Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

Causation is a necessary element of any Maryland personal injury lawsuit. Briefly, the causation requirement is met if the plaintiff can establish that the defendant’s actions brought about the plaintiff’s harm. While that may sound like a fairly straightforward determination, the reality is that much litigation is focused around the causation element. A recent case details how one state’s supreme court conducted a causation analysis. The case is important to Maryland car accident victims because, while the specific law applied in Maryland courts is slightly different, similar principles do apply.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a student who was injured while running with his school’s cross-country team. The injury occurred when the plaintiffs’ son was instructed to cross the street against a red light by the track coach, who was running with the team. As the boy entered the intersection, he was struck by a passing vehicle, resulting in serious injuries.

The boy’s parents filed a personal injury lawsuit against the coach, arguing that he was responsible for their son’s injury. The parents also named the driver of the car that struck their son, although that case was not discussed in the opinion.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a two-car collision that resulted in a nearby crossing guard being struck and seriously injured by one of the vehicles. The court had to decide whether both parties to the car accident could potentially be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Ultimately, the court held that a jury should be able to determine and apportion fault between the motorists, and allowed the case to proceed toward trial against both parties.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crossing guard stationed on the corner near the school. A few minutes before her shift was scheduled to end, she looked up and saw a black car speeding down the road, passing cars in the opposing lane of traffic. As the car approached the intersection where the plaintiff was stationed, it ran a red light. The car entered the intersection at the same time as a pick-up truck also entered the intersection with a green light on its side. The vehicles collided, and the force of the collision sent the pick-up truck careening into the plaintiff. She was thrown against a nearby wall and suffered serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both drivers. During summary judgment proceedings, the pick-up truck driver asked the court to dismiss the case against him, because it was uncontested that he’d entered the intersection with a green light. The trial judge agreed that the pick-up truck driver was not negligent because he had a green light, and granted summary judgment in his favor. The plaintiff appealed.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Washington State issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by a woman who was injured when she was struck by a Highway Patrolman’s vehicle. Immediately after the accident, the plaintiff admitted that she was under the influence of alcohol. The court determined that her unambiguous admission prevented her from claiming otherwise from then on in any trial proceedings. Thus, under state law, the case was dismissed.

Late-Night PedestrianThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was drinking at a party with some friends when she got into a fight with one of the other people at the party. She left the party, and because she had been drinking, she called her brother to pick her up. After waiting for a while and not seeing her brother, the plaintiff saw a car approaching and thought it was him. She ran out in front of the car, which was actually a Highway Patrol vehicle. The Highway Patrol officer did not see the plaintiff in time to stop the vehicle, and struck her. After the accident, the plaintiff admitted to investigators that she had been drinking.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the State as well as against the Highway Patrol. In its defense, the defendants argued that the plaintiff’s admission that she was intoxicated prevented her from recovering for her injuries under state law. The law at issue prevents recovery when a plaintiff is intoxicated, the intoxication was the cause of the accident, and the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that required the court to discuss what it termed the “superior/equal knowledge doctrine.” The court held that while a plaintiff must generally prove that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazardous condition causing the plaintiff’s injuries, that was not the case, given the specific circumstances of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Gas PumpThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a delivery driver for a fuel company. One of his customers was the defendant gas station. This particular gas station had a strict rule that required delivery drivers to manually measure the fuel level both prior to filling the tanks as well as afterwards. In order to manually measure the tank, the driver must do so in the parking lot of the gas station. The plaintiff told the gas station manager several times that measuring the tanks in this manner was dangerous, but the manager insisted that it be done. In fact, several of the plaintiff’s colleagues had been fired on the spot for failing to comply with the manager’s directives.

On the day in question, the plaintiff was run over by a third-party customer when he was measuring the tank after he had filled it. The plaintiff then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the gas station, arguing that it should be responsible for his injuries because it negligently required that he follow dangerous protocols. In response, the gas station argued that the plaintiff knew the risks involved but continued to comply with the measuring requirements.

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All personal injury cases must be filed within a certain amount of time. However, plaintiffs filing certain cases against a public or government entity must also provide notice to the defendant within a much shorter amount of time in order to preserve their right to compensation. In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, the burden-shifting framework of establishing “substantial prejudice” is discussed in the context of whether a plaintiff should be permitted to proceed with a case against a public defendant that was not provided timely notice of the claim.

CrosswalkNewcomb v. Middle Country School District

Newcomb, a 16-year-old boy, was struck by a hit-and-run motorist as he was attempting to cross the street near a school. The driver was later arrested. Immediately after the accident, Newcomb’s family notified the school. The family also sent an investigator to the scene of the accident to take pictures. A month later, Newcomb asked the police department for the file it had created throughout the investigation of the accident. However, since the case was still open, Newcomb was unable to obtain the file until five months had passed.

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There are almost an infinite number of causes of traffic accidents. While many accidents are caused by the negligence of one or more motorists, sometimes the way a road or intersection is designed is so dangerous that the government can be at fault for the dangerous design. However, in some cases, government entities are entitled to immunity from these lawsuits if the government followed certain procedures in designing and building the roadway. If a government is entitled to design immunity, a plaintiff’s lawsuit will be dismissed. A recent case illustrates how design immunity may be applied by a court.

