A Southern California Family Recovers $25M in the Case of a CHP Officer Who Struck and Killed a Pedestrian 

A Southern California Family Recovers $25M in the Case of a CHP Officer Who Struck and Killed a Pedestrian 

In this blog, we often discuss the importance of a thorough and complete investigation following an accident and before you go to trial. That requires a detail-oriented legal team dedicated to finding evidence that might be easy to overlook. Sometimes, it’s the easily overlooked proof that can make all the difference. If you or your family member get hurt in a pedestrian accident in or around Santa Barbara County, you should not try to go it alone. Instead, retain an experienced Santa Barbara pedestrian lawyer who knows how to handle cases like yours, both during and before trial.

A fatal pedestrian crash case from Long Beach illustrates this point. 

A Southern California Family Recovers $25M in the Case of a CHP Officer Who Struck and Killed a Pedestrian 

C.M. was a 24-year-old pedestrian crossing a street in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood during the pre-dawn hours when a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, who was riding to work, struck and killed him. The initial evidence was mixed. It included proof that the pedestrian was not inside a marked crosswalk when he attempted to cross the street, as well as evidence that the motorcycle officer was traveling at nearly 70 mph in a 40-mph speed zone. 

Criminal prosecutors, using evidence of the officer’s high rate of speed, tried the officer for manslaughter but did not obtain a conviction. 

The Officer Was Speeding… and Had Vision Problems

Given the officer’s clear potential culpability (based on his speed,) the pedestrian’s family undertook a civil action for their loved one’s wrongful death. They also obtained legal counsel who, while “scouring through [the officer’s] medical records,” unearthed something that the criminal prosecutors did not know… that the officer, in addition to speeding at the time of his accident, had complained to doctors about vision problems. 

On Oct. 22, 2019, five days before the collision, the CHP officer visited the UC Irvine Medical Center’s emergency room, complaining of a cloudy “halo pattern” over the central vision in his left eye. (C.M. was on the officer’s left side when the crash occurred.) Several weeks later, the officer visited another medical provider, still complaining about vision difficulties. According to the officer, he told the CHP about his vision problems.

Doctors diagnosed the officer with “serous chorioretinopathy, which can cause temporary vision impairment because of a buildup of fluids beneath the retina.” According to one medical expert whom the Long Beach Press-Telegram interviewed, the effects of serous chorioretinopathy would be akin to someone having “grease… smeared on their eyeglasses — they can still see but it’s blurry.” 

Armed with that evidence, including the officer’s statements that he had told his bosses about his vision problems, the family’s attorneys presented the full picture to a Los Angeles County jury. The jury concluded that the CHP, the officer, and the pedestrian were all negligent. 

pedestrian accident

California law follows what’s known as the “pure comparative negligence” standard, which means that even if you are partly to blame (or even mostly to blame) in the accident that precedes your negligence lawsuit, you can still recover much-needed compensation. For example, in the Long Beach family’s case, the jury found the pedestrian 37% at fault for crossing outside the crosswalk. The jury, however, found the officer and the CHP 63% responsible. That meant that, even after deducting the pedestrian’s portion, the family still recovered $25 million. Even if the pedestrian had been 63% to blame (and the defendants 37% responsible,) California law allows a recovery which, in this hypothetical case, would have meant receiving $15 million of the $40 million sum of total damages.

If you have been hurt (or a loved one has been killed) while using the road on foot, expect a powerful opposition. Liable parties frequently fight vigorously to avoid paying what they owe. To level the playing field, fight back by retaining the knowledgeable Santa Barbara pedestrian accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP. Our team is dedicated to working aggressively to help you get every dollar you deserve. From the investigatory phase all the way to a final resolution, count on us to be the zealous advocate your case deserves. Contact us today at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation. 


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