Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accident

In all Washington, D.C. premises liability cases, one of the key issues that must be resolved is whether the defendant landowner violated a duty of care that it owed to the plaintiff. As a general rule, a duty of care exists any time someone enters another party’s land with the landowner’s permission. The question then often becomes whether the defendant knew about the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

CrosswalkIn some situations, a plaintiff may bring a premises liability lawsuit against a landowner for injuries that did not occur on that party’s property. The general rule in these cases is that there is not a duty to protect someone once they leave – or before they enter – a landowner’s property. However, if a plaintiff is able to establish that the landowner, through their conduct, assumed a duty of care, a plaintiff may be able to proceed with their lawsuit.

A recent case discusses the later situation in the context of an accident that occurred while a parishioner was crossing the street from an off-site church parking lot.

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Earlier this month, a Washington, D.C. police cruiser was involved in a serious accident with a pedestrian, nearly claiming the pedestrian’s life and injuring the officer as well. According to one local news source, the accident took place at around 1:45 in the afternoon, near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW, just north of Farragut Square.

crosswalk-1538871Evidently, the pedestrian was walking across Connecticut Avenue when a police cruiser came speeding into the intersection with its lights on and sirens blaring. As the officer saw the man in the intersection, he attempted to swerve. However, the officer’s evasive maneuvers were not quite enough, and the cruiser’s side mirror ended up striking the pedestrian. Some witness accounts claim that the man was then thrown into the air before he crashed down onto the median. He was immediately taken to the hospital and admitted in critical condition. The police officer was also injured in the accident, although his injuries were minor, and he is expected to make a quick and full recovery.

One eyewitness to the accident told reporters that she was at the intersection at the time of the collision, and she had arrived there before the pedestrian who “rushed” across to beat the “Don’t Walk” signal. She also said that the police car may have been in hot pursuit of another vehicle, but she wasn’t certain of that. Police are conducting an investigation into the near-fatal accident, and they are looking into whether either of the two parties involved was in violation of a traffic law at the time of the collision.

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Earlier this month in northwest Washington, D.C., a 79-year-old woman was killed while she was struck by a delivery truck. According to one local news source, the accident occurred at the intersection of 37th Street NW and Calvert Street NW.

truck-delivery-1042539-mEvidently, the grocery delivery truck was at the intersection facing southbound on 37th Street, waiting to make a right turn. As the truck made its turn, it struck the woman as she was crossing Calvert Street. The driver of the truck remained on the scene until police arrived. Sadly, the elderly woman was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident by emergency workers.

Peapod, the company that owned the grocery delivery truck, released the following statement:  “On behalf of all of us at Peapod, we offer our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the person involved in the tragic accident in Glover Park this evening. We will cooperate with the investigation into this matter.”

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Earlier this year in April, a Washington, D.C. police officer admitted to hitting and killing a 68-year-old woman on Southern Avenue SE. According to a recent news report, criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter have formally been filed against the officer by the D.C. police department.

new-york-times-square-1443347-mEvidently, just before nine at night on April 28th of this year, the 68-year-old woman was coming home from United Medical Center. She was traveling southeast when a tan Mercedes hit her. The Mercedes, driven by a female police officer, failed to stop and see if she needed any medical assistance and instead continued on its way.

Three hours later, the driver of the car called police, explaining that the vehicle had just been stolen. During that conversation with police, they told her that the car had been involved in a very serious accident. She denied any knowledge of the accident.

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Earlier this week in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C., one man was killed when an SUV rolled over him, pinning him underneath until emergency responders were able to free him. According to one local news report, the accident occurred at H Street between 4th and 5th Streets.

view-outside-253457-mEvidently, the driver of an SUV was speeding down H Street towards 5th Street when he lost control of the vehicle. The SUV began to roll and collided with a traffic-light pole, which came crashing down into a nearby building. After going through the pole, the vehicle continued until it hit a wall, causing it to rotate. Ultimately, the SUV came to a rest on top of a pedestrian. At some point in the SUV’s tumble, it collided with another person as well.

