Fatal Accident at St. Louis Polling Place

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A runaway vehicle struck and killed an 87-year-old woman as she waited in line with about one hundred other people to cast her ballot on Election Day 2020.

The wreck occurred at about 6 a.m. outside the Affton White-Rodgers Community Center on MacKenzie Road as the woman was crossing the street. Following the wreck, emergency responders rushed the woman to a nearby hospital, where she was later declared dead. 

The driver, a 26-year-old woman, remained at the scene and cooperated with police.

Pedestrian Accidents and Speed

Excessive velocity is a factor in many fatal Missouri car crashes. Speed increases the risk of a crash and the severity of a crash. These factors are elevated in pedestrian-on-vehicle wrecks.

At impact speeds below 25mph, the pedestrian death rate is less than 10 percent in these cases. The death rate catapults to 75 percent at impact speeds greater than 45mph. Multiple restraint layers protect vehicle occupants from injuries. But pedestrians literally only have the clothes on their backs.

When they are behind the wheel, most drivers are attracted to motion, such as fast-moving cars and quick-changing lights. So, they often overlook slow-moving or non-moving pedestrians. Additionally, turning wrecks are quite common. For example, when drivers turn right, they usually only look to the left. Once there is no oncoming traffic, they move forward. If pedestrians are to the right, even if they are in the crosswalk, most tortfeasors (negligent drivers) never see them. 

Liability Issues

Pedestrian accidents could involve the negligence per se rule or the ordinary negligence doctrine. Pedestrians who are in the crosswalk with the light have the right-of-way. But most pedestrian accidents occur outside marked crosswalks. Therefore, this doctrine normally does not apply.

That leaves the ordinary negligence rule. Negligence is essentially a lack of care. Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Striking a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian does not legally have the right-of-way, clearly violates this duty.

The sudden emergency doctrine is one of the most common insurance company defenses in this matter. Insurance company lawyers usually lay the foundation for this defense by claiming that the victim “darted out into traffic” and therefore an accident was inevitable.

Legally, the sudden emergency defense applies if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency. Most tortfeasors react reasonably. They pull over, render aid if possible, and wait for emergency responders to arrive. 

But a jaywalking pedestrian is not a “sudden emergency” in this context. That label only applies to lightning strikes, hood fly-ups, and other entirely unanticipated events. In the above story, the wreck happened on Election Day when everyone knew that polling places would be crowded. So, the sudden emergency defense would almost certainly not hold up in court.

Pedestrian accident victims could be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Louis, contact Schultz & Myers, Personal Injury Lawyers. You have a limited amount of time to act. 

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