Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accident

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.

Evidently, 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.

Evidently, 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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The 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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Two 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 separateincidents. 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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The 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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While motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of child fatalities, our Washington DC personal injury lawyers want to warn you of other auto vehicle-related dangers that could put a kid at serious risk. Here are a few of these safety hazards, as identified by the National Highway Safety Administration:

Backover accidents: This usually involves a vehicle backing out of a driveway or parking lot and the driver not realizing that there is a child behind the auto. Backover accidents can prove fatal. Because the vehicle is being operated in reverse, the motorist must take extra precautions to check all viewing mirrors, footage from the backup camera, and perhaps even physically look back to make sure there is no one there.

Power windows: Power windows can entrap a young child’s hands, fingers, feet, neck, or head. It is important to make sure that power window switches have been locked. Otherwise, a child can accidentally activate the switch.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, up to 25% of motor vehicle accidents in this country occur because motorists were distracted driving and more often than not using cell phones and other handheld devices. The GHSA’s report, which was released last week, is called “Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do.”

As our Washington DC personal injury law firm has reported in past blogs, distracted driving is very dangerous and can dramatically increase the chances of injuries or deaths. It also can be grounds for a DC car crash lawsuit against the driver. Other findings from the study:

• Some drivers are distracted as much as 50% of the time they are on the road.
• Texting while driving, which is both a manual and visual distraction, is even more dangerous than talking on a phone.

• Examples of other common types of distracted driving behavior include talking to other passengers, looking for tapes or CD’s, switching radio stations, drinking, eating, reading directions or a map, reading books or newspapers, dealing with kids or pets, shaving, putting on makeup, shuffling through an iPod, and reading your GPS.

Many people don’t realize that distracted driving impairs their ability to drive safely. This does not change the fact that this behavior can result in very deadly consequences.

Should other parties aside from a distracted driver be held liable for DC personal injury or wrongful death? A couple of years ago, one woman sued Nextel, Samsung, and Sprint for her mother’s distracted driving death. The plaintiff claimed products liability because the three companies allegedly failed to warn the driver that using a cell phone wile driving is a safety hazard. Samsung countered that it did include safety warnings on its websites and packaging and in its user manuals and advertising.

Report: Gadgets Linked To 25 Percent Of Car Accidents, AutoGuide, July 13, 2011

Read the GHSA’s Distracted Driving Report

Related Web Resources:
Distracted Driving, US Department of Motor Vehicles
Cell Phone and Texting Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association
More Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Preventing Maryland Car Crashes: State Senate Approves Ban on Reading Text Messages While Driving, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 9, 2011
Maryland Lawmakers Want Texting While Driving Ban to Block Drivers From Reading Messages, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 20, 2010

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A jury has found Jorida Davidson guilty of negligent homicide, driving under the influence, and leaving the scene after a crash in the DC car accident that claimed the life of Kiela Ryan. The 24-year-old traffic crash victim died after Davidson, struck her just south of Dupont Circle on October 7, 2010. October 7 just south of Dupont Circle. The Chevy Chase driver then fled the hit-and-run crash site.

Prosecutors had accused Davidson of driving drunk when she hit Ryan, who was emerging from a parked car at the time. Meantime, Davidson’s lawyer argued that she wasn’t inebriated when the collision happened. They also say that she did not report the DC pedestrian accident because she was suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia—a fallout from watching her dad die from a heart attack, her mother succumb to breast cancer, and growing up in war-torn Albania. When police later found her SUV, Davidson was slumped in the driver’s seat. She also failed two sobriety tests.

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