Articles Tagged with pedestrian

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Huntsville Personal Injury Attorneys / Blackwell Law FirmHit-and-run crash? The other driver fled the scene? You think it won’t happen to you. But, it does happen. In recent years, we’ve seen a rising number of hit and run crashes.

You are driving down University Drive in Huntsville. You stop at the intersection with Memorial Parkway. Suddenly, a speeding car runs the red light and slams into the side of your vehicle. You are shaken and hurt. Before you fully realize what is happening, the other driver speeds away. Police later identified the at-fault driver. Why did he flee the scene? He had no car insurance.

You are driving down Pulaski Pike on the way home after work. You stop at a light. Suddenly, a car crashes into the rear of your car. But, the car does not stop. Instead, the at-fault driver backs up and then speeds from the crash scene. Why did he flee the scene? He had warrants for his arrest and did not want to be caught. Fortunately, an off duty police officer saw the crash and followed the fleeing driver. And, he was caught.

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Blackwell Law Firm / Huntsville AttorneysAn old Huntsville lawyer once bragged that he would not handle pedestrian injury cases. Why did he refuse these cases? They are difficult.

I’ve written previously about the difficult legal issues with pedestrian cases. First, Alabama law makes them difficult. Alabama law has provisions requiring pedestrians only walk in limited places, like crosswalks. Our state laws generally favor cars over pedestrians. Some other states are different. In more urban states, their laws often favor the pedestrian. Second, Alabama is a contributory negligence states. We are one of just a couple states who follow that doctrine. What does that mean? If you are even partially at fault (think 1%) in a contributory negligence state, you cannot recover damages for your injuries. Third, the public perception here favors cars over pedestrians. That’s a real factor at trial. Because of these issues, pedestrian cases often become battles over whether the person was entirely in the crosswalk or not.

You can read more about Alabama law and my thoughts on pedestrian injury cases in several of my past articles on this blog. Here is one of them — Pedestrian Injuries — A Growing Problem.

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Untitled-design-3-copy-300x300Are hit-and-run accidents increasing? In recent months, local news outlets have reported numerous hit-and-run fatalities. In the most recent accident just a few days ago, an Athens man struck a pedestrian and fled the scene leaving him fatally injured. Initially, law enforcement arrested the fleeing driver for a felony charge related to leaving the scene of an accident. When the pedestrian victim later died at the hospital, those charges were upgraded to manslaughter.

This recent hit-and-run death is not an isolated event. Our office is currently helping a number of people hurt in hit-and-run accidents. In one, a driver traveled down the wrong side of Highway 72 in Scottsboro, struck a truck, fled the scene, and was later found by local police officers hiding in a nearby neighborhood. In another, a Huntsville driver fled the scene to avoid outstanding warrants, leaving our client severely injured. In a third case, the negligent driver fled but was caught when a witness followed and called police. These are just a few of our recent cases. Later in this blog, I’ll discuss how you can protect yourself financially from the risk of a hit-and-run driver.

What Are The Facts About Hit And Run Accidents?

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Huntsville Accident & Injury Lawyers / Blackwell Law FirmI watched the wheelchair move slowly down the middle of the road. I often saw the same wheelchair as I drove home from my Huntsville office. Frequently, the wheelchair was in the middle of the road, with no lights, after dark. I worried that someone unfamiliar with the roadway may not expect or see him. It was a dangerous situation.

What if an accident occurs? What if a driver hit the wheelchair? How is the wheelchair classified? Pedestrian or Motor Vehicle?

I know, lawyers parse terms. Lawyers argue details. Lawyers harp on legal classifications. Only a lawyer would openly ponder whether someone was classified as pedestrian or motor vehicle. Yet, in Alabama accident cases, the distinction can be very important. Very important. The rules for pedestrians and cars are very different.

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Huntsville Accident & Injury AttorneysA friend recently asked me about a pedestrian death in Huntsville. What happened in that accident? A pedestrian was crossing University Drive when struck and killed. Pedestrian accidents are increasingly common in busy areas, including University Drive and Governors Drive in Huntsville. These two busy Huntsville roads involve multiple lanes of traffic with few crosswalks.

Pedestrian injury cases are very, very difficult. Let me repeat that — Pedestrian cases in Alabama are very difficult. We routinely turndown cases involving pedestrian injuries. The difficulties are both legal and practical. Alabama law requires (with some limited exceptions) pedestrians to use the crosswalk and holds them negligent if they do not. In Alabama, if you are even partially negligent you cannot recover your damages. That’s a big legal hurdle.

