A speeding car struck and killed a pedestrian as he tried to move his disabled vehicle out of a traffic lane.
According to police and witnesses, a 50-year-old Boonville man was standing beside his car in a dazed state following a single vehicle fender bender accident. Two passing motorists stopped their vehicles, got out, and tried to help him. As the Booneville man was pushing his vehicle to the side of the road, a motorist plowed into him and also collided into the two aforementioned parked vehicles.
The Booneville man was declared dead at the scene.
Good Samaritan Laws in Kentucky
We get lots of questions about this area. Most people want to do the right thing and help crash victims and others who are in immediate need, but these kind-hearted individuals are understandably concerned about potential legal liability.
Good Samaritan laws, which are based on the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, protect bystanders who help people that are in danger. But these laws vary significantly in different states. For example, in many jurisdictions, medical professionals who try to help injured strangers are held to a higher legal standard.
But Kentucky’s laws are different. If a bystander’s care further injures a victim, the bystander is immune from civil or criminal liability unless the bystander was extremely reckless or grossly negligent. Recent amendments extended this immunity to people who bring drug overdose victims to hospitals or call 9-1-1 for them.
Gross negligence, in this context, might be something like dragging a victim with an injured back over a field of rocks. Anything less is probably just negligence.
Nevertheless, victims have some legal protections as well, mostly thanks to the negligent undertaking rule. Assume Rex sees John, who is unconscious in a burning building. He drags John to the door, gets tired, and walks away, leaving John there. If John’s injuries were worse as a result of Rex’s half-hearted attempt to help, Rex could be liable for damages.
This rule also comes up in many noncommercial alcohol server claims, mostly party host claims. Now assume Rex tells John, who has been drinking at his party, that he will get an Uber for John. Rex does not follow through on his promise, John drives home, and kills someone in a crash. In that situation, Rex’s negligent undertaking could mean he is liable for those car crash damages.
The bottom line is that if you see an injured person in Kentucky, and you make a good faith effort to help, you are probably immune from civil or criminal liability.
Speed and Pedestrian Accidents
As in the above story, when a speeding car hits a stationary person, the results are usually tragic, especially at freeway speeds. At impact speeds lower than 30mph, the pedestrian death rate is about 20 percent in these cases. The fatality rate skyrockets to 90 percent at impact speeds above 55mph.
Excessive velocity does not just increase the force in a collision. It also increases the risk of a collision. At 30mph, after the drivers see hazards and apply the brakes, most cars travel about six car lengths before they stop. At 60mph, this stopping distance triples to eighteen car lengths.
Even if these pedestrians survive the wreck, they often have extremely serious injuries, such as internal wounds and head injuries. These injuries are normally permanent.
To obtain compensation for these injuries, a Lexington personal injury attorney can normally use the negligence per se rule or the ordinary negligence doctrine. Both these approaches might be subject to some defenses.
If vehicles strike pedestrians while they are in a crosswalk and they have the light, these tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be liable for damages as a matter of law. A recorded violation of a safety law triggers the negligence per se rule.
But most vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes happen outside marked crosswalks. Additionally, first responders often do not issue citations in these situations. So, the negligence per se rule does not apply to many of these wrecks.
That leaves the ordinary negligence doctrine. Negligence is basically a lack of care. Most noncommercial Kentucky drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and drive defensively. Striking a pedestrian, even if that pedestrian did not have the right-of-way, clearly violates that duty.
In both these situations, available compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Defenses like distracted walking and sudden emergency could affect the amount of compensation in these cases.
Comparative fault, or distracted walking in this case, shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. Essentially, the defense is failing to look both ways before crossing the street.
Usually, comparative fault reduces compensation. Sudden emergency, if it applies, bars compensation. Tortfeasors are not negligent as a matter of law if they reasonably react to a sudden emergency. Although most drivers react reasonably in these situations, a jaywalking pedestrian is not a “sudden emergency.” This label is reserved for lightning strikes and other completely unexpected situations.
Vehicle-on-pedestrian wrecks often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions.