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Auto Accident Involving Multiple Vehicles Leaves Two Dead

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Two drivers speeding on the 710 Freeway triggered a multi-vehicle wreck Monday afternoon that killed two and critically injured three others, while shutting down a portion of the Long Beach Freeway for several hours, according to a news report in the Los Angeles Times.

The crash, which occurred north of the Firestone Boulevard exit, snarled freeway traffic for several miles as crews worked for hours to pull the victims out of their vehicles and clear the mess. The crash involved three big rigs, a two-axle box truck and a red Nissan compact carrying four passengers.

Investigators determined late Monday that the crash was caused by a speeding Ford pickup and a Mustang convertible. The driver of the pickup, Armando Casares, 35, of Long Beach, was arrested for investigation of hit and run. Casares was being held on two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving and hit-and-run, all felonies.

Authorities were still seeking the driver of the Mustang. The names of the victims, all adults, have not yet been released.

The Nissan was pinned beneath one of the big rigs, and it took rescuers more than an hour after the 12:29 p.m. wreck to extricate the two women in the car and the driver of one of the big rigs, according to the article. Both women were seated on the right side of the car — one in front and one in the back — and were pronounced dead at the scene. The car’s driver and the man seated behind him were also critically injured, as was the trapped driver of one of the trucks.

According to California Highway Patrol officials, the driver of one of the big rigs (a Keystone Freight van), lost control of the vehicle and traveled from the far right northbound lane across three lanes. The big rig then hit the Nissan and the box truck pushing them to the center divider. Two big rigs that followed the Keystone van also collided and the driver of one of the rigs was among the three men critically injured.

This is the type of accident that has far-reaching effects. It left two people dead, several critically injured, vehicles totaled and commuters frustrated. And according to officials, it was caused by two speeding vehicles, whose drivers didn’t even feel it was necessary to stop as they left a trail of death and devastation in their wake. One of them is behind bars and that’s good news. The driver of the Mustang, I hope, will be arrested soon as well.

There is little chance that the “at fault” drivers that caused this accident will have adequate insurance or resources to fairly compensate the injured, the families of the deceased and cover the property damage.

Who is entitled to compensation?

Families of the deceased: The legal heirs of the deceased are entitled to compensation for the “wrongful death” of their family member from any liable party. The possible parties are the driver of the Mustang, Casares, the driver of the pickup, the truck drivers and the employer of any one of the drivers that was on the job at the time of the accident. If the driver of the Nissan was in was some way negligent, that is another avenue to compensation. If there was any issue with the integrity of the Nissan they were riding in or of a defect in the Nissan that may have contributed to the accident or the severity of the injuries, there may be a Product Defect case against Nissan. If there were any design, building or maintenance issues with the freeway that some how have contributed to the accident and/or injuries, there may be a claim against CalTrans or its contractors (claims against governmental agencies need to be properly filed within 180 days). There is the possibility of collecting compensation under the uninsured/underinsured provisions of the auto policy of the driver of the Nissan and of the auto policy of the deceased. Yes, the deceased’s own auto policies probably provides coverage that any knowledgeable personal injury attorney will know how to access.

Injured men in the Nissan: The possible sources of compensation for the injured men in the Nissan are the same as for the family members of the deceased women.

Injured truck drivers: In addition to the drivers of the Mustang, the Ford pickup, the Nissan and their employers and CalTrans, depending upon liability, the drivers will also have workers’ compensation benefits, since they were on the job at the time of the injury. Their employers may also have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their trucks and the truck drivers can make claims against such insurance. It is my experience that employers do not volunteer this information. We have usually had to force the employer to provide us a copy of their vehicle insurance policy declaration page (coverage page) to determine the benefits available to a traffic accident, injured on-the-job, employee. The uninsured/underinsured auto insurance policies of employees’, that I have seen, exclude on-the-job injuries. However, this does not apply to the employer’s policy.

The trucking companies: The trucking companies involved are going to incur losses in the form of damage to their rigs, damaged loads, the rigs and drivers being out of service and possibly additional workers compensation insurance charges or lack of rebates due to claims being made. They also can look to any of the liable drivers, their employers and CalTrans, again according to who is liable. There could even be some Product Defect issues with the rigs.

CalTrans: Yes, CalTrans has a right to reimbursement for any incurred expenses and/or damages to the freeway itself. All of the “at fault” drivers and their employees are liable to CalTrans for damages to the freeway and its components.

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