UNION TRIBUNE Pauline Repard reported that a San Marcos woman, allegedly driving under the influence (DUI), is suspected in a fatal auto accident in Vista on August 13, 2010. The accident occurred at around 12:30 a.m. just west of Sycamore when Erica Oliva, 23, of Fallbrook, pulled her car off to the shoulder because one of her passengers was getting sick. Erica along with two of her passengers, Susana Orozco, 23, of Escondido, who worked with her at Valley View Casino, and Omar Guzman of Oceanside, exited her Nissan Altima just before it was struck. Omar stepped away from the vehicle just before it was hit by a Jeep Cherokee, driven by Debbie Sumi, 23, of San Marcos and escaped injury. However, the collision killed the two woman and injuring Gerardo Cortez, 21, of Oceanside who was still sitting in the Nissan. CHP officer Eric Newbury said that Sumi, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from her vehicle, and was seriously injured. Sumi’s passenger was crushed and received fatal injuries when the Jeep overturned. Newbury was quoted as saying, “We’ve had a lot of fatalities from DUIs, it’s a tragedy. Only when something like this happens is there an outrage. All the people who died today, we can’t bring them back.” Sumi was taken into custody at the scene, on suspicion of drunk driving and felony vehicular manslaughter before being taken to a local trauma center.
Our sympathy goes out to the families and friends of the deceased.
Applicable California Law
Sumi will face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter, for causing three deaths in violation of Penal Code 192. In addition Sumi will face civil claims for the wrongful death and personal injury to the victims and their families. The heirs of those who were killed will have claims for wrongful death against Sumi (see my prior Blog post for California Wrongful Death Law). Sumi might also face claims for punitive damages if her conduct amounted to gross negligence (see my prior Blog post on California Punitive Damage Law). Cortez will have a claim for his personal injury which will include past and future medical expenses, lost earnings and earning capacity as well as compensation for pain and suffering.
Drunk drivers causing serious accidents resulting in injuries or death are a daily occurrence. Drunk driving is also one of the leading causes of auto accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. They are a major cause of wrongful death, and serious injuries such as spinal injuries, causing paralyses or brain injuries. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed, conferring with an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial.