SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE reporter Dana Littlefield reported that Kelley Fritz a 12-year-old Hemet girl, was killed in a head-on collision on September 25, 2010, at around 9:30 p.m.. The girl, who had been visiting family in San Diego, was a passenger in a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle, which was traveling on state Route 76 near East Vista Way, when her father Rudy Fritz,45, lost control and veered into oncoming traffic hitting a Buick. Both the victim and her father were not wearing seat-belts and were ejected from their vehicle. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and the driver and passenger of the Buick were taken to Palomar Medical Center for treatment. Mr Fritz was subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs according to information from NORTH COUNTY TIMES reporter Teri Figueroa.
Our sympathy goes out to the teen’s mother, family, and friends.
Applicable California Law
California Vehicle Code 21651 prohibits drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic unless making turns, as provided by the code, and only when it is safe to do so. Thus, Fritz would be liable for the wrongful death of his daughter as well as the property damage and personal injury to the driver of the Buick and his passenger (see my prior Blog post for the law on wrongful death). In addition, he could be subject to claims for punative damages for gross negligence (see mt prior Blog post for the law on punative damages). Kelley did not contribute to causing her own death given the fact that the Bug had no seat belts and was exempt due to it’s age. However, there is a potential issue as to whether Kelley’s death would be covered by her father’s insurance. Most auto insurance policies have Family Exclusions which do not cover claims by family members living in the same household when making claims against each other. It is not clear if Kelley lived exclusively with her mother or also resided with her father.
A weekend visit results in the tragic loss of a young teen and injury to others. Serious injuries or wrongful death can result from auto accidents in which carless and or reckless driving is involved. Complicated issues require analyses by experts and advice from an experienced personal injury attorney.