February 17, 2016

Posted: February 17, 2016 |

Dangers of Street Racing in the Wake of a Fatal Southern California Crash

A fatal Southern California crash during a street race has claimed the lives of three people with the tragic news of the death of actor Paul Walker while street racing still fresh in the memory of many Orange County residents.  According to a media report, two drivers were racing when one of the motorists lost control of his vehicle and swerved into a UPS big rig truck.  The UPS truck crashed into a center divider and flipped over before colliding with two other approaching vehicles.  An explosion was triggered by the crash between the vehicles according to a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol (CHP).  Three people died at the scene, and four more suffered injury.  While street racing constitutes a negligent driving practice that could give rise to liability to those injured or killed and their families, this incident raises a number of confounding issues.

Criminal vs. Civil Liability for Reckless Driving Auto Collisions

A CHP spokesman has already indicated that one of the drivers involved in the race will face manslaughter charges, but criminal liability does not provide compensation to the victims’ families.  The loved ones of the injury and fatality victims in this tragic collision might obtain a sense of justice from the criminal prosecution of the motorists who engaged in this reckless conduct.  However, they will not receive a substantial recovery for their loss.  The purpose of the criminal prosecution is simply to impose a sentence that might include incarceration, fines, probation and other forms of punishment.  While restitution to the victim also can be a component of sentencing, the victims and their families are unlikely to recover full compensation for their loss.

The injury victims and families of those that died will need to file a civil lawsuit to obtain full compensation for their loss.  While the civil lawsuit will need to establish that the street racing was a substantial factor in causing the crash and the extent of the loss, street racing is considered the type of extremely reckless conduct that often merits imposition of punitive damages.  Punitive damages, which are awarded to punish particularly egregious conduct and discourage such conduct in the future, can exceed all forms of compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, lost past and future income, pain and suffering, loss of services and companionship of a spouse, and property damage.

Punitive damages can be awarded in car accidents to punish reckless or intentional conduct, such as:

Street racing
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Engaging in multiple forms of unsafe driving simultaneously such as tailgating, speeding, and passing on the shoulder of the roadway

Frequently, the civil lawsuit will be filed after the criminal case has concluded because a finding of guilt in a criminal case involving charges related to street racing, DUI with injury, reckless driving or other violations can ease or even eliminate the task of proving liability, so the focus of the civil action becomes the existence and extent of the injury or loss to the victim and his or her family.

Challenges in Recovering Damages against Reckless Drivers

While most car accident judgments and settlements are paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance, many drivers who engage in extremely reckless conduct like committing DUI or street racing, have had their insurance cancelled for past driving behavior.  Even if the motorist who causes a crash while engaging in this type of extremely dangerous driving has insurance, sometimes insurance companies will deny claims based on intentional or grossly negligent conduct.

When the other driver does not have insurance coverage, our experienced Orange County car accident attorneys consider other options for obtaining compensation for our clients.  Initially, we often conduct an asset search to determine if the other driver who lacks insurance or carries insufficient coverage has assets like a home against which the judgement or settlement can be enforced.  If the driver lacks adequate insurance and assets with significant value, our Orange County car accident lawyers might look to other parties as contributing to the accident, such as:

Owner who entrusted the vehicle to an incompetent driver
Employer of the negligent driver who was performing tasks in the course and scope of employment
Public entity responsible for constructing and maintaining the roadway
Companies that designed or built the roadway
Manufacturer of defective vehicles and/or faulty components/systems
Injury victim’s own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage

Our Orange County Car Accident Attorneys represent those injured in motor vehicle collisions throughout California.  Our lawyers handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, so you do not owe any attorney fees until we obtain a settlement or trial verdict on your behalf.  Our attorneys handle cases throughout Orange County, Southern California and statewide across California.  Our lawyers at the Law Office of Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie offer a free consultation so call us at 888-752-7474 to schedule your free consultation today!