Our Virginia personal injury client was hit by a distracted driver while he was using a crosswalk in downtown Norfolk, VA. The pedestrian’s injuries were originally diagnosed as cuts to both arms and a severely sprained ankle. Subsequent treatment for unexpected swelling and pain in his lower leg revealed a shattered ankle and heel that required major reparative surgery and extensive physical therapy.
The ultimate diagnosis was a calcaneal comminuted and malaligned fracture at the subtalar joint. In layman’s terms, the pedestrian accident in the crosswalk left our Virginia personal injury client with a broken heel, damage to the rear ankle bone, numerous bone fragments scattered throughout his lower leg and a misalignment between his ankle and heel.
The man’s treatment was delayed and complicated by a move from Norfolk to California, but he eventually underwent the required surgery. Months of therapy enabled him to walk and stand normally, which were both essential to allowing him to resume his career as a school teacher.
By the time our Virginia personal injury client hired us, he had accumulated $40,000 in unpaid medical bills and had spent several months on unpaid disability leave.
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Key Legal Strategy
We took this case after the injured pedestrian approach another law firm and was told that he did not have a viable case. This amazed us because the pedestrian clearly had right of way under the laws of Virginia and because the driver who hit him admitted that he had taken his eyes off the road in the seconds before the crash.
State laws declare that drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. The statutes on sharing the road with people on foot also grant pedestrians right of way on streets where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or lower. Both criteria applied at the time and at the place where this pedestrian accident occurred.
Additionally, the accident report prepared by the police who responded to and investigated the crash contained a statement from the driver relating how he looked down and failed to see the pedestrian in time to avoid crashing into our client. Since the driver failed to keep a proper lookout, he could clearly be held responsible for causing the accident, which meant he could clearly be held liable for settling an insurance claim.
The only real issue was how much our Virginia personal injury client could claim in compensation. We requested the maximum coverage limit under the at-driver’s liability insurance. To substantiate that demand, we presented copies of our client’s medical bills and digital before-and-after photographs of the injured pedestrian’s ankle. X-rays and other medical images further showed the damage to the man’s heel and ankle.
The insurance company that held the at-fault driver’s policy agreed to pay all it was legally required to pay. We supplemented that amount by invoking underinsured motorist provisions of our client’s own auto insurance policy. In the end, the injured pedestrian received payments totaling $100,000 to pay off medical debt and replace lost wages.
We are glad we could help the pedestrian who was so severely injured by a distracted driver. While holding the negligent driver accountable proved relatively easy, we still needed to seek and secure additional insurance coverage in order to ensure our Virginia personal injury client received enough money to resume the life he lived before getting hit and hurt.
Court and Date: Norfolk Circuit Court, Norfolk, VA, 2008
Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, staff attorney