Pedestrian Accidents Resulting In A Death

 By: J. Hernandez
About 4,500 pedestrians will suffer a fatal injury in a motor vehicle this year. A number of these fatalities will turn into a wrongful death claim. These are sophisticated cases which are typically strongly defended by insurance companies and include hard medical, accident reconstruction and legal issues.

Like with any motor vehicle accident claim, insurance company adjustors, when they make any settlement offer at all, will structure the offer dependent not on the injured person's damages but rather on the risk faced by the insurance company. There are several ways in which insurance companies try to control their risk. For example, liability is often disputed by blaming the victim. There are often multiple defendants (including drivers, others who contributed to the accident, employer, and vehicle owners). There are also often insurance issues that arise including a responsible driver with no insurance or insufficient insurance, multiple policies, excess policies, and even assets that can be reached. The attorney also needs to be able to properly value the case. An attorney handling one of these claims thus needs to have the skill and experience to deal successfully with the many issues that will likely arise in the lawsuit. Consider:

A vehicle which was observed speeding by a witness at around 6:00 in the morning slammed into a pedestrian shortly afterward. The police conducted an investigation of the accident and announced that the vehicle was low on break fluid and had no windshield cleaning fluid despite the fact that it had a dirty windshield.

The pedestrian who was hit was a female, aged sixty-six. She landed 27 feet from the point of impact. She had fractures to several ribs, to her skull, to her clavicle, even to her wrist. She was transported to a hospital where she died from her injuries. She left behind a husband, five children, and six grandchildren. The law firm that represented the victim's family was able to report reaching a settlement in the amount of $725,000.

This case involved a pedestrian accident that happened at the beginning part of the evening. The female driver of the vehicle involved did not stay at the scene of the accident. The person she struck, a male pedestrian, died on account of the accident. He was survived by two children. He had a part time job. The female driver was located and arrested by the police. She was arrested. She was charged for leaving the scene and for the negligent operation of a vehicle resulting in a death. The law firm which represented the victim's family was able to report a settlement for the sum of $1.15 million.

While sharing a number of similarities these cases also differ in various aspects. The law firms that handled each of these cases accomplished sizeable recoveries for the families of the victims. Note, however, that the settlement in the second case was over 50% greater than that in the first. What factors could explain this difference? Well, consider that the victim was 66 years old in the first case. While the report of the case does not deal with this point, it is likely that she was retired and had no real loss of earning capacity. The plaintiff man in the second case was working even if only part-time. The case report, however, does not indicate his age or how much he earned. Nor does it offer a loss of earning capacity calculation. But this alone, especially if his children were minors, might account for difference.

Other factors that might have affected the amount of the settlement
included the total insurance coverage available in each case and the verdict history in the jurisdictions where each lawsuit would have been tried.

Insurance companies take making as large a profit as possible very quite seriously. Factors that suggest a low risk to taking the case to trial include plaintiffs with little credibility and little sympathy factors, a lawyer with a reputation for settling cases or for not doing well at trial, and a poor preparation. An insurance company adjuster who perceives a high risk of an adverse award will make a commensurately higher offer. Factors that suggest a high risk include highly credible and sympathetic plaintiffs, a skilled highly experienced attorney with a history of trial successes, and a thoroughly prepared case. Plaintiff attorneys know that, paradoxically, preparing the case for trial is often the best way to position the case for settlement.
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