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Mother and 2 Small Children Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

pedestrian crossing signA mother and two small children were killed by a motorist while trying to cross a street in Placentia. The pedestrian accident occurred around 10:25 p.m. on Saturday, August 19, near the 800 block of West La Jolla Street.

The driver of vehicle has been arrested and is facing charges of driving under the influence and murder, according to a report at CBS Los Angeles.

Victims heading home from party

The victims of the accident have been identified as Patricia Ledesma, 35, and her daughters, Stephanie, 8, and Diana, 4. The three were returning home from a birthday party in the neighborhood when they were struck. Police officers were in the area at the time the accident occurred and immediately reported to the scene after hearing noises associated with a crash. Although paramedics were immediately called to the location to render aid, all three were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the vehicle, Nicholas Stephen Munoz, 27, was arrested near his vehicle shortly after the crash. Local reports state that Munoz struck the three victims before hitting a second vehicle. Evidence suggested Munoz was speeding and did not apply the brake before hitting them.

CBS Local reported the day after the crash that Munoz tried to flee the scene and was kept there by neighbors until police arrived. The driver of the other vehicle was interviewed at the scene and released, without reports of any serious injuries.

Driver charged with vehicular manslaughter

On Tuesday, August 23, Munoz appeared in court and was charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter. Officials confirmed Munoz was drunk when the accident occurred. He is now being held in Orange County on $150,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on September 8. If he is convicted, he could face up to 16 years in state prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Pedestrian crashes are an all too common tragedy in the state of California. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times last year, the state led the country in pedestrian fatalities for both 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the state saw 700 pedestrians die in motor vehicle accidents. In 2014, the number was nearly identical at 700 deaths. While officials are pleased the number did not increase, they voiced concern over the fact that preventative efforts did not seem to be having a positive effect on the numbers either.

Liability in pedestrian accidents

When a traffic accident between a vehicle and a pedestrian occurs, both criminal and civil penalties may be considered. Criminal penalties, such as DUI and manslaughter, are typically determined by the state. Civil penalties usually come as a result of a personal injury lawsuit the victim or the victim’s family files against the driver. In this case, the plaintiff must prove that the driver was responsible for the accident due to negligence based on the standard duty of care owed by the driver.

When the driver is proven to be at fault, accident victims can seek damages for medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic losses like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. If the victim in the accident died, as in this particular situation, surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim to collect similar damages as well as funeral expenses and loss of the person’s companionship.

The Ellis Injury Law firm offers legal assistance to victims of pedestrian accidents in Los Angeles. We will help you pursue all of the compensation you are entitled to in order to help you move forward with your life after this tragic event. For a free case evaluation with a highly experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, please call 1-800-INJURED.