According to police, Jenner, 65, rear-ended a Lexus that had stopped short due to a Prius stopping in front of it. The impact pushed the Lexus into opposing traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway where it was struck by a Hummer. The 70-year-old woman who was driving the Lexus was pronounced dead on the scene.
Although the Prius was the first car to stop, Jenner may still be found legally culpable for his role in the fatal crash.
“The driver of a vehicle on a California highway must operate the vehicle at a speed to enable him to stop in any traffic condition that is visible to him ahead of him,” says James Fox, an attorney who specializes in motor vehicle crashes and vehicle defect cases.
“The car that rear-ended the Prius is legally required to be at a speed to enable that car to stop, and likewise, Jenner had to be traveling a speed and paying enough attention to enable him to stop to avoid crashing into the other car that was also at that point stopped,” says Fox. “The person in the Lexus has cause of action against Jenner and possibly [the Prius]. Jenner is definitely up to his ears in liability here.”
While Jenner may end up having to pay a hefty fine if the family of the deceased decides to take legal action, he will most likely not serve any jail time for vehicular manslaughter.
“If he’s going at a really excessive speed, if he’s under the influence of alcohol or a drug, if he’s texting, these would certainly be things that a prosecutor would want to explore, but most drivers that are involved in fatality crashes – even when it’s their fault – are not charged with vehicular manslaughter,” says Fox. “It’s very unlikely he would be charged with a criminal [offense], and if he was charged, it would only be because he’s Bruce Jenner.”
However, if the family of the Lexus driver chooses to take civil action against him, “the sky’s the limit with what a jury could award,” says Fox.
“For a fatality, let’s say the jury awards $10 million for the death of this person, and let’s say he has only $1 million in liability coverage, he could be on the hook personally for the balance of $9 million,” he explains. “He may or may not have sufficient insurance coverage to pay a judgment. His personal assets could be at stake.”
Police are currently still interviewing various witnesses from the accident scene and have obtained a video from an MTA bus showing the entire accident, confirms Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Richard Curry.
“Any time anyone dies in a car accident, there’s always a possibility of a manslaughter charge, but it comes down to the district attorney that [the case] is presented to,” says Curry, who could not comment on the contents of the video.
Jenner previously expressed his sympathy about the tragic crash in a statement to PEOPLE.
“My heartfelt and deepest sympathies go out to the family and loved ones, and to all of those who were involved or injured in this terrible accident,” he said. “It is a devastating tragedy and I cannot pretend to imagine what this family is going through at this time. I am praying for them. I will continue to cooperate in every way possible.”
• With reporting by MELODY CHIU