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Fatal California Car Accident Involved Drunk Driver

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Christa Balch, 40, suffered major injuries and her 4-year-old son, Sebastian, was killed in a California car accident involving a suspected drunk driver the night of August 9, 2009. According to a news report in the Monterey Herald, Balch’s car was hit by a 2006 Dodge truck driven by 31-year-old Dion Gussner. California Highway Patrol officials say Balch has stopped in the right lane at River and Las Palmas roads in Salinas when Gussner crashed into the car. Sebastian died at the scene while Balch and her 2-year-old daughter were taken to a San Jose hospital with major injuries. Gussner was charged with felony drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter.

My heart goes out to this beautiful family for their tragic and heartbreaking loss. Balch is apparently a popular, caring doctor who helped the underprivileged and her husband, a lawyer. Their church and community are also dealing with the shock of this horrific car accident. I offer my deepest condolences to the Balch family and wish Christa Balch and her daughter the very best for a speedy and complete recovery. Please keep them in your prayers.

California DUI Car Accident Statistics

According to the CHP’s 2007 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were two fatalities and 50 injuries involving alcohol-related car accidents in Salinas, California. In Monterey County as a whole, 14 deaths and 197 injuries were reported in 2007, as a result of alcohol-related car accidents.

I trust CHP investigators will thoroughly investigate this incident. If Gussner was in fact driving drunk or driving negligently or recklessly, he should be held criminally and civilly responsible for causing the serious injuries and wrongful death of Sebastian.

California Car Accident Laws
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in California. According to California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a): “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.”

A driver whose act of driving under the influence results in the death of another will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges. California Penal Code section 191.5 (a) states: “Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”

In such cases where negligence or wrongdoing is involved, injured victims and their families would be well-advised to consult with an experienced California personal injury lawyer, who has a successful track record of pursuing drunk drivers and also with wrongful death claims. The best California car accident law firms will always offer and free and comprehensive initial consultation to injured victims and their families.

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