UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Karen Kucher reported that two men, 34-year-old Francis Rolan Samson Bueno and Emmanuel Zapien 23, were arrested following an accident that occurred on March 11, 2010. They were suspected of drunk driving for an accident that occurred on southbound Interstate 805 near Market Street. In addition, two hit-and-run drivers were also being sought for leaving the scene of the accident.
According to CHP officer Art Athans, the incident began when Bueno lost control of his vehicle and hit the center divide. The vehicle was blocking the southbound fast lane, and was then struck by Zapien’s vehicle, who was not able to avoid the other vehicle. Firefighters had to assist Zapien and his passenger as they were trapped in their vehicle. Another accident occurred when 33-year-old Sean Franklen, a good Samaritan ran across the freeway in an effort to divert traffic from the accident site. In the course of putting out flares, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver believed to be driving a white 2001 BMW. A fourth vehicle collision occurred when Eduardo Michael Diaz, hit another vehicle that fled the scene. In all, five motorists suffered major injuries and were hospitalized.
Applicable California Law
If Bueno and Zapien were driving under the influence of alcohol they would face criminal charges for violation of California Vehicle Code 23152. Zapien has a civil claim against Bueno for personal injury and property damage. However, given the fact that he was driving impaired, would reduce his claim to the extent his conduct is found to have contributed to causing the accident under comparatively negligent. If Zapien’s passenger knew that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident, may constitute comparative negligence as well.
In regards to Franklen, if the hit-and run driver is never found, he would have to pursue an uninsured motorist claim with his own insurance company. In addition, if his conduct contributed to the fourth accident he could be partially liable. Although he was acting as a good samaritan, the California Supreme Court has held that only when rendering emergency medical aid is a good samaritan immune from liability. Having hit the vehicle in front of him, would suggest that Diaz caused his own injuries. Without additional facts, it is not clear why the vehicle he hit fled the scene, or if they contributed to that accident.