Rafaela Ruiz (Full Name: Rafaela Salazar Ruiz) Killed In Moreno Valley Car Accident With Sheriff’s Patrol Vehicle By Cactus Avenue and Heacock Street

car accidentMORENO VALLEY, CALIFORNIA (July 8, 2023) –  A female pedestrian identified as Rafaela Ruiz was killed in a car accident with a Moreno Valley police vehicle on Cactus Avenue.

Riverside County police officials are saying that the accident took place around 3:55 a.m. on Thursday. Rafaela Ruiz was walking on Cactus Avenue near the March Air Reserve Base.

She was crossing the road not far from Heacock Avenue when she was hit by a sheriff’s patrol deputy. The deputy was not responding to an emergency at the time of the collision.

Paramedics were called to the scene in order to help the victim. Despite life-saving measures Rafaela Ruiz was pronounced dead at the scene.

The California Highway Patrol is handling the investigation.


Liability For Moreno Valley Police Vehicle Accidents

Pedestrians are uniquely vulnerable in car accidents. They lack the protection of enclosed vehicles and are more likely to be overlooked in the first place. Police vehicles can be particularly dangerous for pedestrians because they regularly respond to emergencies and break traffic regulations in the process. According to the National Safety Council, in 2021 alone 198 people were killed in collisions with emergency vehicles. Crashes involving police vehicles accounted for 135 of those deaths. There are a number of factors that could contribute to a pedestrian collision with a police vehicle.

  • A police officer may be distracted with their onboard vehicle.
  • A police officer may have been speeding while not responding to an emergency.
  • A police vehicle may not have been properly maintained prior to a collision.

Determining liability for any accident involving a police vehicle can be tricky. Generally speaking, police departments have a great deal of immunity for motor vehicle accidents under California Vehicle Code 17004. But under California Vehicle Code 20155 there are statutory exceptions to this general rule. For that immunity to apply a police officer must have been responding to an actual emergency with their lights and sirens on. If a police officer fails to turn their lights and sirens on during an emergency and hits a pedestrian, this could form the basis of a negligence claim.

When a police officer is not responding to an emergency, they must obey all traffic laws and exercise due care to avoid hitting pedestrians. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 21954, the driver of a motor vehicle must slow down and exercise due care to avoid hitting a pedestrian even if they are outside of a lawfully marked crosswalk. The vast majority of pedestrian collisions are completely avoidable. They typically involve drivers that are traveling too fast for the prevailing conditions or failing to properly scan the road ahead of them.

Liability for a car accident with a Riverside County sheriff’s patrol deputy could extend beyond any at fault driver. The police department that the officer worked for could be held at fault. Generally speaking, employers are vicariously liable for the wrongful actions of their employees – insofar as those employees were working within the course and scope of their job duties. For example, a police officer may have been responding to a non-emergency call. There are a number of measures that should be taken after any police vehicle accident.

  • Footage from the police vehicle involved in the collision should be reviewed.
  • Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
  • Photos of the accident scene should be taken.
  • A thorough investigation should be conducted.

The family of any person that is killed in a car accident with a police officer may be able to seek some measure of justice through a wrongful death claim. Damages in a civil claim can help cover many of the expenses that come with the sudden loss of a loved one. There are, however, statute of limitations that accident victims need to keep in mind. It is best to seek legal advice as early as possible for any collision involving a patrol vehicle. It is common for police departments to do everything in their power to deny liability for any collision involving one of their officers.

Investigating Car Accident Claims Involving Police Vehicles

We at the Sehat Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Rafaela Ruiz. Any person that may have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. There needs to be some accountability and transparency for the sake of the victim’s family. It is our sincere hope that steps are taken to prevent other tragedies like this.

Do you need more information about a Moreno Valley police vehicle accident? Our team of highly experienced civil rights advocates are here to answer any legal questions that you may have. We focus exclusively on helping victims of police negligence and misconduct. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.


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