Alabama law is much more car-friendly than pedestrian-friendly. From state-to-state pedestrian injury laws vary tremendously. Some states favor pedestrians. Some states favor cars. As you can imagine, the policy differences typically occur between states with large pedestrian urban centers versus those with more rural or suburban areas.

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Blackwell-Law-Firm-Alabama-Accident-Injury-Attorneys-256-261-1315-300x169I still remember the call. A local Huntsville attorney was struck by a truck while riding his bike. He suffered serious injuries, including two ruptured discs in his neck. He wanted me to handle his accident case. We eventually tried the case and recovered damages for his injuries. My attorney friend was an avid bike rider, often riding around downtown Huntsville. He was a safe, experienced biker. How can our communities plan for bicycle safety? How can our communities plan for growing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians? How can our communities prevent other serious bike accidents and injuries?

Recent Federal Study Addresses Increasing Bicyclist Accident Deaths

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a new study on bicyclist safety. Although cyclists commonly share our roads with cars and trucks, it had been over 45 years since the NTSB last studied the issue. We’ve seen a lot of traffic changes during those decades! This study was long over-due.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersAlabama remains a car-focused state. Historically, we have been a rural state with few areas where both cars and pedestrians are present. Naturally, most pedestrian injuries occur in the downtown areas of our largest cities or near our college campuses. I have read the research on pedestrian accidents and have prepared several serious pedestrian death cases for trial. I’ve also seen the many lawyer advertisements that beg for calls but provide no substance on these difficult cases. So, here are a few brief observations of mine related to Alabama pedestrian accidents.

Pedestrian Injuries Are Increasing

In a recent tweet, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) noted that over the last 10 years pedestrian deaths have increased 69% across the United States. The data shows increases in both pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. In its 2017 Alabama Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) recognized the rise in serious accidents:

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Blackwell Law Firm -- Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersWhere Are The Most Dangerous Huntsville Intersections?

What intersections are the most dangerous? Do a quick Google search and you will find research from 2012. The 2012 data is interesting. But, it’s old data. In the seven years since, Huntsville has grown tremendously. Development has created new accident dangers. Traffic patterns have expanded. Many intersections have been modified. In short, much has changed in the last seven years. The most dangerous intersections in 2012 may not be the most dangerous intersections today. What intersections were listed as most dangerous in 2012? Here they are:

  • Old Madison Pike at Research Park Boulevard
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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Injured People Across AlabamaI watched as the other driver sped through a red light in downtown Huntsville. He ran the light without causing a crash. Others are not so fortunate. Running a red light is one of the most reckless and risky acts of driving. Are more drivers running red lights? Research indicates they are. From 2012 – 2016 (the latest data), deaths in red light running crashes increased annually. Overall, red light deaths increased 17% during this time. In 2016, over 800 people died in the United States from crashes caused by drivers running a red light.

If more drivers are running red lights, the question is why. Why are more drivers running red lights? What can be done to reduce this danger? Traffic researchers believe several factors contribute to the growing problem. These factors include:

I.      DISTRACTED DRIVERS

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersSeveral years ago, I had the honor of representing another Huntsville personal injury attorney who was hit by an SUV while riding his bicycle. After the crash, the SUV driver paused just briefly to see that the bicyclist had lived. Then, he fled the scene. He was never identified. The bicyclist suffered a severe neck injury. I was honored that he asked me to handle his case. This injured attorney had been practicing trial work for years and knew lawyers across northern Alabama. Because law enforcement was never able to identify the driver who caused the crash, we pursued claims against the bicyclist’s insurance company for uninsured motorist benefits (UIM). Let this be a lesson to everyone — It is very important for you to have UIM coverage on your policy. You can read more about that issue in a special section of our law firm website.

In the lawyer bicyclist case, we worked with the medical professionals to present the evidence of his serious injury. When the insurance company refused to fairly evaluate the matter, we went to trial. We successfully won a verdict compensating him for his full damages.

I think of that case every time I read about hit and run incidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists. I also think about the Pokemon fad. I can remember leaving my Huntsville office at night during that ridiculous fad. As I drove through downtown, I would see people staring into their cellphones while walking. Often, these people would cross streets with zero awareness of the traffic around them. How dangerous.

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