in Rice on Highway 62 in San Bernardino County.
The defendant and her husband traveled westbound but drove into on-coming traffic, resulting in a head-on collision with the van. One of the children, 16, succumbed to injuries from the accident at the scene. The plaintiffs stated that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and subsequently filed the lawsuit. The defendant insisted that gravel on the side of the road caused her to swerve into the van, causing the accident. She further claimed that the girl was not properly secured by her seatbelt. However, the jury did not accept her defense.
The plaintiffs requested damages for physical injuries, including emotional distress, disfigurement, pain and suffering, physical impairment and loss of enjoyment of life. They also claimed the loss of: moral support, love, society, companionship, affection, comfort, protection, assistance and care.
The gross jury verdict was over $3.5 Million. This included approximately $150,000 for present and future medical expenses for one of the children and the remainder for the wrongful death of the other child.
Statistics on Head On Collision Fatalities
Head-on collisions cause 10 percent of the deaths in a vehicular accident although they only make up 2 percent of all accidents. When two vehicles race toward each other, the force of the collision and the related impact now doubles. So if a car and a motorcycle each travelling at 40 miles per hour crash in a head-on collision, the impact equals 80 mph.
Additional national statistics from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials follow:
Nearly all of these accidents happen due to an “unintentional” action by the driver, such as:
• Falling asleep at the wheel
• Distraction from an electronic device or
• Failure to slow down when turning.
These accidents almost always occur when both parties are going straight or trying to navigate a turn.
About three-fourths of all fatal head-on collisions happen when no median divides the traffic traveling in opposite directions on rural roads.
The initial action can cause the accident, but sometimes, the driver overcorrects, which causes the accident instead.
California laws specifically address each of these situations as follows:
California Vehicle Code 21751: When on a two-lane road, the vehicle should remain on the
right-hand side of the road unless the driver can clearly see that the way is clear of any oncoming traffic to safely pass on the left-hand side of the road.
California Vehicle Code 21752: Drivers cannot ever drive on the left-hand side of the road in these scenarios:
• When approaching a curve or turn without a clear view
• When approaching a tunnel, viaduct or bridge without a clear view or
• When the driver is less than 100 feet from a railroad crossing.
California Vehicle Code Sections 23123, 23124, 23125: Drivers cannot use electronics while driving.
California Vehicle Code 23152: Drivers cannot drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
California Vehicle Code 22350: Drivers must navigate the roadways at safe and appropriate speeds for the conditions of the road.