Victoria Lemus, a 16-year-old high school student in San Bernardino, died after suffering injuries when a driver said to be drunk and under the influence of cocaine, ran a red light and broadsided her van. According to a news article in the Riverside Press Enterprise, the DUI auto accident occurred at the intersection of Fifth and E Streets in downtown San Bernardino.
Police arrested Dwight Dalton Davis, 55, who rammed his Chrysler into the Kia Sedona carrying Victoria and two others. Davis, who has a prior conviction in San Bernardino for drug possession for sale, tried to run away from the scene of the accident, but was caught and detained by construction workers nearby and a parole officer. Davis has pleaded not guilty to felony counts of DUI causing injury, driving with 0.08 blood alcohol content and causing injury and leaving the scene of an accident.
My heart goes out to the family of the young teenager, who apparently was returning from a Rotary Club meeting where she was recognized as a Life Scholar. We hope Mr. Davis is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
In California out of 4,229 traffic fatalities in 2006, 1,509 (more than a quarter) deaths were alcohol-related, according to the Alcoholalert.com website. More often, the fatalities are not the drunk drivers, but innocent by-standers, other sober drivers or their passengers.
There is no compensation that our justice system can provide that can return what the Lemus family has loss. Our justice system does provide the right and procedure for the family to obtain financial compensation for what has been lost, no matter how inadequate money is to replace a child, a loved one or a friend.
This is one of the rare auto accidents cases where I would seek punitive damages against a defendant driver. That is if the facts stated in the news reports about Davis are true. My sense is that enough evidence will be developed to support a claim of punitive damages.
The damages normally sought in an auto accident case are “compensatory” damages. “Compensatory” damages are designed to “compensate” for a loss or damage. “Punitive” damages are designed to “punish” and to be an example to others. A punitive damage award is exceedingly more difficult to prove and to get awarded that are compensatory damages.
The Lemus family and the injured passengers in her van should be consulting with lawyers well versed in high end traffic accident cases before they give a statement to anyone other than the police. There is a huge difference in the quality and skill of attorneys. Generally the truly best attorneys charge pretty much the same as the less experienced, less efficient and not well thought of orange county personal injury attorneys. Choose wisely
Keep in mind that whether it’s DUI auto accidents or other motor vehicle accident, if the responsible party does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance, accident victims who have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage will by their own auto insurance policy..