This week brought another sad auto-pedestrian fatality. On Sunday night, a 56 year old Austin woman was killed as she was struck by a vehicle while she was crossing Riverside Drive near Willow Creek (just west of Pleasant Valley).
These types of potential cases are always interesting. Looking at it, the first thing that has to be determined is what happened. The two news stories are vague about where and how the wreck occurred. But if the victim’s family was looking to file some type of claim, a lot has to be determined. Was the victim crossing in the cross-walk or somewhere else in the road? What type of clothing was the victim wearing? How well-lit were the streets in the area? What else may have contributed to the driver not being sure he or she hit someone (the stories both say the driver continued on a bit before stopping to call 911)?
In many of these auto-pedestrian cases, one imporant issue is whether the pedestrian was crossing a street in a cross-walk. If the pedestrian was in a cross-walk, the driver has the obligation to yield. But even if the pedestrian wasn’t in a cross-walk, it doesn’t mean that the pedestrian or the pedestrian’s family don’t have a case. The question is still whether the driver’s conduct contributed to the accident. Was the driver speeding? Did the driver fail to maintain a proper lookout? Etc. There are a lot of questions in these cases that need to be answered so that a lawyer could predict how a jury might apportion fault.
The second real issue is what sources of recovery might exist. Sadly, most drivers today carry minimum limits policies — that means they only have enough insurance to satisfy the minimum requirements of the law. Depending on when the policies were purchased, that’s either $25,000 or $30,000. Obviously, in a fatality/wrongful death situation, that’s not enough to fully compensate the victim’s family.
One other potential source of recovery is an underinsured insurance policy. If the victim of an auto-pedestrian fatality has bought uninsured/undersinsured motorist coverage on their own insurance policy, then that policy would likely provide additional compensation.
I guess the real lesson in this is that these claims are complicated. It’s important to start any investigation as soon as possible while the evidence is still fresh. And that investigation is important in helping to determine potential liability in any of these cases.