Motorist hits pedestrian on highway

Michael Morgenstern

Written by
— Updated on October 3, 2017

driving in rainThis case involves a man who was driving westbound, in the left lane, toward a small town on the highway. The highway had a posted speed limit of 45mph, with four lanes (two lanes running in each direction) and was separated by a paved median. A tropical storm had hit the area and the weather was rainy, dark, and visibility was low. There had been an accident in which another motorist lost control of her car, crossed the median, and collided with a tractor-trailer in the left lane of westbound traffic. The woman was standing in the median waving her hands. The man pulled his car over into the median three car lengths ahead of her car. He left his headlights on but did not turn on his emergency lights. The man walked back to the woman carrying a flashlight. At this time, another vehicle was traveling east in the left lane. This particular motorist saw headlights and thought there may have been an accident but he continued to travel in the left lane. The motorist swerved to avoid hitting the woman’s damaged car and upon doing so, struck the walking man with his car. The force of the accident threw the man 75 to 100 feet down the road. The man suffered a broken leg, a broken neck, broken ribs, and collapsed lungs. After the other motorist hit the man, the motorist did not stop and continued to drive. He eventually stopped at a gas station two miles down the road. The force of the collision dented the motorist’s front bumper, damaged the hood, crushed the windshield, and buckled the car’s roof.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • If a motorist is driving in dark, wet, rainy conditions and sees what he believes is an accident, does the motorist have a duty to stop so that he does not hit someone?

Expert Witness Response

What makes cases like this so dangerous is that in a pedestrian-car crash, the greater the speed of the car, the higher the pedestrian’s point of impact. Since there was a great deal of damage done to the other motorist’s car in this case, it is likely that he was driving between 40 and 60mph at the time of impact. The reason this motorist was most likely negligent in this case is because he failed to brake during and after the impact. The motorist owed a duty of care to protect others from the risk of harm based on the bad weather conditions, since it was a dark, rainy night. The fact that there was an accident and that pedestrians and emergency personnel were probably on the road should have made the motorist stop because there was a clear danger of hitting these people. The motorist in this case should have made an effort to slow down or to change lanes. Also, the motorist should have been traveling at a slower speed, given the bad weather conditions and the highway’s posted speed limit.

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