Modified: October 29, 2022

Two Arrested after 7-year-old Falls out of Moving Car on Freeway and Dies: What Happens Next?

Americans were shocked by last week’s heartbreaking news headlines after major local media outlets reported that a minor had died in a tragic car accident.

Does he have car insurance?

How Did the Car Accident Happen?

A couple has been arrested after a 7-year-old girl was killed when she fell from a moving SUV on the 5 Freeway in a Santa Clarita, Southern California, vehicle death incident early on the morning of July 2. According to California Highway Patrol (CHP), the girl’s mother, who was driving the vehicle, and her boyfriend now face child endangerment charges in connection with the deadly incident.

Southern California police officers reported they had received a 911 call from a driver about an “unknown object” blocking the roadway at around 3:30 a.m. on July 2.

The official incident reports cited the caller as saying a vehicle “had struck an unknown stationary object” on the northbound road on Interstate 5 near Weldon Canyon Road.

Police officers rushed to the roadway, finding a horrific and harrowing scene. What blocked the way was not an object but the body of a young girl. Preliminary investigation yielded horrifying details: Police determined that the object found was a 7-year-old female child who had died after being struck by several vehicles.

The California Highway Patrol said in a statement that the girl had been determined to have fallen from a moving 1999 Lincoln Navigator through a broken window. However, the circumstances behind how the child fell have yet to be investigated.

CHP officer Joshua Greendarg told ABC7 that the girl “was in the very back portion of the 1999 Lincoln Navigator.” However, the car’s back window was missing. According to witnesses, the kid was either loitering or playing in the very back area of the SUV. It looks like she may have fallen out of the moving vehicle as the window was already broken out and tragically died, Joshua said.

The girl was identified as Tanuneka Starnes. She sustained fatal injuries, Highway Patrol officers stated.

Who Faces Charges Related to the Car Accident?

The girl’s mother, Veronda Gladney, 28, and her boyfriend, Michael Branch, 39, were arrested on Saturday. Both were charged with child endangerment. Court records showed that Mrs. Gladney was charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of felony child abuse causing death.

According to Ricardo Santiago, a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman, Mr. Branch has been charged with one misdemeanor count of child abuse. On Wednesday, the two pleaded not guilty.

Ms. Gladney, from Lancaster, was taken to the Century Regional Detention Facility, where she remains in custody on a $100,000 bail, pending preliminary trial. Mr. Branch, from Hawthorne, was freed on his own recognizance on Wednesday, Mr. Santiago told NCB News.

An Unfortunate Outcome

Mr. Greendarg said the incident was especially heartbreaking and “very unfortunate.” Although CHP officers may see many tragedies while working, these accidents are rare. “I got 14 years on; I’ve never had a kid fall out of a moving vehicle,” he said.

Moreover, the young girl was not strapped into the car seat when she fell from the SUV. The state’s laws say all vehicle passengers aged eight and under must be restrained in a car or booster seat.

The tragic accident has devastated family members, drivers who hit the girl, and others involved, including the legal team working on the case. The child’s mother, Mrs. Gladney, has been distressed as she deals with the legal process and her daughter’s death.

What Can a Car Accident Lawyer Do in Similar Cases?

Unfortunately, road accidents can impact the lives of drivers and victims. Because of this, all the people involved need an attorney to help them face all the related legal processes.

Car accident attorneys work hard to help their clients take action or defend themselves if they are charged.

Initially, attorneys gather and present information relevant to a case. The rest of their tasks depend on the complexity and specifics of the accident.

Suppose you are a victim of a car accident. In that case, an attorney can contact the other driver’s insurance company, obtain evidence to support fault for the incident, seek compensation, and negotiate a settlement with the defense.

An attorney also handles all paperwork to obtain medical records, gets the clinical information needed to prove damage claims, presents evidence of liability, and negotiates with lien holders to reduce amounts.

Let’s delve into some things an attorney can do when working with an injured driver or victim.

Helps You Understand and Fight for Your Rights

Many Americans are not aware of the laws related to car accidents, and most regulations vary substantially in each state. Therefore, people do not understand their rights or what to do when it happens.

However, an attorney can help you review all the relevant laws that apply to your car accident case. By working with a specialized attorney, you can understand your rights and how to use them to protect yourself.

Communicates with Insurers

An attorney opens and maintains a communication line with insurers and insurance adjusters.

