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Claude Wyle
Claude Wyle
Attorney • 888-787-5718

Street Racers Cause San Jose Pedestrian Death

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As a California automobile accident attorney and a pedestrian injury attorney, I tend to repeat this message continuously. All drivers on the road have a duty to act reasonably and that duty extends not only to the drivers and to their own passengers, but also to all those with whom you share the road.Whether you are sharing the road with motorcycles bicycles or pedestrians, you must keep a proper lookout and keep your vehicle under control. Failure to maintain control of your vehicle under most circumstances is negligence. This is why I am so disheartened to learn of this most recent pedestrian fatality, where a young woman, simply out for an evening jog, was killed because two drivers were racing.

The two men were racing each other down Yerba Buena Road, a stretch of road known for speeding, when the cars hit a guardrail, crashing into Kiran Pabla, a young woman running near Edenwood Drive.

The men, 19 year old Gabriel Becerra, and 24 year old Manual Malonado, ended up losing control of their speeding cars, hitting Kiran Pabla, and pinning her against a tree, where she eventually died.

Both drivers have been booked on charges of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving. Some family members of the pedestrian killed appeared in court to talk about the devastation these two drivers have caused with their senseless behavior.

Neighbors are horrified, and calling for immediate changes to the dangerous stretch of road.

“Everyone can put their heads together and put lights, put stop signs, bumps, put radar whatever”, said Elisa Barragan, a long time resident who noted that the neighborhood had been pleading with the city to do something about the speeding, a regular occurance on that road.

Neighbors hope this crash will serve as a wakeup call to public officials.

The best wake-up call would be if these two drivers were sentenced to some time in prison, and if the family of Ms. Pabla were also compensated through the Civil Justice System. I, for one hope that swift action is taken, not only to ensure the safety of the road, but to hold these two men accountable for what they did to this young woman. In this case, I believe that punitive damages would be appropriate if they were available under California law,because simple compensatory damages may not be enough to compensate the family for this woman’s death. Cases such as this, involving a death of a woman in her prime, cry out for additional damages for such egregious behavior. Let’s hold both of these men responsible for their actions, and do our best to right the wrongs that they’ve caused to this woman, and to the family she’s left behind.

For a moment, let’s discuss punitive or exemplary damages. Exemplary damages are meant to server as an example to others that conduct such as racing on City streets is not allowed. They are supposed to send a message from the community as to what conduct is acceptable and what conduct is not acceptable in the community. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the survivors of injuries or those who have lost family, but to punish the wrongdoer and to serve as an example. In order for conduct to warrant punitive damages, that conduct must be worse than negligence or mere carelessness. The conduct must be intentional or with reckless disregard of the safety of others. The conduct must be despicable. I think that the conduct of the two racers whose combined recklessness killed Ms. Pabla satisfies that despicability test.

In California though, punitive damages are available in all injury cases where the intentional or reckless behavior has been proven, however it is not available as an addition to wrongful death damages. Wrongful death damages are set by statute and do not include punitive damages. So, if a person is horribly injured and the injury was as a result of intentional or reckless conduct, we can win punitive damages for that injured person. However, if the person is killed, the surviving family in a wrongful death case cannot get punitive damages. In some other states such as Massachusetts, an injured person cannot win punitive damages, and only the survivors of a person who has been wrongfully killed can win punitive damages, the opposite of what we have here in California. The legislatures of the various states set the rules under which we must live, and I find it interesting that different states have such widely diverse punitive damages laws.

The next topic I would like to address is the fault of the driver who was racing but who did not actually strike the pedestrian. I think that the details and dynamics of the crash must be carefully analyzed for a trier of fact such as a jury to apportion the fault of the two drivers. I do not believe however that the driver who was lucky enough not to be the one who actually struck Ms. Pabla should be let off the hook. The conduct of racing was certainly a substantial factor in causing or contributing to Ms. Pabla’s death, and I believe that the conduct of racing on the streets makes injuries or deaths of drivers and pedestrians and others not only foreseeable but predictable. I believe that both drivers should be held responsible and made fully accountable for their parts in the death of this pedestrian. I would appreciate hearing from you whether you agree with me or whether you think that perhaps only the driver of the car which struck Ms. Pabla should he held liable.


unnamedHello, I’m Claude Wyle, a San Francisco automobile accident and personal injury attorney. Have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me or visit www.ccwlawyers.com