At times, it seems like reading the paper or watching the news requires a level of detachment. With so many stories of personal tragedy, connecting emotionally with every report can be overwhelming. Yet, connecting the story to the law is a key part of what we do at our San Francisco wrongful death law firm. Connecting allows us to serve our clients on the emotional, as well as the legal, journey that follows tragedy. Ensuring the jury connects with the plaintiff and/or victim can help us recover compensation for the client. A personalized story can also drive home a message about accident prevention. Today, we look at the story and the law behind a recent pedestrian fatality and we consider the potential legal implications for an accident caused by someone fleeing the police.
Kind, Warm-Hearted Woman Killed in Pedestrian Crash
Last Friday, a 42-year-old female pedestrian was struck and killed in San Francisco’s Financial District. On Monday, one of the headline stories on the San Francisco Chronicle website took a closer look at the victim and the fatal accident. At around 10 P.M., police say three men held up an individual near the intersection of Clay and Larkin. Shortly thereafter, officers attempted to pull the trio over and the suspects fled in a Toyota Corolla. Around the same time, Bridget Klecher was walking in the Financial District after dining with a friend. With police in pursuit, the Toyota sped north on Leavenworth Street and plowed into Klecher as she crossed near Kearny Street. The vehicle continued fleeing and hit another person at Post and Powell Streets before the suspects abandoned the car on Treasure Island. While the second victim is expected to survive, Kearney later died at San Francisco General Hospital.
Friends held a memorial service for Klecher on Sunday. They described her as kind and warm, a jokester, and “the coolest girl I’ve ever met” without a mean bone in her body. She’d moved to San Francisco from Maryland in the mid-1990s. Klecher was a Giants fanatic and eagerly awaited the home opener. Now, her friends await a break in the case
Civil and Criminal Implications of a Death Caused By Perpetrators Fleeing Police
Often, mourners find some solace in seeing those responsible for an untimely death held responsible. Regular readers of this blog know that the criminal and civil arms of the law operate separately. Family members can pursue a wrongful death case in civil court at the same time as prosecutors bring criminal charges, or even if authorities choose not to prosecute.
Special criminal charges may apply when someone is killed by perpetrators fleeing the scene of another crime. Vehicular Manslaughter, defined in Penal Code 192(c), involves (1) killing another (2) when driving with negligence or gross negligence and (3) committing either a non-felony unlawful act or a lawful act that might lead to a death. While murder typically requires proof of malice, a special Felony Murder Rule (CA Penal Code Sec. 189) allows the charge when the death occurred during the commission of one of the listed felonies (including robbery, burglary, and sexual assault) or another inherently dangerous felony. It can apply even if a co-conspirator actually killed the victim. The Felony Murder Rule only applies if the death occurred during the commission of the felony, but that generally includes an immediate escape attempt that continues until the individual reaches a temporary place of safety (see Criminal Jury Instruction 3261 which further defines a place of temporary safety as having escaped from the crime scene and no longer being chased).
On the civil side, the case would most likely be brought as a wrongful death action under Civil Code 377.60 et. seq. This claim typically belongs to the deceased’s closest relative(s). Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the responsible party rather than compensate the victim, may be deemed appropriate. This can greatly increase the amount of money that the defendant owes the plaintiffs.
Choosing a Lawyer
Choosing a lawyer is a difficult decision. We encourage you to look at the information on our webpage and arrange an initial consultation with Attorney Brod, a skilled and experienced San Francisco injury lawyer. We promise to handle your civil claims with the utmost respect, keep you informed throughout the attorney/client relationship, and, of course, provide top-notch legal services while never forgetting the human side of our relationship. Please call to learn more.
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(Image by Robert Vega)