Thousands of pedestrians are injured and killed by cars throughout New Jersey each year. When pedestrians are injured automobile accidents, they are entitled to compensation for their injuries. However, in order to recover compensation, the injury victim’s attorney identify all parties who be responsible for causing the victim’s injuries. Obviously, that begins with the negligent driver who hit struck them with a car. Also, the town or municipality responsible for the dangerous intersection where the accident took place may also be responsible when a lack of appropriate traffic signals played a role in causing the collision.
Automotive collisions involving pedestrians can have devastating consequences, since the pedestrian’s body is completely unprotected from the force of the impact. This fact was tragically illustrated in June 2020, in Westfield, when John Cregg, 87, a Scotch Plains resident, was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by James Reid, 74, while crossing the intersection at West South Avenue and North Scotch Plains Avenue. Though Cregg was conscious and alert upon the arrival of police at the scene of the accident, his injuries were severe and ultimately claimed his life. While the intersection where Cregg was struck does feature traffic signals (which Reid was cited for failing to observe), other streets and crossings nearby lack the traffic control devices needed to keep pedestrians and other road users safer.
In 2012, Westfield was shown in tragic and graphic fashion just how unsafe for pedestrians some of its crossings and roadways are. On January 25th of that year, Patricia Currie, 68, a hospice nurse, struck a grazing blow to a pedestrian with her vehicle as both parties attempted to traverse the intersection of North Avenue and Tuttle Parkway. Currie pulled over to render aid to the man she struck, and she was attempting to help him across the street when the pair were hit by a second vehicle, operated by Charles Casiere, 85, a school crossing guard who would later plead guilty to drunk driving at the time of the accident. Moments after the impact, Casiere’s friend and fellow crossing guard, John Diaz, 75, followed him through the intersection and also struck Currie where she lay in the street. The two men had been drinking at the Knights of Columbus hall prior to the accident.
In that tragic circumstance, it’s obvious that the two men who struck Currie with their vehicles while intoxicated bear the lion’s share of the culpability, legal and ethical, for the collision that killed her. However, is it possible that the lack of traffic lights on the busy street also played a role? Perhaps a red light would have had more success in piercing through the intoxication of Casiere’s and Diaz’s minds, causing them to stop or at least slow down before striking Currie. Maybe a traffic signal would have helped prevent the initial pedestrian collision that prompted Currie to exit her vehicle. Regardless, one thing is certain: should another pedestrian be struck by an automobile at that same intersection or a similar one nearby, the injured party will have a strong case in arguing that the town of Westfield bears liability for their injuries.
Pursuing a legal claim against a municipal, state, or federal government body is somewhat more complicated than pursuing a similar claim against a private individual or a corporation. This is due to the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, which grants government entities certain freedoms from liability in the course of pursuing their duties. This causes the standard for demonstrating negligence to be fairly stringent when a government actor is the defendant in a lawsuit. However, successfully arguing a claim of negligence against a municipality is by no means impossible, if your attorney is experienced and familiar with the parameters of liability exposure. Claims against public entities in New Jersey are subject to the Tort Claims Act. In order to comply, you or your attorney must notify the public entity within 90 days of the incident, or you may be barred forever from filing a claim.
New Jersey statute describes a public entity as liable for injuries caused by the condition of its property if it can be demonstrated that the property was in a “dangerous condition” at the time of the injury, that said injury was the direct result of this dangerous condition, that the risk of injuries of this nature arising from the dangerous condition was reasonably foreseeable, and either (a) an employee, acting within the scope of his employment, committed a negligent or wrongful act of omission which created the dangerous condition, or (b) the public entity had actual notice (having been informed) or constructive notice (having had enough time to discover, given appropriate attention) that the dangerous condition existed with a sufficient amount of time to take measures to resolve the danger prior to the occasion of the injury. In this case, the latter condition would be applicable, as a fatal pedestrian accident involving no less than three instances of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle within a matter of minutes certainly constitutes actual notice that the intersection is not safe for pedestrian use in its current state without a traffic signal.
If you or a loved one is injured in a pedestrian accident in NJ, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these claims. An experienced NJ Injury Lawyer will know how to obtain the accident report, timely file a claim, and contact the insurance company for the car and the town so you can make a claim for your injuries. My NJ Injury Lawyer Howard P. Lesnik, Esq. offers free strategy sessions to address any issue or questions you may have your pedestrian accident claim in NJ.
Please contact NJ Injury Lawyer Howard Lesnik, Esq., immediately if you were involved in a pedestrain accident. I personally handle NJ personal injury cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session.