Sacramento Pedestrian Death Raises Questions of Fault in Complex Accidents

We hear many tragic and disturbing stories in our role as your Sacramento personal injury law firm. Each story calls to our hearts which leads to our dedication to injured victims. Still, some stories are particularly difficult to read such as The Sacramento Bee’s report on a recent accident in our region.

On Tuesday night, a West Sacramento police officer was en route to a vehicle pursuit in progress. The officer had his sirens and lights on as he sped down West Capitol Avenue. At the same time, thirty-one year old Brandon Louis Nickolas, a local transient, was walking nearby. Witnesses report that he appeared drunk as he staggered through the area, talking incoherently to himself. Nickolas was jaywalking when the officer’s car slammed into the man. The force of the crash was strong enough to send the pedestrian’s torso through the windshield of the police cruiser. Nickolas’s body was severed, his legs landing some distance away and his clothes ending up strewn across the roadway.

At the time of the crash, the officer was trying to join the pursuit of an unnamed seventeen year old. Allegedly, the suspect was driving a stolen vehicle and had refused to stop for police. Officers apprehended the teen and took him to Yolo County juvenile hall. According to the law, West Sacramento police booked the suspect on murder charges, in addition to the auto theft charges, because his actions led to the chain of events culminating in Nickolas’s death. The Chief Deputy District Attorney, Jonathan Raven, stated that he has not yet decided whether to proceed with the murder charge or whether the suspect should be charged as an adult.

Per policy, the officer involved in the crash is now on paid administrative leave. An internal review and criminal investigation will take place, led by the California Highway Patrol. Officials say it is too early to pass judgment on the actions of the six-year veteran. Although he did not suffer serious injuries, authorities did transport the officer to the hospital.

Residents of the area are debating the proper outcome of this case. They note that it seems unclear who is to blame for Nickolas’ death. Charges against the teen would most likely fall under the felony murder rule, a principle that allows prosecutors to charge anyone who commits a felony with murder if a death results, even if it stems from plans gone awry. Most often, this rule applies to cases where the defendant actually had physical responsibility for the death, rather than a second-hand incident such as occurred on Tuesday night. As for the officer, one legal expert noted he is unlikely to be found criminally liable so long as the court finds his actions reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances.

This case presents a common problem. Often, accidents are not as simple as A hits B. This is where skilled legal counsel comes into play. We can help an injured party review the facts, apply the law, and determine who is legally responsible for the resulting injuries. This specific case also raises the question of the dual role police have in apprehending suspects while simultaneously protecting bystanders. Consulting a skilled Sacramento car accident lawyer can help you uncover the truth and receive the compensation you deserve. Fault is complex; let us help you figure it out so we can get you the money damages vital to helping you recover and move forward after an unexpected tragedy.

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