Newport Beach police have arrested a 39-year-old man in connection with a hit-and-run collision that occurred on September 14, 2012. The crash fatally injured reputed Orange County doctor and avid bicyclist, Catherine “Kit” Campion Ritz, 57. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, police arrested Michael Jason Lopez was arrested on September 18, 2012 and has been charged with hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Ritz was killed when she was struck from behind by a pickup truck while riding her bicycle north on Pacific Coast Highway, between Ocean Vista and Vista Ridge.
My heartfelt condolences go out to everybody who knew and loved Ritz, who was apparently a respected professional and a beloved member of the community. The Daily Pilot states that Ritz was a member of the U.S. National Disaster Medical Team and had served for the last 18 years as the president of Greater Newport Physicians. Ritz was also an avid bicyclist, hiker and kayaker. This is indeed a tragic loss for her family and the community.
Leaving the Scene of a Crash
I’m truly relieved to note that the driver who struck, critically injured and left Ritz lying on the roadway in this Newport Beach bicycle accident has been apprehended and charged. Leaving the scene of a crash where someone has been seriously or fatally injured is an appallingly inhumane act as well as a felony crime under California law. California Vehicle Code Section 20001 (a) states: “The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident.”
Holding Hit-and-Run Drivers Accountable
In addition to being criminally prosecuted, hit-and-run drivers can be held civilly liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. In cases where negligence is involved, families of deceased victims can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, and loss of love and companionship. An experienced Newport Beach personal injury lawyer will be able to advise victims’ families in such cases about their legal rights and options.