In the early morning hours of December 16, a Los Angeles man was struck and killed by a car following an altercation in a North Hollywood bar. The victim, whose name was not immediately released by police, evidently had been drinking in the bar and fought with the bouncer shortly before closing.
He and the bouncer, Ernest Reyes, struggled until he fell in the street. At that point, the victim was struck by a car which accelerated and left the scene without stopping.
The car was described in the Los Angeles Times as a “dark-colored vehicle with dark-tinted windows.”
Police arrested Reyes, who is 34, on suspicion of murder. His bail was set at $2 million. The Times noted that the sequence of events was unclear, including whether Reyes shoved the man into the street. Police are currently investigating. They are also exploring whether security cameras can yield a picture of the car and driver who struck the victim.
Multiple legal claims possible
While law enforcement is still investigating and fault cannot yet be assigned, the incident illustrates several points of California law regarding vehicle accidents, pedestrian responsibility, and personal injury.
Negligence laws in California apply to both vehicles and pedestrians. A car that strikes a pedestrian is not always at fault. Hypothetically, if a pedestrian darts into a street directly before a car, a jury could find the pedestrian 100% at fault. If, however, a pedestrian is jay-walking and a car is going too fast to stop, a jury might find that the driver bears the preponderance of blame. Under state law, a jury could find the driver 75% negligent and the pedestrian 25%. Any damages awarded would be split accordingly.
Second, there is the issue of driver behavior. News reports indicate that the victim was killed by a hit-and-run accident. A hit-and-run is an accident in which the driver of a vehicle that has struck someone does not stop. Under California law, drivers who strike someone, whether they are injured, killed, or unharmed, must stop. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If someone was killed in the accident, leaving it is a felony offense.
If the driver is found, the victim’s family in this case could bring civil charges under California hit-and-run law.
Third, the incident raises the issue of personal injury law. Under California personal injury statutes, someone can be responsible for personal injury if they carelessly caused personal injury or death. Careless means that a person knew or should have known a situation was dangerous but did not take proper care to prevent it.
While we do not know the circumstances until the police investigations are complete, a party who pushes another party into the path of an oncoming vehicle could be found to have caused personal injury. However, if the victim stumbled rather than was propelled into the roadway, or did not notice an oncoming vehicle due to inebriation, a jury might find that the victim was partly or even entirely responsible. Because the victim was hit by a car, the driver of the car may also bear a large responsibility.
In this particular case, the accident resulted in death. The families and loved ones of the deceased can bring suits in cases of car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and personal injury.
Have you lost a family member in a hit and run or other traffic incident?
The Salamati Law Firm specializes in vehicle and pedestrian accidents and personal injury cases. If you or your family face any of the situations above, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. There is no fee unless we win your case. We have years of experience fighting for the rights of people like you.