Insurers go to great lengths to make plaintiffs believe their case is lost or they have no chance of getting what they deserve. However, car accident lawyers know all the laws and how they work, so they can help their clients achieve more successful results.

Builds a Strong Case

A car accident claim is only successful if there is good work and extensive investigation behind the scenes. That’s when a lawyer comes into play. If you work with an expert, your case can be more solid and compelling to fight for your rights and compensation.

Attorneys first investigate all the accident’s details and collect all the necessary information to build your case, including police and medical reports, evidence of damage, photos, and witness statements.

Negotiate for a Fair Settlement

A car accident attorney will also negotiate to obtain a fair settlement for their clients if the other driver’s insurance company tries to pay less than they deserve.

Some insurers refuse to negotiate. If this happens, an attorney can file a suit and handle all the steps in the pretrial process.

Represents You in Court If Your Case Escalates

Most traffic accident cases settle before going to court. However, victims’ legal teams sometimes need to file lawsuits.

If you end up in court, a specialized attorney will be your best ally throughout the process. A car accident lawyer will fight for compensation and defend your legal rights throughout the ordeal.

Obtains Necessary Evidence of Liability

Do you need to prove liability? If so, a car accident lawyer can help you obtain all the evidence you need to strengthen your case.

Whether you took photos after the accident, a reliable attorney returns to the scene to collect as much evidence as possible. Experts also manage to obtain all the official reports and witness statements to support your case when it comes to liability.

Negotiates with Lien Holders

An insurer will have a lien on your injury claim if you receive compensation or other health and disability benefits.

In these cases, a lien holder is paid before the plaintiff. However, an experienced attorney works with them to reduce the lien and send as many dollars into your pocket as possible.

Do I Need Personal Injury Lawyers to Defend a Car Accident Case?

Most attorneys focus on victims, but defendants in claims related to car accidents also need legal advice.

Differences Between Criminal Attorneys and Personal Injury Lawyers

People involved in these incidents often think they need a criminal lawyer, especially when sued. However, those who need to defend their cases should seek an experienced personal injury lawyer, also known as a defense legal counsel.

Both attorneys who represent the defense and those hired by the victims focus on what happened during the accident. Furthermore, both types of attorneys strive to find evidence and testimony that proves their clients are not guilty.

In a personal injury claim, the defendant only has to provide compensation to the person who filed the lawsuit.

However, lawyers must consider different legal projections for defendants in criminal cases since those not favored by the court’s verdict face time in jail.

That’s why you need to analyze your case to know what type of attorney to hire. Insurance companies generally find a person to represent their clients and pay the fee.

What Can a Defense Counsel Do for You?

A personal injury claim can be difficult to defend when the plaintiff’s legal team presents a strong case with supporting documents and testimony.

In most cases, car accidents typically involve multiple responsible parties who contribute to the accident in one way or another. Everyone will try to recover damages and lessen or eliminate fault, making the case more difficult to resolve.

However, a reliable defense counsel can help you reach a settlement or be by your side if you need to go to court. An experienced attorney can do many things for you if you have been charged in a car accident case. Here are some of them:

Claimants’ Assertions Are Invalid or Overstated

Many people are not well-versed with the laws related to car accidents and are unaware that all plaintiffs’ assertions can be struck from the case record if the plaintiff’s legal team fails to prove the claims.

Sometimes, plaintiffs file overstated claims over pain, suffering, or lost wages. A defense counsel can help you defend your case if you were involved in a car accident and the other parties are trying to put the blame on you.

Experienced attorneys also seek second opinions from physicians or mental health professionals to present competing analyzes on diagnoses or treatments related to the case.

Defendant Did Not Owe a Duty of Care

Lawsuits include plaintiffs’ legal claims, but it is not always enough to establish a reasonable duty of care.

All road accidents are usually supported by proper documentation, such as police reports and medical records. Additionally, the original filing must connect the defendant to the accident that injured the plaintiff. Otherwise, a defense counsel can request that the trial be dismissed.

Plaintiffs Were Responsible for Their Own Injuries

In some collisions, the victims may be at fault, too. When this happens, and the plaintiff is responsible for their injuries, the case may fall into the “comparative negligence” category.

Although each state handles these cases differently and local regulations vary, defense attorneys can use comparative negligence to defend those sued when the plaintiff is entirely at fault for the injury. It is also employed when legal teams seek financial compensation for any involved party if they were all injured in the accident.

Under most states’ laws, plaintiffs cannot receive financial compensation if their comparative negligence rate is higher than the defendant’s.

