Truck and car accidents that result in personal injury to pedestrians are a source of severe fractures, brain injury and wrongful death in Ohio. Commonly, these injuries occur at or near a crosswalk in a busy intersection. Another type of case is the so-called “dart out” where a young child thoughtlessly dashes into the street during play. Less common, but usually the most dangerous due to the speed of the involved vehicle, are cases involving a pedestrian who is struck on the side of the road by a careless motorist.
I was thinking about these cases recently while in New York City for an expert’s deposition. I read this article in the Times regarding motor vehicle collisions with pedestrians in NYC. The article indicates that over 10,000 such cases occur there annually: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/nyregion/how-being-hit-by-a-vehicle-changed-times-colleagues-lives.html?_r=0.
I have not seen similar statistics in Ohio, but I can guess that we unfortunately have our share. Unlike NYC, in Ohio, the automobile is king and pedestrians are an afterthought outside of dense downtown areas. I have handled a number of truck and car accidents involving pedestrians. In each case, the injuries have been severe, even when the speed was not. The point of contact between a car and a person can cause serious orthopedic injury or a knockdown leading to a head injury. With trucks, the concern is a crush type of injury. Individuals walking on roadsides or repairing a vehicle on the berm often die from their injuries after being struck by a speeding motorist.
The analysis in these cases is anything but straightforward. Insurance defense attorneys typically argue that the pedestrian was negligent due to being outside of a crosswalk, wearing dark clothing at dusk or dark, or failing to heed traffic signals. In point of fact, these cases often involve an analysis of the parties’ comparative fault. Under Ohio law, an injured pedestrian can still recover compensation from a negligent driver so long as the driver’s negligence exceeds 50%, as determined by a jury.
It is incumbent upon an injury attorney to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident scene in anticipation of the insurance company’s predictable efforts to avoid responsibility. This includes obtaining witness statements, examining the police report and any photographs, reviewing sunrise/sunset tables, and examining medical records. Experts in accident reconstruction, human factors and perception, vision and lighting can be helpful. In trucking cases, inquiry should be made into the driver’s compliance with service hour requirements, licensing and training. In all cases, inquiry should be made into testing for alcohol and/or drugs and cell phone usage. Evidence of driver fatigue, distraction, cell phone use, texting, or impairment goes a long way towards proving the case.