The man pinned underneath the SUV was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV, as well as the other pedestrian who was hit by the SUV, are both in the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Police are currently conducting an investigation into the fatal accident, and charges are pending against the driver of the SUV.

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Lexus_Navigation_advanced_parking_system.jpgThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a new regulation that will require all vehicles under 10,000 pounds to have backup cameras by 2018. A lack of rear visibility causes a substantial number of pedestrian injuries and deaths every year. Children face a greater risk, simply because they tend to be smaller and therefore more difficult for a driver to see if they are directly behind a vehicle. A law passed by Congress in 2007 directed the NHTSA to develop regulations by 2011, but multiple delays have occurred since then. A lawsuit filed in September 2013 sought a court order directing the government to issue the rule mandated by the 2007 law.

The NHTSA reports that backover accidents, in which a vehicle strikes a person or another vehicle while driving in reverse, cause around 15,000 injuries and 210 deaths every year. Thirty-one percent of the deaths caused by backover accidents are children under the age of five, and twenty-six percent are adults age seventy and older. The new regulation, which will be added to Part 571 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, will require the installation of backup cameras in new vehicles beginning on May 1, 2016, with full compliance expected by May 1, 2018. Cameras must be able to display a 10-foot by 20-foot area behind the vehicle. The NTHSA estimates a maximum cost of $45 per vehicle to install a camera, or $142 to install a full system. It states that the regulation, once fully implemented, will save fifty-eight to sixty-nine lives per year.

Congress directed the NHTSA to make a rule requiring backup cameras in the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007. The bill was named for a two-year-old child who died when his father, unable to see him in the rearview or sideview mirrors of his SUV, accidentally backed over him in 2002. The bill gave the NHTSA eighteen months to issue a preliminary regulation, with a determination on a final rule required within thirty months of the bill’s enactment. The NTHSA’s final deadline was in February 2011, but it kept delaying a final determination. In its press release announcing the rule on March 31, 2014, the NHTSA stated that it delayed issuance “to ensure that the policy was right and make the rule flexible and achievable.”

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1058647_39234009.jpgTwo new lawsuits seek to hold over eighty members of a Yale University fraternity vicariously liable for an automobile accident that killed one person and injured two. A fraternity member allegedly lost control of a U-Haul truck and struck several pedestrians outside a football game. The estate of the woman who died in the accident and one of the women who was injured had previously sued the national fraternity and the university. The national fraternity disclaimed responsibility, but the new lawsuits suggest that it left the local fraternity chapter and its members exposed to vicarious liability claims. Personal injury claims against organizations lacking formal legal structure, based on actions of their members, can present difficult questions of how to determine and apportion fault.

The accident occurred on November 19, 2011 at a tailgate party hosted by the Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) at the annual football game against Harvard. A fraternity member was transporting beer kegs in a U-Haul truck to the tailgate, when he lost control of the vehicle. One person, thirty year-old Nancy Barry, was killed, while Yale student Sarah Short and another woman were injured. The school reportedly responded by putting new restrictions on tailgate parties and banning kegs at athletic events.

Short and Barry’s estate each filed suit in 2012 against the national SigEp organization, Yale University, U-Haul, the driver of the truck, and others. Each lawsuit claimed several million dollars in damages. They alleged that the national fraternity was liable because the members who were involved in the accident were acting as its representatives. The lawsuits reportedly foundered, however, when the Richmond, Virginia-based national SigEp organization stated that it had not officially sanctioned the tailgate party, and its insurer disclaimed all responsibility for the Yale chapter.

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In what may come as a surprise to some readers, within the past three weeks in Montgomery County, three pedestrians have been killed in three separate other%20crosswalk.jpgtincidents. Additionally, in all three instances, it appears, the pedestrians were not only obeying traffic rules, but rather should have had the right of way. Although one of the pedestrians was struck while walking on the sidewalk, one was on a median waiting for a safe cross (the law requires that drivers slow to let a pedestrian standing on the median cross), when he fell and was struck; and the other man was attempting to cross a street where the nearest cross walk was a long way off.

