A woman sitting in a beach chair and reading a book on the sand at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront suffered serious injuries when a contractor’s pickup truck struck her on the morning of September 7, 2017. The crash is similar to a fatal 2010 incident at 25th Street.
That earlier collision was caused by the driver of a city-owned garbage truck, The driver ran over a man who was sleeping on the beach. Although the city settled some wrongful death claims with the victim’s family for what many considered an insufficient amount, the at-fault driver was not held personally accountable because the city invoked sovereign immunity. That legal principle protects government employees -- and sometimes agencies -- from lawsuits related to actions taken while doing government business.
Sovereign immunity will probably not apply to this most-recent pedestrian crash on Virginia Beach. The man behind the wheel of the pickup has been identified as an independent contractor who was hired by event organizers to collect equipment left on the sand after the 2017 Labor Day Weekend American Music Festival. Since he was not working for the city, he ad his employers could be liable for settling personal injury insurance claims or for answering for any negligence in a civil lawsuit.
According to witnesses who saw the crash near the steps down from the Boardwalk at 24th Street, the pickup driver was making a U-turn when he hit the woman in the beach chair. Individuals who rushed to provide first aid described the woman’s injuries as including a compound fracture of her left arm, a dislocated left leg and lacerations to her leg. Details on her condition after arriving at the hospital were not released to the public.
Pedestrian crashes like this one are often attributed to driver distraction. When work vehicles enter parks, beaches or other areas where people are likely to be walking or sitting, drivers must pay extra attention to where everyone is at all times. Looking out for pedestrians is doubly important when backing up or turning. Even a few seconds of inattention can prove deadly.
The Federal Communications Commission, as part of its efforts to reduce cell phone use and texting among drivers, recently reported that “over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured daily in incidents reported as distraction-affected crashes in the United States.”
Pedestrians suffer inordinately from distracted drivers. As noted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “5,376 pedestrians [were] killed in 2015, up from 4,884 in 2014.”
Fortunately, the woman hit by the pickup truck driver at 24th Street in Virginia Beach did not lose her life. She does, however, face a long, difficult and painful recovery from injuries she almost definitely did nothing to cause. Consulting with a Virginia Beach personal injury lawyer will help her hold the contractor who hurt her accountable.