After an apparent “act of random violence,” a Watsonville man has died after getting punched in the face. On December 2nd, the unidentified victim was allegedly confronted by suspect Jose Figueroa Gonzalez in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Watsonville. The argument escalated, and police allege Gonzalez threw a single punch, hitting the other man in the face and causing him to drop to the ground. Gonzalez promptly fled the scene.
When police arrived shortly afterward, they found the 43-year-old man lying on the ground unconscious and with a severe head injury. He was brought to the local trauma unit, where he remained in the ICU for several days. Afterward, he was transferred to Stanford Hospital, declared brain-dead, and taken off life support. The subsequent autopsy identified severe blunt force trauma to the head as the cause of the victim’s death.
The police investigation led to security camera footage from the scene, identifying the car with which Gonzalez left the scene. In combination with other evidence from the scene, investigators identified Gonzalez and arrested him on charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault.
Gonzalez was released from jail on December 9th after posting $50,000 bail, but he will still face trial and potentially severe consequences. He could also face a wrongful death lawsuit from the victim’s family. Any death caused by someone else’s actions or negligence may be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, including accidental deaths from violent attacks like this.
According to witnesses, Gonzalez acted in the heat of the moment, but it will likely have permanent repercussions. A man is dead, and Gonzalez himself faces one or more legal cases to hold him accountable. Many people underestimate the danger of a single punch. Unfortunately, it’s far easier to accidentally kill someone than you might expect.
Why One Punch Is So Deadly
Movies portray punching someone as a painful but relatively consequence-free type of attack. The most commonly-shown result of getting punched in the face is a bloody nose or a black eye – messy, but not dangerous. In real life, getting struck in the face can be debilitating.
Even an untrained fighter can generate 120-170 psi of force when throwing a punch, leading to two effects. First, the impact itself can cause blunt force trauma to the impact area, as happened in Watsonville. This might include injuries including:
- A broken nose
- Tooth loss
- A fractured orbital socket
- A broken jaw
- Detached retinas and blindness
- A direct concussion
Second, getting punched in the face leads to the rebound effect. The punch’s force quickly pushes the head back, but then the spine and neck muscle pull it forward again just as fast. Any rapid back-and-forth movement like this can lead to symptoms like those of whiplash, including:
- Spinal cord damage
- Muscle and tendon damage
- Indirect concussions
- Bleeding or swelling in the brain
Any of these symptoms can be permanent, and many can be deadly. For example, bleeding in the brain may remain unnoticed until it’s too late and the victim is already braindead.
Even beyond the initial impact, a single punch can easily push someone over or knock them out. Falling over and hitting the head on the ground is deadly in its own right. One study recorded more than 80 deaths over ten years that result from individual strikes. The study included both deaths after falling with fatalities from the impact itself, all of which may be considered wrongful deaths.
The Lifelong Effects of Wrongful Deaths
The impact of one carelessly-thrown fist can hurt more than one person. If someone dies because someone like Gonzalez randomly attacked them, they are far from the only victim. Their friends and family will be living with their loss for years to come.
Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of legal recourse that allows the deceased’s loved ones to receive some kind of compensation for who and what they’ve lost. As a result, only certain people can file a wrongful death lawsuit, such as:
- Immediate family members, including spouses, children, and co-parents
- Life partners, including putative spouses and domestic partners
- Anyone who will suffer financially, such as financial dependents or anyone else the deceased was supporting with their income or care.
Legally, these individuals are seen as facing a financial loss due ot the death, and therefore have the right to file a lawsuit to recoup what they’ve lost. On a more personal level, these lawsuits can help the families of wrongful death victims receive some support in the difficult time after the decedents’ passing. Types of potential damages include:
- The cost of the burial and funeral of the decedent
- The cost of any medical care the deceased received before passing
- The amount of money the decedent would likely have earned had they not passed, or the financial support they would have provided to their surviving family members
- Compensation for the loss of companionship, affection, and guidance to their surviving family
There’s no right way to recover after losing someone to a random act of violence, but most grieving processes take time. While money can never make up for the loss of a loved one, these lawsuits can help families take the time they need to heal from the loss without having to struggle financially in the meantime.
A Moment of Anger, a Lifetime of Regret
A tragic, random act of violence can be all it takes to change dozens of lives. As Jose Gonzalez discovered, one strike in anger is more than enough to kill, even unintentionally.
There’s no reason for someone else’s moment of rage to change so many lives so permanently. If you or a family member has been impacted by someone else’s thoughtless anger, you deserve to see justice. Reach out to an expert wrongful death attorney today to discuss your options. Whether you need to cover medical bills or to compensate for the loss of your loved one, the qualified attorneys at Dubrovsky Law can help you fight your case.