Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

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Rear Backup Camera.jpgWe posted on March 6 about Mandatory Back-Up Cameras: Worth the Cost? It seems that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been getting a lot of criticism for his delay in acting on the proposal.

The Tampa Bay Times has an editorial pointing out that the cost of backup cameras ranges from $58 to $203 per car (in our post, we only had data about the higher-end dollar figure).

But, is this even a worthy issue? Apparently, back-up cameras are already standard on 45% of all 2012 models. Based on that, it might appear that this is something the public is demanding. If so, why the delay in implementing the rule? And why is the automobile industry fighting back so hard? It appears that there is no objection to back-up cameras, just the nuances of the camera. From USA Today:

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Backup Camera.jpgI am fortunate that I’ve never had to litigate a case involving a driver who backed up into a child or a person. Statistically, about 16,000 of these accidents happen every year, with about 300 deaths. The drivers are most often (70%) the parents or family members of children who are injured.

There have been proposals since at least 2008 to require all cars to feature backup cameras. Many thought the rule on rear visibility standards was going to pass this year, but it has been delayed once again. The automobile wants lawmakers to consider other alternatives.

One proponent likens backup cameras to airbags–prevailing wisdom was that the public didn’t want them, but they did. Now, we accept that the cost of an airbag is built into the car, and if it increases the price a bit, that’s the price for safety. Backup cameras could increase the costs of cars by $200.

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Maryland Bus Accident.pngI’ve learned to not take things for granted at trial. I had a case once where a witness was going to testify about something, the defense lawyer objected, and the judge sustained (agreed with) that objection. I explained the the judge the objection was improper, that the evidence was allowed under Maryland law, and that my client should have been allowed to testify. He didn’t even spend a second reconsidering, but denied my request.

[It’s not important for the purpose of the story, but the judge ruled that the witness could not testify about what she heard an employee of the defendant corporation say immediately after an accident on company property. The judge ruled that the employee was not the corporation, so the statement did not qualify as an admission by party-opponent. Therefore, it was hearsay and forbidden. This is dead-wrong on the law].

So, I’ve learned that judges are people, too. They don’t always have all of the answers. It must be hard to be a judge–they have to know a little about the law for criminal cases, family/domestic cases, and civil cases. Of course they will get things wrong from time-to-time. I was caught off-guard because I thought the evidence rule was a basic one that everyone knew. I never made that mistake again.

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I'm Just a BillIn 2011, the Maryland Legislature decided that the minimum limits for automobile insurance, which were over 35 years old, needed to be increased. The limits were $20,000 per person/$40,000 per occurrence. They were increased to $30,000/$60,000. Not quite a cost-of-living adjustment (one inflation calculator told me that $20,000 in 1972 would be $107,626 in 2011 dollars). But, it’s something, anyway.

The goal of the 2011 legislation was further protect Maryland drivers. Healthcare costs and lost wages following a Maryland automobile accident can be high. The increase eases the pain a little bit. The problem with the 2011 change was that it did not include the uninsured division of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF).

Not only does MAIF insure (the otherwise uninsurable) drivers of Maryland (who are now required to have $30,000/$60,000), but it also provides protection to people who are in accidents with uninsured motorists, when the victims have no other source of insurance. For example, pedestrians hit by uninsured drivers; and people in bus accidents or taxi accidents who are injured in hit-and-run accidents. In order to pay those claims, MAIF collects a little bit of money from other insurance policies. So, a portion of my Allstate insurance premium goes to the MAIF fund.

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Phantom Vehicle.jpgMany people come to us because they’ve been in an accident, but they are unsure what their options are. This is rarely more true than in the phantom vehicle case. This is where there is an accident, but no sign of the person who caused the accident. These cases are sometimes hit-and-run accidents, though phantom vehicle cases can happen where the phantom vehicle takes the right-of-way from another motorist, causing that motorist to hit a third motorist (while the phantom vehicle goes merrily along its way). In many cases, these are pedestrian hit-and-runs.

What can be done? Fortunately, Ghostbusters aren’t needed. There are usually two options.

First, if you have uninsured motorist (UM) protection on your automobile insurance policy, you can file a claim against your insurance company, which will stand in the place of the phantom vehicle. You will have to prove your claim, either to the insurance company’s satisfaction or to a judge/jury. In some cases, though, your testimony alone may be sufficient proof (independent witnesses who saw the phantom vehicle wouldn’t hurt your case, however).