When a person is driving under the influence and causes an accident resulting in death, it is a form of vehicular homicide in California and most states. In addition, a drunk driving offense generally indicates a degree of recklessness that rises to a criminal level, thus making a resulting death generally a homicidal act or a felony violation that carries a very stiff criminal sentence. When the impairment causes the fatal accident and the victim’s death, there is not only criminal responsibility but also civil liability to the decedent’s estate and generally also to other victims seriously injured in the accident.
Sometimes in a civil action for monetary damages for the death or serious injury of the plaintiff in a case involving impaired driving, the court may allow a demand for punitive damages. This would be in addition to the usual damages allowed in a civil action. In a recent case in Madera County, a drunk and pregnant driver allegedly rear-ended a Hummer while she was speeding, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The impact drove the Hummer, with its four occupants, down an embankment. One passenger, a 47-year-old male of Lemoore, died from the crash. The other occupants of the Hummer were injured and trapped in the vehicle for hours. After their rescue, the driver was flown to a hospital and the two surviving passengers were transported by ambulance. Based on the reported facts, the death and three injuries appear to be valid claims for personal injury damages against the negligent driver.
It often happens that the tortfeasor did not carry sufficient auto liability coverage to fully compensate the victims in a serious, fatal accident like this one. In that event, each of the victims will turn to their own policies or to the policies of other household members, to determine the amount of underinsured motorists’ coverage that is available. Due the existence of various twists in the law of auto coverage in California, however, it is highly prudent for the victim or his or her family members to consult quickly after the accident with injury counsel, who is specially trained and experienced in finding all available insurance coverage.
Source: abc7.com, “Drunk pregnant woman arrested in Madera County fatal crash, CHP says“, Cory James, May 22, 2016