Sergio Mendez, a 30-year-old former U.S. Marine was killed in a Ventura County car accident after a driver who fell asleep at the wheel crashed into a Starbucks store and struck him. According to a KABC news report, the fatal accident occurred on Ventura Street in Fillmore, the night of December 13, 2011. Officials say Michael Cedarland, an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, fell asleep behind the wheel of an SUV. The vehicle travelled approximately 300 feet from the road and into the building. Mendez was pinned between the vehicle and a wall inside the coffee shop. He sustained multiple injuries and died during emergency surgery at a nearby hospital. Jose Iraheta of Lancaster and Thomas Michaels of Piru, were treated and released for minor injuries. Cedarland was not injured and has not been arrested pending an official investigation.
My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends or Sergio Mendez following this tragic car accident. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Ventura County Car Accident Statistics
According to California Highway Patrol’s 2009 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were no fatalities, but 33 injuries reported due to Fillmore car accidents. During that same year, 57 fatalities and 3,421 injuries occurred involving car accidents in Ventura County.
Drowsy or Fatigued Driving
Based on this news report, the driver of the SUV, Cedarland, fell asleep at the wheel. According to a 2005 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers have driven drowsy within that year and 37 percent have actually fallen asleep while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleepy drivers cause approximately 100,000 accidents each year.
If Cedarland is determined to have been reckless or negligent in this case, in addition to facing criminal charges, he can also be held civilly liable for Mendez’s wrongful death. In cases where negligence is involved, families of deceased car accident victims can seek compensation to cover medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, loss of companionship, and other related damages. Victims’ families would be well advised to seek the counsel of an experienced Ventura personal injury lawyer, who will stay abreast of the official investigation and ensure that the negligent parties are held liable.