Transit Bus Runs Over Helpless Pedestrian
Moments after an earlier car accident ejected him from his vehicle, a Belle Glade man fell victim to a large Palm Tran transit bus.
According to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, a 26-year-old man was westbound on State Road 80 when he lost control of his vehicle. The car hit a culvert and flipped over. The force of the collision ejected the man from his vehicle. As he lay in the road, an approaching Palm Tran bus overran his limp body.
Investigators believe that the man, who was declared dead at the scene, may have been intoxicated.
Determining First Party Liability in Car Crash Cases
Because they have no protection from onrushing vehicles, pedestrians often suffer extremely serious injuries in these crashes. That’s especially true if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is travelling over 40 mph. At 30mph impact speeds, the pedestrian death rate is only about 10 percent. But at 40mph, the death rate skyrockets to over 90 percent.
However, the above-described crash is no ordinary wreck. There are some complex issues involved.
First, the sudden emergency doctrine may come into play. A helpless pedestrian in the road is not something that a driver sees every day. Legally, when faced with a sudden emergency like that, the tortfeasor is not liable for damages if s/he:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
At first blush, the sudden emergency defense clearly seems to apply. But both elements of this defense may be an issue in the above crash.
When drivers see large obstructions in the road, like a human body, reasonable drivers stop suddenly or make evasive maneuvers. There’s no evidence that the bus driver did either of these things. Of course, such movements may have been impossible, given the size of the vehicle, amount of traffic, and other factors. But that’s for a jury to decide.
There is a more fundamental question. Is an obstruction in the road a “sudden emergency” in this context? Drivers must routinely dodge large potholes, stalled cars, and other such hazards. Arguably, a lifeless body in the road is no different from any of these other everyday hazards.
Second, there’s a question of fault. The victim was on the road because of a single-car, alcohol-involved crash. Transit company lawyers would almost certainly argue that his fate was his own fault, and they might be right.
If both parties were partially at fault, as appears to be the case here, the jury must apportion liability between the drivers. Since Florida is a pure comparative fault state, victims still receive a proportional share of damages even if they were 99 percent responsible for the crash.
In contributory negligence claims, a Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney must convince the jury that the tortfeasor, and not the victim, was mostly at fault. For example, the bus driver might have been distracted, so s/he did not immediately see the victim in the road.
Third Party Liability
Sometimes, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for car crash damages. Vicarious liability is especially important in wrongful death cases. Compensation is usually substantial, and individual insurance policies may not provide enough coverage.
Respondeat superior is the most common employer liability theory in Florida. It has two basic elements:
- Employee: The tortfeasor must have been an employee. In this context, an employee is anyone the employer controls. That definition includes people like independent contractors and even unpaid volunteers.
- Scope of Employment: Similarly, if the tortfeasor is performing any act that benefits the employer in any way, that act is within the scope of employment. This definition includes things like driving an empty bus to the garage at the end of the day.
Compensation is car wreck cases typically includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Contact Hard-Hitting Lawyers
Car crashes usually involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.