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Thanksgiving Wrong-Way Collision Leaves 2 Dead, & 3 Injured

Fatal Accident, Merced, CA

2 Dead, 3 Injured, in Head-on Collision on Thanksgiving

Merced, CA -In the early hours of Thanksgiving, a catastrophic event unfolded on Highway 99 near Merced, altering lives forever. This tragedy, involving a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver, resulted in fatalities and injuries, leaving a community in shock and raising critical questions about road safety and legal accountability.

The Incident

On the morning of Thanksgiving, November 23, 2023, a serene holiday was shattered by a harrowing incident on Highway 99 near Atwater in Merced County. At around 4:14 a.m., a Hyundai Elantra, driven by a 22-year-old man from Modesto, was reported traveling in the wrong direction – northbound in the southbound lanes. This critical error set the stage for a catastrophic event that would have lasting impacts on multiple families and the community at large.

The Hyundai collided head-on with a Chevy Tahoe, which was traveling southbound. The Tahoe, carrying four passengers, bore the brunt of this high-speed collision. The force of the impact was so severe that it caused the SUV to flip over and catch fire, a terrifying scene on a highway that is usually a conduit for holiday travelers. The driver of the Hyundai and a 35-year-old woman, who was a front passenger in the Tahoe, were tragically pronounced dead at the scene. The incident instantly turned a festive holiday into a day of mourning for the families involved.

In the aftermath of the collision, emergency responders rushed to the scene. The remaining occupants of the Chevy Tahoe, who suffered from moderate to major injuries, were swiftly transported to a hospital in Modesto for urgent care. The highway was enveloped in a somber mood as investigators began piecing together the events that led to this tragic accident. Questions about the cause, particularly the role of alcohol or other impairing substances, lingered as the community grappled with the sudden loss and trauma inflicted by this unforeseen disaster.

Legal Implications 

The tragic incident on Highway 99 underscores the dire consequences of wrong-way driving, a critical issue in traffic safety. Legally, such cases often involve complex liability questions, especially when impairment or reckless driving is suspected. For victims and their families, navigating the aftermath can be overwhelming, highlighting the need for skilled legal guidance.

Statistically, wrong-way collisions, though less frequent than other types of crashes, are more likely to result in fatal or serious injuries. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), wrong-way driving crashes on divided highways result in 300 to 400 fatalities annually in the United States. These accidents often involve head-on or opposite-direction sideswipe crashes, which are particularly dangerous due to the increased force of impact.

In the context of personal injury law, such incidents can lead to claims for wrongful death, personal injury, and pain and suffering. The legal process involves determining fault, often requiring thorough investigation and expert testimony, especially in cases where intoxication or distracted driving are factors. For those affected, understanding their rights and the complexities of personal injury law is crucial in seeking justice and fair compensation.

In the wake of such devastating incidents as the Highway 99 collision, the role of a personal injury attorney becomes indispensable. Navigating the aftermath of a traffic accident, especially one involving wrongful death or serious injuries, requires not only legal expertise but also a deep sense of empathy and commitment to justice. A skilled car accident attorney can provide invaluable assistance in investigating the crash, establishing liability, negotiating with insurance companies, and, if necessary, litigating to ensure fair compensation.

At Scranton Law Firm, we bring over 50 years of experience and a proven track record in handling complex personal injury cases. Our team understands the profound impact these accidents have on victims and their families, and we are dedicated to offering compassionate, comprehensive legal support. With over $1 billion recovered for our clients, our firm stands as a testament to our commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for those we represent.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a similar accident, or if you are seeking guidance after a traumatic event, we encourage you to reach out. Our expertise as personal injury attorneys and our deep understanding of the nuances of traffic accident cases can be your support in navigating these challenging times.


1. What should I do immediately after being involved in a wrong-way driving accident?
Immediately ensure your safety and call 911. Seek medical attention, even if you feel fine, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Document the scene with photos and gather contact information from witnesses. It’s also advisable to contact a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.

2. How is liability determined in a wrong-way driving accident?
Liability in such cases typically falls on the driver traveling in the wrong direction. However, determining liability can be complex, involving analysis of traffic laws, driver behavior, and potential roadway confusion. An experienced attorney can help navigate these complexities.

3. Can I claim compensation if a family member died in a wrong-way driving accident?
Yes, if you’re a close relative, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This can cover funeral expenses, loss of income, emotional distress, and loss of companionship. Consulting with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney is crucial to understand your rights.

4. What role does insurance play in these accidents?
Insurance companies are often involved in compensating victims. However, dealing with insurance adjusters can be challenging, and they may not always offer fair compensation. An attorney can negotiate with these companies to ensure you receive adequate compensation.

5. How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a wrong-way accident?
The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit varies by state. In California, for instance, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. It’s important to consult an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing critical deadlines.


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Don’t navigate the aftermath of a fatal vehicle accident alone. Let the Scranton Law Firm stand by your side. With over 50 years of experience as personal injury lawyers, we’ve helped thousands recover from their losses. If you or a loved one are affected by a Merced fatal vehicle accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Secure your rights and seek the justice you deserve. Call us now for a free consultation – The Scranton Law Firm, your trusted ally in these challenging times. Call 800-707-0707 now.