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Two Killed in Los Angeles Car Accident after Police Pursuit

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Two women, identified as Marlene Alatorre, 19, and Claudia Fernandez, 38, were killed in a Los Angeles car accident after a suspected drunk driver who was being pursued by California Highway Patrol officials struck them. According to an NBC news report, the fatal collision occurred in a parking lot near Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights, the night of June 16, 2012. Officials say the suspect, a woman who is in her thirties, was driving under the influence while fleeing in a grey Toyota Camry.

The high speed chase, which started near the Los Angeles Convention Center on the 10 Freeway, continued onto the 5 Freeway and ended tragically when the suspect ran a red light and crashed into a crowded taco truck. Alatorre and Fernandez were standing outside the truck at the time of the collision. Both women died from their injuries. The motorist sustained minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

I offer my deepest condolences to the family members and friends of Marlene Alatorre and Claudia Fernandez for their terrible loss. Alatorre was a recent high school graduate and the mother of a 1-year-old. Both Alatorre and Fernandez were innocent bystanders here who were tragically taken away. Please keep these grieving families in your thoughts and prayers.

Police Pursuit Statistics

According to a CHP report on police chases, in 2010, police in California engaged in 5,024 high-speed chases. Of those, 1,508 resulted in collisions, injuring 766 people and killing 32. Of the people who were killed, 14 were either passengers in the cars being pursued or innocent bystanders. In 2003, when California legislators passed a law aimed at reducing high-speed pursuits, California led the nation in collision deaths involving police pursuits. In 2003, 46 people died of which 15 were fleeing drivers, 18 were passengers and 12 were innocent bystanders. The CHP was itself involved in about 1,600 pursuits in 2010, resulting in 226 injuries and 13 deaths, according to the agency’s report.

Liability Issues

In such cases, the driver who caused the crash can be held liable for the victims’ wrongful deaths. California law provides immunity to police departments that have adopted a “vehicle pursuit policy.” California Vehicle Code Section 17004 states: “A public agency employing peace officers that adopts and promulgates a written policy on, and provides regular and periodic training on an annual basis for, vehicular pursuits … is immune from liability for civil damages for personal injury to or death of any person or damage to property resulting from the accident of a vehicle being operated by an actual or suspected violator of the law who is being, has been, or believes he or she is being or has been, pursued in a motor vehicle by a peace officer employed by the public entity.”

The victims’ families here can seek compensation from the at-fault driver whose negligence led to the crash. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will be able to determine whether the California Highway Patrol officers in this case followed proper procedures while initiating the pursuit. While it is important that criminals are apprehended, police officers have a responsibility to balance that with the safety of other drivers and pedestrians on the roadway. Families of deceased victims would be well advised to get a knowledgeable injury lawyer on their side and ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected. For more information about the dangers of driving under the influence, please visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) web site at www.madd.org.

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