Reckless, criminal or negligent acts that result in wrongful death traumatize and sometimes shatter families. On top of the emotional loss, if the victim is a wage earner the consequences may be financially devastating. These cases require compassion, skill and patience, as well as an unbowed determination to fight for justice.
Wrongful death cases are typically more complicated and sophisticated than other injury claims, and they require careful strategy and planning. Your lawyer must plan delicately, using understanding and compassion to enlist the support of the various survivors involved. There are special statutes which apply, as well as, steps which must first be taken in probate court, not to mention specific time and filing deadlines which may differ.
Who will control the case? Who gets the money and how much? How should the case proceed and against whom? These are all tough issues to work out at the outset, and it is crucial that you choose the best representation.
Poor Traffic Design Proven Against Drive-Through Restaurant
Our client was the then unborn child of a father who had stopped his vehicle in the middle of the road to make a legal left turn to enter a popular coffee shop drive-through, which was adjacent to a gas station. His car was rear-ended at high speed, and his death left this child, born some months after her father's death, not provided for and to grow up never knowing her father.
This road was made particularly dangerous by the poor design of the drive-through, which sent its customers to an open area to the left of the gas station on a clockwise rather than the more common counter-clockwise route around the right side of the gas station. The consequence of this was that cars entering and leaving the drive-through conflicted with those leaving and entering the left side of the gas station, clogging the left side parking lot entrance. The gas station, wanting to keep the use of an automobile service bay at the rear of the building, had refused to allow the franchisee to design a counter-clockwise route around the right side of the gas station which would be accessed from the right side parking lot entrance.
The defendant claimed that the design of the drive-through had never changed and that it was safe. We were able to insist that the traffic engineer share the original files and digital photographs used in the design of the drive-through, and these documents clearly showed that the intended design had been the safer counter-clockwise one first entering around the right side of the gas station and exiting on the left side. We also found memos that warned of the problem.
We were also able to obtain grainy video footage taken by security cameras. When enhanced, this evidence showed our client waiting in his lane and unable to enter the drive-through because of the conflicting traffic. The case settled at mediation without going to trial providing a substantial compensation fund for the fatherless child’s future.
Mediation wins compensation after motorcycle death
Motorcycle riders are often unfairly blamed for accidents when the true culprits are those drivers who, because of conditioning or ignorance, fail to “see” the motorcyclists with whom they share the roads. Our client’s son, a corrections officer, was riding his motorcycle to work when he was killed after colliding with a truck, which ws traveling in the opposite direction, made a sudden left turn. The driver of the truck claimed that our client was riding at such a high rate of speed, that he didn’t know what happened and didn’t see the motorcycle until after the accident. Our reconstruction of the accident showed otherwise. We were able to demonstrate that the strike mark on the truck’s hood was caused by our client’s helmet, meaning that the driver had to have seen what happened, and the motorcycle’s headlight was operating at the time, even in daylight. Further, we took a deposition in which we discovered that the driver had talked to a family member after the accident, describing it in detail. The case settled favorably at mediation without it ever going to court for a trial.
Jury finds for client struck by car
Our client, a hard-working college student and athlete, had spent an evening with friends at a bar. After saying goodbye, and knowing the dangers of drinking and driving, he opted to walk back to his college dormitory. On his way home he crossed the road to get a sandwich at a coffee shop and was hit by a car, suffering severe injuries. Ironically, the car was driven by another student who had been drinking at the same bar. This was a difficult case for two reasons. Our client’s blood-alcohol level was high, and the defendants argued that he had stepped suddenly into the road before being hit. We successfully challenged the accuracy of the blood-alcohol test by pointing out that the painkillers administered to our client were in an alcohol-based solution, which would distort the blood-alcohol level measurement. After inspecting the vehicle, we discovered that our client was hit by the right front bumper of the vehicle. If he had been crossing from the driver’s right to left, this would have been consistent with him stepping suddenly into the road, but if, as we maintained, he was crossing from the driver’s left to right, walking in the direction of the coffee shop, it meant that he would have been fully three-quarters across a well-lighted roadway when he was hit. We took his x-rays to his orthopedic surgeon, who testified that the fracture to our client’s right leg broke in towards the other leg indicating he had been struck on the outside of the leg. This supported our contention that at the moment of impact our client was in fact walking toward the coffee shop and was almost completely across the road. The case was brought to a successful conclusion and our client received a substantial verdict from the jury that allowed him to recover and resume his studies.