Shots rang out moments after a Jeep Wrangler struck and killed a teenager who was standing on the sidewalk.
Officers responding to a call of shots fired in the Mechanicsville area of Atlanta arrived to find the body of an 18-year-old man. According to surveillance video, the Jeep Wrangler hit the youth and several parked cars before someone inside the vehicle fired several rounds. Investigators are not sure whether the young man, whose name was not released, was the target of the incident.
Police Lt. Pete Malecki summed up the incident by saying “ The decedent was standing outside next to the sidewalk on the street, at which point a yellow-colored Jeep Wrangler came up Garibaldi Street at a high rate of speed and did strike the victim.”
Pedestrian Accidents: A Closer Look
Speed is arguably the most important factor in pedestrian accidents. At impact speeds slower than 20mph, the pedestrian fatality rate is only about 5 percent. But if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is travelling faster than 40mph, the pedestrian death rate catapults to 85 percent.
Additionally, speed increases the risk of a collision. Fast-moving drivers have less time to react that slow-moving drivers.
Other pedestrian accident causes include driver inattention and driver impairment. Many drivers simply do not look out for pedestrians, especially in non-crosswalk areas. Unfortunately, that’s where most such accidents occur. Driver impairment, whether it be alcohol, drugs, fatigue, or a combination of some or all of these things, also causes many such accident. Impaired drivers usually have slow reflexes. Additionally, impaired drivers often have a sense of euphoria which clouds their judgement.
In all these situations, even if the pedestrians survive, they often sustain serious injuries. Since pedestrians are completely exposed to danger in these wrecks, some of these injuries include:
- Head Injuries: Pedestrians have no seatbelts or crash helmets. So, they feel the full impact of the hit and the fall. Sometimes, the sudden, violent motion by itself is enough to seriously injure the delicate brain.
- Exsanguination: Blood loss is frequently the official cause of death in these cases. That same motion causes internal organs to grind and bump against each other. The profuse bleeding usually has victims on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive.
- Broken Bones: In many cases, the broken bones in these situations never fully heal. The wounds are usually so bad that they cause permanent loss of motion, even after victims undergo long-term physical therapy.
Because of these serious injuries, the medical bills alone often exceed $100,000. A Marietta personal injury attorney can obtain compensation for these economic losses, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Normally, pedestrian accidents either involve the ordinary negligence rule or the negligence per se doctrine.
Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Drivers who do not maintain a proper lookout for pedestrians and hit them clearly display a lack of care, even if the pedestrian was jaywalking or otherwise in the street illegally.
Negligence per se is the violation of a safety statute. This doctrine usually only applies if first responders ticketed the tortfeasor (negligent driver). Unfortunately, first responders often do not hand out citations in pedestrian accidents, even if the pedestrian was seriously injured. For many emergency responders, these matters are civil disputes between insurance companies, and they do not want to get involved.
In terms of defenses, insurance company lawyers often try to use the sudden emergency rule to excuse negligent conduct. This clip from the 1995 jurisprudential classic Tommy Boy illustrates both prongs of the sudden emergency defense, which are:
- Reasonable reaction to
- A sudden emergency.
The hood fly-up is a sudden emergency, because it was completely unexpected. However, Tommy did not react reasonably. Instead, he drove recklessly. So, in this case, the sudden emergency defense would not apply.
A hood fly-up is completely different from a jaywalking pedestrian. Hood fly-ups are completely unexpected, but jaywalking pedestrians are not. Therefore, a Marietta personal injury attorney can usually rebut the sudden emergency defense in pedestrian accident claims.
Hit and Run Crashes and Evidence Issues
Defenses like sudden emergency rarely come up in hit-and-run cases. If tortfeasors had a valid excuse for their conduct, or think they might have an excuse, they usually remain at the scene. Anyway, running away is clearly not a reasonable reaction to any emergency, sudden or otherwise.
Since victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in civil court, the evidence-gathering process is usually the foundation of a successful claim. But this process works a bit differently in hit-and-run cases. Rather than focusing on negligence and fault, the process usually focuses on tracking down the tortfeasor.
To accomplish this, Marietta personal injury attorneys often work with private investigators to do things like review surveillance video. If a red light, security, or other camera caught a glimpse of the vehicle’s license plate number, that might be enough to track down the tortfeasor.
The aforementioned burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). And, it’s more likely than not that the owner was driving the vehicle at the time. So, even if a witness cannot place the owner behind the wheel, ownership itself might be enough to prove liability.
Resolving Hit and Run Claims
If a lawyer finds the negligent driver, the case usually settles out of court. Frequently, these cases settle during mediation. A third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Marietta personal injury attorney, listens to both sides then tries to work out a settlement. If both sides negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.
If a lawyer cannot find the negligent driver, most victims can file claims with their own insurance companies. These claims usually go to arbitration. An arbitrator is basically like a judge. The big differences are that the matter is private and the arbitrator’s decision is usually final.
Hit-and-run pedestrian accidents are not the same as standard accident claims. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.