While pedestrians generally have the right of way when crossing the street, this generalization occasionally is interpreted to mean that motorists are always at-fault in a pedestrian accident. Many pedestrian accidents are caused by driver negligence, but the liability of a motorist is not guaranteed. The injured pedestrian, or the estate in the case of a fatality, must establish that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid hitting the pedestrian. One of the most common strategies employed by insurance carriers in pedestrian accidents is to shift blame for the collision to the injury victim. The recent case, from the 2nd District Court of Appeals for Florida, Panzera v. O’Neal, demonstrates the importance of evaluating and presenting persuasive evidence of negligence by a driver when pursuing damages in a pedestrian accident lawsuit.
The estate of Mr. Panzera brought a wrongful death lawsuit against a truck driver and his employer Publix Supermarkets, Inc. Evidence produced at trial revealed that Mr. Panzera was struck by the tractor-trailer when he attempted to walk across a multilane interstate. In a motion for summary judgment, defendants argued that the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the semi-truck’s collison with the pedestrian. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant based on a lack of admissible evidence establishing negligence by the truck driver.
The appellate court relied on evidence presented by the defendants that the truck driver could not have reasonably avoided colliding with Mr. Panzera. The tractor-trailer was equipped with a governor that limited the vehicle to a top speed of 65 miles per hour. Further, the vehicle was equipped with a system that generated a report of any sudden reduction of speed of seven miles per hour or more in less than a second. The truck driver testified that he did not see Mr. Panzera until he ran across the emergency lane adjacent to the lane in which the tractor-trailer was traveling. The driver also testified that he immediately applied the brakes hard and veered to avoid hitting the plaintiff. Mr. Panzer also was wearing a dark shirt in a poorly lit area.
This evidence provided by the defendants was corroborated by officers with the Florida Highway Patrol and the official Florida Homicide Investigation Report. The accident report indicated that the driver applied the brakes suddenly and early based on skid marks that covered almost a hundred feet. The officers also determined that the driver veered to avoid the impact and concluded that the driver could not have done anything more to avoid hitting Mr. Panzer. The law enforcement report also supported the view that the truck driver was traveling under the speed limit.
In the face of this evidence, the estate offered only the testimony of Mr. Panzer’s parents that the truck driver could have engaged in other evasive maneuvers. The parents based that conclusion on their inspection of the accident scene. However, the estate offered no expert testimony, and the parents admitted they had no experience or specialized knowledge regarding accident reconstruction. The court faced with the opinion of law enforcement officers with experience analyzing crashes and the lay opinion of the parents, who did not personally witness the accident, found that Mr. Panzer was the lone proximate cause of the fatal pedestrian accident.
This case provides a glaring example of the importance of legal advice and access to accident reconstruction experts if you are injured or lose a loved one in a pedestrian accident. Our experienced personal injury attorneys do not simply accept the conclusions of an accident report regarding fault and causation. Our lawyers analyze the facts and gather other evidence and/or witness statements when investigating our client’s legal claim. While the opinions of law enforcement officers can carry significant weight, our law firm often works with accident reconstruction experts who might have a different perspective on the cause of a crash.
If you or a family member has been injured or killed in a pedestrian accident, the Florida Pedestrian Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing truck accident victims across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.