The Orange County Register has reported a very serious automobile accident happened at 1:15 a.m. Sunday when a Mercedes and a Toyota pickup collided at an Irvine intersection. Reportedly, a 14 year-old passenger in the Mercedes, Ashton Sweet, was one of five injured after the Mercedes-Benz in which she was riding was struck in the early-morning collision. Three others, including the car’s driver, identified as Mike Ghaemi, were treated at the hospital and released. Krista Merassa, 15, remains in critical condition according to friends, and Sweet has been described as being brain dead, but on life support until her organs can be donated. The four girls were apparently on their way home from celebrating the birthday of one of the girls. The driver of the Toyota, Austin Farley, 26, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and was taken to the Orange County Jail. He is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, and neither Farley nor his passenger was injured in the collision.
See the Register story and photographs HERE.
While the precise cause of the accident has yet to be determined, a finding that Farley was at fault could result in criminal charges against him for vehicular manslaughter or perhaps even murder. California law provides that aggravated drunk driving can increase a defendant’s liability for a vehicular homicide to a second-degree murder. In general, California has followed the rule in vehicular homicide cases that when the conduct in question can be characterized as a wanton disregard for life, and the facts demonstrate a subjective awareness of the risk created, malice may be implied. In those circumstances, a murder charge may be brought. This so-called implied malice second degree murder is committed when a person does an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life, which act was deliberately performed by a person who knows that his conduct endangers the life of another and who acts with conscious disregard for life. Assuming that Farley ran a red light and/or was speeding, he could very well face a second degree murder charge, Orange County Superior Court records show he has a history of arrests related to his operation of a motor vehicle.
Beyond the criminal charges, Farley could also face a number of lawsuits for personal injury and perhaps wrongful death. If he was indeed negligent or reckless in causing this horrific accident, Farley would be civilly liable for the injuries and damages that resulted from his conduct. In the context of a civil case, the plaintiff’s burden is reduced, and the standard to be met is the preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Compensation for the victims of drunk driving accidents, should be an important concern for all Californians. When an intoxicated driver negligently or recklessly causes a traffic accident and serious injuries or death result, the driver should be held accountable. An Orange County auto accident attorney with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including those for wrongful death. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a loved one been injured in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver?
- Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.