An attorney can help you through the legal process you may face if you have been sued in a car accident. However, if the other party contributed to the accident, trained attorneys will consider these technicalities and other potential motives to dismiss the case or reduce your financial responsibility.

Could This Case Be Considered a Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death occurs when a person is killed by others’ negligence or misconduct, as in many auto accidents or deaths caused by medical malpractice. The next of kin, beneficiaries, or dependents of deceased persons may be entitled to financial compensation.

Some states’ laws also allow surviving family members to file a wrongful death suit, including spouses, legal partners, parents, and children. Grandparents, siblings, and other relatives financially dependent on the victim could also file a claim in this category under certain circumstances.

Wrongful Death in Vehicle Accidents

Family members or dependents can file a wrongful death suit against drivers, companies, or manufacturers.

Some examples of drivers who may face wrongful death lawsuits for negligence or misconduct are those who cause deaths by running red lights, crossing stop lines, or violating other traffic regulations.

If defective products cause vehicle accidents, manufacturers might also be held liable and face legal action. The same goes for trucking companies when their employees’ trucks cause the death of other motorists or pedestrians by violating transportation regulations.

When Do I Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?

If your loved one has died by negligence or misconduct, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can make at-fault parties hold financially accountable for all the death-related losses.

An experienced attorney can establish liability in a wrongful death case and help you decide if you need to pursue further legal action.

What Can an Attorney Do for You If You Plan to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Do you think your family member’s death could have been prevented? A wrongful death lawyer can provide you with all the information you need to seek compensation or build a strong case backed by evidence that may be difficult for you to find.

These cases can be complicated, but attorneys can guide you as you take the legal steps to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Also, in many states, the law requires that the deceased person has a personal representative on their behalf. A proven lawyer can help the surviving spouse or other dependents determine who should be appointed by the victim’s will or whether it is necessary to take the case to court based on different factors and past legal precedents from other cases.

Claims can be dismissed if filed late by you or your lawyer. Therefore, you should consider hiring a lawyer if you want to file a wrongful death claim. Experienced professionals may help you determine important dates related to your claim according to the cause of death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claim?

All states have different rules to define which individuals can file a wrongful death claim and who must pay. However, most statutes adopt two systems. Let’s review each one.

The Lord Campbell System

Most US states use the Lord Campbell System to process a wrongful death lawsuit. Based on its parameters, a lawsuit can only be filed by a person designated by statute if someone dies from medical malpractice or other types of negligence. Generally, determining the beneficiary depends on their relationship with the deceased. Your lawyer needs to understand these rules if they are worthy of their attorney’s fee.

Most statutes designate legal couples, now widowed or widowed, or their children as beneficiaries. In other words, only the deceased’s immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim. If there are no living first-class members, the right to sue passes to people in the next class, which includes all dependents or those who may suffer financially as a result of the death.

The Loss-To-Estate System

Few US states have different laws based mainly on the Loss-To-Estate system. It stipulates that wrongful death claims can only be filed for the decedent’s estate if it intends to compensate for losses related to the death.

A personal representative for the victim’s estate, appointed by the probate court to administer the deceased’s assets, usually has the right to sue in a wrongful death case.

Under the Loss-To-Estate system, personal representatives must file the wrongful death claim in their names. However, any compensation recovered from the at-fault party would be subject to a trust for the designated beneficiaries.

Personal Injury Lawyers Can Serve as Wrongful Death Attorneys

Usually, personal injury attorneys also have knowledge and experience in wrongful death matters because both types of cases require almost the same elements.

While car incidents are settled out of court, many wrongful death cases must be fought before a jury. Therefore, finding an attorney with experience in both practice areas can help you more than you think.

Was Your Loved One Injured or Killed in a So Cal Car Accident?

Do you have a Southern California wrongful death action? Don’t rely on attorney advertising alone. Hire a military vet-run law firm with esprit de corps and a positive, winning attitude giving you emotional support as you grieve over the negligent homicide. Find a personal injury lawyer with a proven record of past performance who can serve as a wrongful death attorney here at Ehline Law Firm!

US personal injury attorney Michael P. Ehline and his legal team can help you recover the compensation you deserve after your loved one lost their life by others’ negligence or misconduct. Reach out to Ehline Law Firm for a free case evaluation by calling (833) LETS-SUE and get the legal assistance you need from a proven lawyer with millions recovered!


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Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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