Highway crash: A drunk driver died and four other people were seriously injured Sunday night in a wrong-way accident on State Route 52 in Santee.
• A drunk driver drove onto a highway in the wrong direction and slammed head-on into a minivan.
• The drunk driver died instantly.
• A mother and her three daughters, who were in the minivan, were hospitalized with major injuries. The mother and one daughter were in critical condition.
California Highway Patrol Officer Tommy Doerr said 30-year-old Matthew Leonardo of Santee got onto State Route 52 driving the wrong direction. He was driving a 2012 Ford Focus westbound in the eastbound lanes of State Route 52 when the accident happened.
The Ford Focus slammed head-on into an oncoming 2001 Dodge Caravan driven by the 45-year-old Alisa Cunningham of Spring Valley, whose husband Will Cunningham is the boys varsity basketball coach at Cathedral Catholic High School. Three of their daughters — Taylor, Jayden, and Logan – were in the minivan.
The vehicles were traveling 65 to 70 mph when they crashed. Doerr said Leonardo, who “had the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage about him,” was killed instantly.
Alisa Cunningham and all three of her daughters were rushed to Sharp Memorial Hospital and were scheduled to undergo surgery for multiple broken bones. The mother and 17-year-old Taylor, who was named Miss San Diego’s Outstanding Teen 2013, were listed in critical condition. Jayden and Logan were listed in stable condition.
Taylor was riding in the front passenger seat and suffered severe head injuries. She remained unconscious as doctors attempted to reduce the swelling on her brain, according to the Channel 10 video report.
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.