Six farm workers who were traveling in a Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle and a septic truck driver died in a rural Fresno County commercial truck accident after their vehicles collided and plunged into a canal. According to an Associated Press news report, those who died were identified as Luis Perez, 45; Eulalia Garcia, 34; Isaac Tapia, 16; Adan Martinez, 22; and Elizar Cruz, 19. Perez, who was driving the septic truck, was from Merced, and the others were Lodi residents.
California Highway Patrol officials, who are still investigating the cause of the horrific crash, said both drivers and the Explorer’s right front passenger were wearing seat belts. The SUV was apparently taking six laborers from an orchard south of Westley back home to Lodi. Perez was working for United Site Services Inc. which owns the septic truck involved in the crash and was on the job.
I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the farm workers as well as Perez. This is a heart breaking incident. Men simply doing what they do, working to support their families, on the way back from a day’s work wind up dying in a traffic accident.
It is too early at this point to tell who is to blame for this SUV accident. According to CHP’s statistics, there were 133 fatal traffic accidents in Fresno County in 2006. If investigators determine that Perez was at fault, the victims’ families could be entitled to compensation from Perez’s employer. On the other hand, if the driver of the Explorer was determined to have been at fault, then his insurance would likely compensate Perez’s family and the families of his passengers.
These men’s families will be well-advised to retain the services of very strong and skilled personal injury attorneys. I sense a real dog fight over liability. Each of the insurance companies is going to deny liability and point the finger at the other driver.
The families of the passengers in the Ford Explorer may be well served by having a different attorney from the attorney representing the family of the driver. There would be a “conflict of interests” for a single attorney or law firm to represent the Ford Explorer passengers and its driver.
The families of the passengers will necessarily make claims against both drivers and then let the insurance companies for the drivers sort out “fault”. There is the possibility that both drivers are at fault.
The Perez family most definitely needs an attorney not associated with the attorneys for the driver and passengers in the Ford Explorer and not associated with his employer’s attorney defending claims by the farm workers’ families. The family needs their own, independent California auto accident attorney looking out solely for their interests.
Each of these men’s heirs, according to California Civil Code Section 377.60 (a) are entitled to damages in a successful wrongful death claim for:
- Loss of financial support they would have received from the deceased
- Loss of gifts or benefits they would have expected to receive from the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the reasonable value of household services that would have otherwise been performed by the deceased
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; as well as
- Loss of training and guidance that the deceased would have otherwise provided