Run Over at Night: a Common Tale of Pedestrian Tragedy

The firm is representing the family of Julie Hernandez in a wrongful death case stemming from a tragic night this year when a car ran her down and killed her. We review around 20 cases a year involving pedestrian deaths and there are usually a few sad facts in common:

1) they happen at night
2) the victim is wearing dark clothing
3) the victim is outside of the crosswalk but nearest crosswalk is a half a mile away
For people living in Atlanta who own cars, it is sometimes hard to understand that our citizens who rely on public transportation have to cross the street 10-15 times a day and with regularity they can develop a dangerous comfort level with high speed traffic. Compound that with the fact that there are areas on Buford Highway and in Clayton County where the crosswalks are a half mile apart and you will invariably see pedestrians crossing 45 and 55 mile per hour roads. Do it at night and you have a recipe for tragedy.

It seems obvious that with nightfall, the issue of conspicuity becomes tantamount, but why? The answer is simple, human beings have crappy night vision. We were built to hunt in the daytime and at night we cannot judge distance. In fact the photo sensitive cones in our eyes are more sensitive on the periphery than they are in the center in low light.

The key issues involved in analyzing whether a pedestrian wrongful death is caused by the driver or the pedestrian is the speed of the car and the decision making by the pedestrian. For example; 1) how is the ambient lighting? 2) What color clothes did the pedestrian wear? 3) were there eyewitnesses to the vehicle’s speed?

The final question is always, if the driver had been paying attention, could they and should they have been able to avoid hitting and killing the pedestrian? When engineers get involved, the common question involves analyzing when the driver would have perceived the pedestrian and when the should have reacted. The usual figure for perception reaction time is 1.4 to 1.6 seconds to perceive and react.Olson & Sivak (1986) Remember that even at 35 miles per hour, the vehicle travels 51 feet in one second. It takes another 51 feet to bring the vehicle to a complete stop.

In reconstructing these crashes to prove whether the pedestrian was struck because of their own negligence or the negligence of the driver, the skid distances, witness statements and ambient light measurements are all essential in Atlanta–Wrongful Death attorneys tackle these cases on a regular basis and although they are challenging, the reward of closure for the victim and the driver’s family is worthwhile.