A motorist pulling out of a driveway in Mission Valley seriously injured two pedestrians.
The 56-year-old woman and 63-year-old man, whose names were not released, were crossing Rancho Mission Road outside the crosswalk when the northbound driver hit them. Both victims sustained multiple broken bones, deep lacerations, and severe head injuries.
First responders secured the scene as investigators looked for clues, but they do not expect to file charges against the 31-year-old driver.
Observers believe that distracted driving is the main reason that pedestrian fatalities increased 10 percent in 2015. That’s the largest year-over-year increase since recordkeeping began.
Roadway design flaws may be an issue as well, which is why so many cities in California and elsewhere have announced “Vision Zero” plans or similar initiatives that address these deficiencies. Many cities have wide, straight roads that effectively sacrifice pedestrian safety for driver convenience. Change may come slowly, as wider sidewalks normally cost about $8 million a mile.
In addition to distracted driving, speed is a significant factor in pedestrian-auto crashes, because fast-moving drivers have less reaction time than slower-moving drivers. Speed is even more of a factor in the collision itself. If the vehicle is traveling less than 40mph, the pedestrian victim nearly always survives; if the vehicle is moving 50mph or faster, the fatality rate approaches 90 percent.
Finally, as the old saying goes, there is safety in numbers. The pedestrian-vehicle crash rate is a little lower during daylight hours and near crosswalks, because there are more pedestrians and drivers are more cautious. Most serious wrecks occur in non-daylight hours (from dusk until dawn) and outside marked crosswalks, where fewer pedestrians mean that drivers are less cautious. Some of the serious injuries in these crashes include:
- Broken Bones: Regardless of vehicle speed, the victims are nearly always thrown at least several feet, if not a good deal further. So, doctors must often use metal screws or pins to set the broken bones, and the victims often require months of expensive and painful physical rehabilitation after they recover from their wounds.
- Head Injuries: Vehicle occupants have multiple layers of protection, including seatbelts and airbags, and even many motorcyclists wear helmets. But pedestrians never have any protection and are always completely exposed to the risk of injury, so serious blows to the head are quite common.
- Paralysis: Similarly, a blow to the neck or spine often has lifelong consequences. Moreover, most people naturally extend their arms to brace themselves when they fall, and in high-impact situations, this reflex often causes permanent nerve damage to the under-arm brachial plexus region.
These common and severe injuries often mean that victims accumulate huge medical bills. The law provides compensation for these losses, in addition to money for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Happens in Pedestrian Accident Cases?
Effective medical care is one of the top priorities in these cases. For one thing, a personal injury attorney’s primary goal is to help the victim completely recover. For another, without specialized care, victims may not receive the treatment they need, especially if their injuries involve whiplash or another serious condition that’s difficult for non-specialists to diagnose. While all this is going on, medical providers usually begin collections activity after a month of unpaid bills.
The letter of protection process takes care of all these concerns. Experienced personal injury attorneys know where victims need to go to receive effective treatment for their particular kinds of injuries, since regular family practice doctors often have little or no experience in these areas.
Along with giving the referral, attorneys write letters to providers guaranteeing payment for services rendered when the cases are resolved, and that nearly always means a settlement. In other words, victims do not need to pay for these services upfront. Once treatment is substantially complete, attorneys almost always negotiate with providers to lower the charged amounts, which means that the victims keep more of the settlement proceeds.
To determine an appropriate settlement value, attorneys usually consider the amount of the medical bills, the facts in the case, prior jury awards with similar circumstances, and any legal defense the insurance company has.
Insurance company lawyers almost always assert this defense in non-crosswalk pedestrian accidents, typically by claiming that the victim “darted out into traffic,” or words to that effect. There are two prongs to this defense, and this Tommy Boy scene illustrates them both.
- Sudden Emergency: In this context, a “sudden emergency” is a tire blowout, hood fly up, or another completely unanticipated event. In contrast, a pedestrian crossing against the light is not completely unanticipated, so it is normally not a “sudden emergency” for purposes of this defense.
- Reasonable Reaction: After the tire blows out or the hood flies up, slowing down and pulling to the right is usually the only responsible thing to do. So, even though Tommy encountered a “sudden emergency,” his subsequent reckless driving makes him a tortfeasor (negligent driver).
At best, pedestrians in the street outside crosswalks are contributorily negligent, meaning that they were partially responsible for their own injuries. California is a pure comparative fault state which divides damages based solely on the percentage of fault, so even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the accident, the victim could still recover a proportional share of damages.
For prompt assistance from an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer, contact the Injury Trial Lawyers, APC today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.