Three people died and four others were seriously injured Friday in a wrong-way accident on Interstate 5 in Merced County.
• A couple who had just earned doctoral degrees from UC Davis were driving to Southern California with their parents and two children.
• A northbound car crossed the center median on I-5 and crashed head-on into family’s southbound vehicle.
• The couple’s parents died at the scene. Their two children were hospitalized. The husband was hospitalized with major injuries. The wife remains in the ICU in critical condition.
• The wrong-way driver died at the scene.
The first fatal accident, late Friday afternoon, turned a day of joy into horrible tragedy for a husband and wife celebrating their Ph.D. graduation at U.C. Davis, according to a report in the Woodland Daily Democrat.
Authorities said 36-year-old Fernando O. Mardones and his wife, 32-year-old Loreto A. Godoy, were driving to Southern California with their parents and two children after the graduation ceremony.
The family was traveling southbound on Interstate 5 near Santa Nella when a northbound 2002 Toyota — driven by 29-year-old Kevin McDade — crossed over the median into the northbound lanes and crashed head-on into Mardones’ Ford.
The couple’s parents — 62-year-old Ernando Mardones and 61-year-old Maria Loreto Loyola, who live in Santiago, Chile — were in the front seat of the car and died at the scene of the wrong-way accident.
Their children — two daughters, aged 4 years old and 8 months old — were hospitalized with serious injuries, but are expected to survive. A Sacramento Bee report said the baby girl was released from the hospital Saturday night and is staying with family friends.
Godoy suffered major injuries in the wrong-way accident and was airlifted to a San Joaquin Valley hospital, where she remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, according to the Daily Democrat.
Her husband, Fernando Mardones, also was hospitalized with major injuries. He underwent surgery for leg and ankle fractures. He is expected to survive.
McDade, who was the sole occupant of his vehicle, also died at the scene.
Friends, U.C. Davis faculty, and the Chilean community established a fundraising site to help cover medical and funeral expenses at http://www.gofundme.com/3czto4.
What happens when the driver who is at fault dies in the accident?
Sometimes in a serious accident the individual who caused the crash suffers fatal injuries. Can the innocent victim still make a claim?
The answer is yes. The case survives even when the wrongdoer doesn’t. The insurance carrier for the car that the wrongdoer was driving remains liable for damages. If that policy does not have enough coverage, additional compensation may be sought via Underinsured Motorist coverage from the insurance carrier for the vehicle in which the innocent victim was a driver or passenger.
If a lawsuit is necessary, it would be filed against the estate of the wrongdoer. If there is no estate, then the injured party can force an estate to be set up to handle the lawsuit.