Liability in Injury Law: Considering Who is Legally Liable Following an Unusual Pedestrian Fatality

We pride ourselves on taking a comprehensive view of every client's case. This includes closely examining the facts to identify every person or entity whose actions or failure to act contributed to our client's injury or the death of their loved one. In this post, our Northwest Florida utility pole accident lawyer and his Panama City legal team examines a death caused by a falling light pole and considers the potential claims that might arise from such an accident.

Two Cars Crash, One Hits Pole, and Traffic Light Pole Falls, Killing Man in Phoenix

Earlier this week, a Fox affiliate reported on the tragic events that led to the death of a 25-year-old pedestrian in Phoenix. Police report that a car ran a red light, causing a collision between two vehicles at a midtown Phoenix intersection. After the vehicles collided, one spun out and crashed into a traffic light pole. The pole fell, hitting and killing the pedestrian. Officials believe the man was walking away from the intersection and may not have seen the pole falling towards him. The individuals in the two cars were transported to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.

Police are continuing their investigation and report that the drivers are currently blaming each other. The report suggests that, depending on what police uncover, the driver at fault might also face charges relating to the pedestrian death.

Who's to Blame? Panama City Injury Attorney Considers Issues of Fault and Liability

If a similar accident occurred in Panama City and the pedestrian's family engaged our services, we would perform an in-depth analysis of the facts to determine where fault lies. Importantly, more than one party can have played a role in causing the accident, so more than one party may be liable. We would want to look at all individuals, corporations, and municipalities that were factually at fault, and then look to the law to determine if they can legally be held responsible.

Imagining a hypothetical incident similar to that in Phoenix, liability could potentially rest on:

  • Driver 1 (the driver who caused the initial car crash) – The debate as to Driver 1's liability would probably focus on whether the pedestrian's death was a foreseeable result of the driver's acts (here, apparently running a red light). Negligence law, the body of law commonly relevant in car accident cases, only holds defendants liable for results that were reasonably foreseeable.
  • Driver 2 – Even if Driver 2 did not cause the initial crash, it is possible that his/her response caused unwarranted danger to the pedestrian. We would examine Driver 2's actions to determine whether the response was reasonable and whether it contributed to the pedestrian's death.
  • Parties Responsible for the Pole Construction & Maintenance - As the law firm for someone injured by a utility or light pole that fell following an accident, we would closely examine the condition of the pole and consider whether it had been maintained in a safe manner. Foreseeability would also be an issue here. We'd look at inspection records, referencing Florida's requirement that certain wooden poles be inspected every eight years (see article in T&D Magazine).

Even if that rule doesn't apply, the reasoning behind it might help a case for inadequate maintenance. In addition to maintenance issues, liability might stem from the initial erection of the pole in an unsafe manner, with inadequate materials, or in an unsafe location. This is an area in which expert consultants would be particularly helpful. If a traffic light was involved, as seems to be the case in the Phoenix incident, the complex rules for suing a municipality would also be triggered.

Liability rests on an analysis that combines both the law and the specific facts of the case. It is a complex analysis, even in what appears to be a simple case. In addition to the legal questions, there are "real life" issues. For example, when filing claims, we would also consider the ability of the parties to pay a judgment.

As a Panama City accident law firm, we have the knowledge and experience to help people navigate the civil injury law. Don't go it alone.

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