City IntersectionGonzales v. City of Atwater:  The Facts

In 2010, Gonzales was struck and killed by a vehicle in an Atwater intersection as he was crossing the road. Gonzales’ family filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the City of Atwater as well as against the driver of the vehicle that struck Gonzales.

Throughout the trial, the city argued that it should be dismissed from the lawsuit because it was entitled to design immunity. Specifically, the city argued that it had relied on a study that was commissioned back in 2001 on how to make the intersection safer. The study came back with several suggestions, which the city implemented. Notwithstanding the city’s arguments, the trial court denied the city’s motions seeking dismissal. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury determined that the other driver was not at fault for the accident and that the City of Atwater was liable. The plaintiffs were awarded $3.2 million.

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Accidents between motor vehicles and pedestrians are common in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. areas. In fact, in Maryland alone, there are over 100 fatal pedestrian accidents each year. Of course, this does not take into account the hundreds of other pedestrian accidents that result in serious injuries. In part, the high frequency of pedestrian accidents in the area is due to the many mixed-use roads in busy urban and suburban areas across the region.

Caution TriangleMost pedestrian accidents are preventable, and most of the time, the responsibility to prevent the accident falls on the driver of the vehicle. This is because motorists all assume a duty to those around them to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Of course, this duty requires that motorists keep an eye out for pedestrians and obey all traffic laws in place to protect them. When a motorist violates this duty, the pedestrian may be able to seek monetary compensation from the motorist thought a Maryland or Washington, D.C. personal injury case.

In both Maryland and D.C., however, there are some strict rules in place regarding which accident victims are entitled to recovery. For example, if an accident victim is determined to have been at fault in the accident, they will be prevented from recovery. This stands true even if the pedestrian is determined to be just 5% at fault. Any fault assigned to the pedestrian could destroy their case.

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Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in a liability case allowing a pedestrian injured while crossing the street to attend a church event to sue the church under a premises liability theory. The court explained that, while the general rule is that a landowner is not liable for injuries that occur off his or her premises, there are some situations where liability is appropriate.

City StreetThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was attending an evening event at his local church. The church had a small parking lot located immediately adjacent to the building, but it often filled up. To ensure that attendees had ample room to park, the church arranged with a nearby business to allow church attendees to park in the business’ lot. The lot was across a busy street. There were crosswalks on either side of the block, but the parking lot was mid-block and so was the church, so the most straightforward way from the lot to the church to directly cross the five-lane road mid-block.

On the day in question, the plaintiff drove through the church’s main lot and was directed by volunteer parking attendants to go to the auxiliary lot across the street. As the plaintiff parked and left the lot toward the church, he was hit by a passing vehicle. The plaintiff sued the church, arguing that the placement of the auxiliary lot was dangerous and that the church failed to protect against the type of injury he sustained.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who was hit by a car while standing in the parking lot of the bar he had visited. In the case, Pittman v. Rivera, the plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the bar that had kicked out the patron who eventually got into his car and struck the plaintiff. However, since the court held that the bar could not have reasonably foreseen that such an injury could have resulted from its conduct in kicking out the other patron, the case was dismissed.

Diner at NightThe Facts of the Case

Pittman was inside the defendant bar with some friends. Earlier in the night, Rivera was kicked out of the same bar for getting into an argument with his girlfriend, an employee of the bar. Initially, Rivera left with a designated driver. However, a few hours later, he returned in his own vehicle. Rivera attempted to get back into the bar, but the bouncer refused him access. Angry and likely still intoxicated, Rivera left the bar and made several U-turns in an aggressive manner, revving his engine loudly outside the bar. At some point, Rivera lost control of his vehicle and struck Pittman, who was now outside the bar talking with some friends.

Pittman filed a lawsuit against several parties, including, most notably for this opinion, the bar owner. The bar owner argued that he had no duty of care to protect Pittman because he was standing outside the bar, and even if there was a duty to protect him, that duty was not violated by disallowing Rivera to enter the bar.

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For obvious reasons, auto accidents involving a pedestrian are some of the most likely to result in serious bodily injury or death. In fact, while all motor vehicle accidents combined result in about 32,000 fatalities a year, pedestrian accidents account for almost 4,500 of them. That figure represents about 15% of all traffic accident fatalities. Considering that pedestrian accidents account for only roughly 10% of all traffic accidents, pedestrian accidents present a much higher chance of resulting in a fatality.

people-1031169_960_720When a pedestrian accident does result in a fatality, the family of the accident victim is left with many questions, much grief, and few answers. While nothing will be able to bring back their lost loved one, families of those who are killed in pedestrian accidents are permitted to seek justice for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by qualifying family members on behalf of their lost loved one. In order to be successful, a wrongful death plaintiff must show the court that the driver’s negligent or reckless actions were the cause of their loved one’s death. In addition, they must also establish that their loved one was not at fault in any way in causing the accident. In pedestrian accident cases, this can be difficult to prove – although not impossible – when there is some evidence suggesting the pedestrian was crossing the street while not in a crosswalk at the time of the accident.

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