Pedestrian accident cases often involve fatalities. According to data from 2000, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle accident roughly every 111 minutes. That amounts to 4,500 pedestrian fatalities every year. When handling a case involving a fatal pedestrian accident, attorneys need to be able to understand the nature of the damages that may exist in the individual case and to fully pursue all sources of potential recovery.
Consider, for example, the following three cases:
While attempting to make a left hand turn a driver struck and killed a 62 year-old man crossing the street on a walk signal. The pedestrian victim died from the resulting injuries. Liability was not an issue in this case. The driver admitted to being at fault for the accident. The issue concerned the amount that could be recovered. The driver had an insurance policy with limits of only $15,000.
The law firm that handled the case was able to reach a settlement on behalf of the victim's adult children that included the driver's policy limits plus $1 million dollars from the driver's employer. They were able to do this by showing that at the time of the accident the driver, even though he was driving his own car, was on his way to a store to purchase starter fluid for his employer's truck. They established that the driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident and thus reached the employer's insurance policy for the additional $1 Million.
As he was walking on a sidewalk, a 90 year-old man was hit from behind by a pickup truck. The pickup, which weighed a ton, was backing out of a construction site when it hit the pedestrian. And hitting the pedestrian, the truck ran over him, and then pulled forward, running over him a second time. The victim did not survive the accident.
The law firm that handled this matter on behalf of the victim's adult children brought claims against the driver, he driver's employer, the developer at the site, and the contractor. The developer settled for $200,000. The contractor settled for $150,000. The employer, while admitting liability, argued that it was the developer was at fault because it did not provide a lookout person as the truck was backing up. The law firm took the case to trial and the jury awarded the family an additional $1.3 Million.
While his daughter was playing on her scooter her father was sitting nearby at a bench outside a mall plaza. At the time an elderly female driver leaving the plaza tried to back her car out of its parking space. Instead of putting her car in reverse she inadvertently put it into drive. So as she tried several times to back up she kept hitting the tire blocks at the front of the car. She then applied heavy pressure to the gas pedal causing the car to go speeding over the tire blocks, then over the curb, through the median, and then onto the sidewalk where the little girl's father was. The car slammed into him as his little girl watched. He died from his injuries.
The law firm that handled this case obtained a settlement of $600,000. Even though the driver's insurance covered only $500,000 the law firm was able to get the victim's family the additional $100,000 paid personally by members of the driver's family.
These cases demonstrate two very valuable lessons for attorneys who handle a pedestrian fatality case. The first lesson is that under certain circumstances there may be non-physical injuries suffered by family members who witness the tragedy. In the second example above, for example, the father of the little girl who was killed suffered such a severe form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that he was unable to work after the accident.
The second lesson is to understand the value of the damages and to fully explore all possible sources of recovery. An attorney handling one of these cases must look to all potential defendants. This can include employers and anyone who can be vicariously liable. The first two cases above illustrate this. In addition, the attorney must also explore non-insurance sources of recovery. In the third case above, the law firm handling the matter was able to recover an additional $100,000 for the family of the victim from private sources. This can only occur if the attorney truly understands the value of the case and uncovers private assets that can be used for a settlement.
Applying these lessons can make a significant difference in the amount recovered on behalf of the family of a pedestrian killed in a motor vehicle accident.