I previously wrote about a car crash in Orange county which resulted in the sad and unfortunate death of an 18 year old man named Cameron Cook.  That case involved a Honda Civic striking a Chevy Camaro vehicle stopped on an overpass on the 57 Freeway near the Katella off ramp in Orange County.

The Honda Civic struck the Chevy Camaro in a portion of the Chevy which was sticking out into the far right hand lane of the northbound 57 Freeway.  The force of the impact caused the Chevy Camaro to be knocked to the right, hitting Cameron Cook who was standing next to the Camaro.

The force of the Chevy Camaro hitting pedestrian Cameron Cook knocked Mr. Cook off the bridge and he fell to his death below.  In that earlier blog I advised that the family of Cameron Cook would have a right against the driver of the Honda Civic for a wrongful death claim.

Since posting that blog it has now become known that the driver of the Honda Civic was later arrested and charged with driving under the influence.  She was placed in the Orange County jail and may also be charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter as well as associated charges.

If the young woman who was driving the Honda Civic is convicted of manslaughter while under the influence, her automobile insurance policy may not cover her for any claims made against her.  The reason is because her car insurance policy may have a provision which says that the policy will not cover for any accidents that occur when the insured is committing a serious crime, such as a felony.  A felony is generally any crime so serious that the punishment is imprisonment in the state prison instead of the county jail.  Gross Manslaughter Under the Influence would be such a crime which is a felony.

Another aspect of this sad case is that the family of Cameron Cook also has a right to a claim for punitive damages against the at fault driver.  Anyone convicted of causing injury while under the influence or alcohol or drugs opens the door for a claim for punishment damages, also called punitive damages. Punitive damages are sometimes for much more money than the amount of the at fault driver’s auto policy.

The problem then arises, however, when the auto insurance policy of the at fault driver contains an exclusion which indicates that the insurance company will not pay the punitive damages portion of any jury award.  In that event the personal assets of the at fault driver must be attached to satisfy any judgment.

The family of Cameron Cook is now going through the worst time that a family can ever have,  At some point, however, they will need legal advice on how to handle the issues involving the family’s wrongful death claims against the at fault driver for this sad and horrible event.

John P. Burns, Attorney at Law, San Juan Capistrano


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