California drivers can cause accident damage without being charged with a serious crime. Police work to bring lawbreakers to justice, but may only press a case as far as the laws allow. Some drivers who cause severe injuries or deaths never appear before a criminal court.
A recent bike accident in Southern California landed a grandmother in the hospital. The woman was struck by an SUV as she was bicycling in Spring Valley on a rainy day. The impact caused multiple injuries.
Several metal implant surgeries have taken place since the accident to repair the victim's limb and pelvis fractures. The bicyclist also suffered a head injury. She was still undergoing hospital treatment more than a month after the December crash.
Investigators from the California Highway Patrol said a Toyota FJ Cruiser veered off the road and struck the bike rider, a pole and a tree. Reports stated the male driver left the crash scene for a time, apparently in search of a tow truck, without realizing he'd hit a person.
CHP said the driver came back after learning about the biker. The man claimed he had fallen asleep. The driver admitted he had consumed alcohol earlier that day, but had no problem passing a field sobriety or blood alcohol content test.
Authorities cited the man for not having insurance and driving with a suspended license. CHP said the rain-slicked roads contributed to the crash. The brief disappearance of the driver from the accident scene apparently did not qualify the man for a hit-and-run charge.
A defendant can be tried in a civil court with no record of criminal charges or convictions. Claims filed by personal injury or wrongful death plaintiffs revolve around a defendant's behavior. The purposes of a judge or jury in a civil trial are to assess liability and, when applicable, order defendants to compensate plaintiffs for harm.
Source: ABC10 News, "East County grandmother Marjie Barnes-Grant recovering from injuries in bike crash" Melissa Mecija, Jan. 27, 201