What is troubling about these circumstances, is that authorities are apparently attempting to shift the blame onto the pedestrians. Granted, visibility is certainly a part of pedestrian safety, it can’t be the case that pedestrians have to dress in neon colors and carry large signaling devices in order to merely cross the street.

Authorities could consider measures such as lowering speed limits, installing stop light signals for pedestrians, or lights in the street at busy intersections, such as those used throughout many Californian cities. Additionally, police could enforce the rules protecting pedestrian safety, both through the means of advertising campaigns, and by ticketing drivers who fail to yield. Other measures could include engineering changes to increase visibility, or the installation of speed bumps near common crossways. At the very least, marking crosswalks, by painting the familiar white or yellow lines, could go a long way at helping pedestrians cross safely.

Additionally, the area where one of the men crossed was allegedly a legal crosswalk, but was unmarked. Several of the commenters in the various articles linked to questioned what the public safety benefits were, if any, of having a crosswalk remain unmarked.

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A lawsuit filed last year alleges two types of liability in a Washington DC automobile accident. The plaintiff in Lewis-Shephard v. Burch, et al filed suit against two defendants: the driver of a vehicle that allegedly struck her when she was on foot, and the owner of said vehicle. The lawsuit alleges that the driver’s negligent operation of the automobile led directly to the accident and her injuries. It also alleges that the automobile owner is liable for the plaintiff’s damages because, under D.C. law, she made the driver her agent by entrusting the vehicle to him.

The accident occurred during the afternoon of September 19, 2008. According to her complaint, the plaintiff, Kathy Lewis-Shephard, was walking east through the crosswalk on 12th Street NW, at the intersection with I Street. The vehicle driven by the defendant, Phillip Burch, Jr., was allegedly traveling west on I Street and turned right to go north on 12th Street. The plaintiff alleges that Burch failed to yield the right of way to her, and his vehicle hit her.

Lewis-Shepard filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2011, asserting diversity jurisdiction between herself, a Maryland resident, and the two defendants, both New Jersey residents. She named Burch and the owner of the car Burch was allegedly driving, Agnes Dalley, as defendants.

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712987_19601479_03222012.jpgThe National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), an office within the U.S. Department of Transportation, has delayed a final rule regarding rear visibility requirements in cars. This is the second delay of the rule since the agency began working on it. The purpose of the rule would be to prevent “backover” accidents due to a driver’s inability to see people or objects behind the vehicle. The Secretary of Transportation has said that they expect to have final standards ready by the end of 2012.

The rule is required by the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, passed by the U.S. Congress in early 2008. This law addresses several child safety concerns, including the risk to children of vehicles moving in reverse where the driver cannot see the child. It is named for a two year-old child who died when his father accidentally backed his car over him in their driveway. According to the NHTSA, 292 deaths and 18,000 injuries result each year from “blind zones” behind vehicles. The majority of the fatalities involve light vehicles, meaning those weighing 10,000 pounds or less. Those most vulnerable to these kinds of accidents are children and the elderly. In addition to addressing visibility issues, the law requires rules for auto-reverse in power windows and transmission systems that prevent cars from easily shifting out of “park.”

The proposed rule would require additional mirrors or even camera devices to enable drivers to see the area behind the vehicle while driving in reverse. In December 2010, the NHTSA announced that it expected to require new passenger cars, minivans, pickup trucks, and other vehicles to have “rear mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays” to allow an expanded field of vision for drivers.

The New York Times reportedly found that backup cameras are already standard issue in forty-five percent of new vehicles, and that they are available as an option in twenty-three percent. For all other vehicles, owners would have to purchase cameras. The NHTSA reportedly estimates that, for vehicles without an embedded navigational screen, the cost to a vehicle owner would be between $159 and $203, and between $58 and $88 for cars with a screen already installed. The total annual cost for the country would be between $1.9 and $2.7 billion.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced in February that the NHTSA would need to do further research before formally issuing the new rules. The rule has also proven to be controversial politically, considering the large price tag attached to it. The controversy persists even though it was actually President Bush who signed it into law in 2008. Bloomberg Businessweek says that it is among the five most expensive regulations still pending in the Obama administration, and it is one of many facing delays.

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