SANTA ANA- Five-year-old Osmara Meza was killed on her way to Norms restaurant for a pancake breakfast with her mother and 6-year-old sister when all three were suddenly hit by a silver Lexus that sped through a red light at 60 mph- throwing or dragging each victim about 70 feet in different directions.
Meza’s mother Eloisa Madrigal and sister Grecia Meza are currently in critical condition and fighting for their lives, each of them suffered major head trauma in the pedestrian accident at 17th Street and Spurgeon Street. The driver of the Lexus, 33-year-old Jessica Louise Cowan, sped off without rendering aid to the victims as required under California law.
Fortunately, in this case, a heroic motorist saw what happened and chased after Cowan, blocked her vehicle from escaping and forced her to return to the scene where she was apprehended by police. Police gave Cowan a field sobriety test, but she failed the test. Police also found Cowan had marijuana on her dash board. She was immediately arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence and manslaughter, police said.
“As an attorney and father of five children myself, I find it difficult to imagine how it is possible for someone to strike down three people, obviously seeing, feeling and hearing the impact and driving away,” said Attorney West Thomas, founder of the Thomas Law Firm. “The driver had to know there were children involved and yet her own self-preservation kicked in as she sped away in reckless abandon.”
Grim Statistics: Hit-and-Run Crashes Rise — Drivers Avoid Harsh DUI Penalties:
Indeed, such hit and run accidents are on the rise in California as drunk drivers attempt to avoid getting caught by police. While it defies common sense, hit and run crashes have actually risen by 19% from 1999-2000 and have steadily increased since 2003, Thomas explains. Why? One of the top reasons a person flees a hit and run car accident is the fear of stiff penalties they will face for Driving Under the Influence when they are caught.
Beginning in 1991, new California laws made penalties for driving under the influence much stricter and consequences for hit and run offenders are also severe. These tougher policies have certainly reduced alcohol and drug related driving fatalities by 26%, according to statistics, but unfortunately it has also increased the propensity for hit and run driving.
Consequences: Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Versus Alcohol
A Hit and Run Driver under the Influence of drugs or alcohol faces numerous charges in California. Driving under the influence can be filed as a felony if the driver injures or kills a third party in the crash. Additionally, police can charge drivers such as Cowan with manslaughter or vehicular homicide for her actions and she will likely face not only massive fines, but a lengthy sentence in jail.
If Cowan was only under the influence of drugs, she may use the common defense in a California Driving Under the Influence of Drugs case in which the perpetrator claims that having drugs in your system “doesn’t necessarily mean that one is under the influence”. This is due to the toxicology screen that typically just reveals a drug presence, not it quantity.
“In a case like this, it would be very important to call an expert witness to the stand, who can testify that that marijuana (as in Cowan’s situation), can remain in a person’s body anywhere from five days to six months, depending on the frequency the person uses the drug,” said Thomas, a personal injury attorney for over 33 years and former pro tem judge. “The evidence linking marijuana to driving impairment is extremely serious.”
Any insurance carried by Cowan could be declared by her carrier as void, leaving Cowan alone to pay for damages and injuries out of pocket- to the detriment of her victims. A car accident lawyer is imperative in ensuring that the victims in this type of accident receive the maximum amount of justice and restitution under the law.
Please call 1-855-ASK WEST (1-855-275-9378) to speak with our car accident law firm. Thomas Law Firm has offices in California including its headquarters in Irvine. We also have offices outside of Orange County to serve you in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and in Las Vegas, Nevada.