Portsmouth Parking Lot Crash Case Settlement | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia personal injury client suffered serious injuries to his hands when another driver crashed into his car in a shopping center parking lot. The collision happened in Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), and our client incurred a permanent disability that left him unable to return to the job he held before the crash.

Police investigating the crash determined that our client had right of way at a four-way intersection in the parking lot. He was moving through the intersection when the driver of a pickup truck slammed into our client’s driver-side door.

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Both our client’s thumbs were broken, and one required surgical repairs. The personal injury lawyers with our Virginia Beach-based law firm felt we had a strong argument to make for the pickup truck driver acting negligently and having liability for compensating our client, but the case was complicated by a missing stop sign.

Key Legal Strategy

Our client’s car was to the right of the pickup truck. This indicates that our client had right of way at the four-way intersection. The shopping center’s owner had taken the extra step of putting up stop signs on select corners, but the one that should have signaled the pickup truck driver to stop had gone missing.

The insurance company for the pickup driver referenced the missing stop sign while initially refusing to settle our client’s personal insurance claims. Consequently, we filed a lawsuit in Portsmouth Circuit Court.

While preparing for trial, we obtained body cam footage recorded as police officers responded to the crash. The officers’ conversations indicated the stop sign that should have been in place for the pickup truck driver had been missing for a couple months and that several other collisions had occurred at this intersection.

Learning this information prompted our Virginia personal injury law firm to add the shopping center owner as a defendant/respondent to the lawsuit. At deposition, an official representing the shopping center owner explained that it relied on a property management company to inspect the premises and recommend safety improvements. A subpoena for records kept by the property management company turned up no inspection documents or safety recommendations. This substantiated our assertion that the shopping center owner was negligent in failing to meet its duty to maintain a safe premises.

Eventually, the insurance companies for the pickup truck driver and the shopping center owner agreed to enter into mediation as a way to avoid trial. The mediation failed, but settlements were reached within days of the final mediation session.

Achieving this successful outcome for our Virginia personal injury client required demonstrating that the missing stop sign did not relieve the pickup driver of their duty to yield right of way. Our legal team did this by referencing state laws on how to approach and move through intersections. We also recorded the pickup driver admitting during a deposition that seeing a stop sign would have helped them avoid the wreck.

That admission and the contents of the police body cam video pointed to the shopping center owner’s liability for failing to act to ensure the safety of people visiting the premises. Adding that company to the case provided an additional source of financial recovery for past and ongoing medical expenses, as well as for reduced lifetime earnings due to a permanent disability.

Lawyer Corner: Attorney Randy Appleton Discussed This Shopping Center Parking Lot Injury Case

Q: Randy, I understand your client was injured while in a shopping center parking lot. Is that accurate?

A: Yes. He was driving through the shopping center to get a haircut and was hit at an intersection.

Q: What city did this happen in?

A: Portsmouth, Virginia.

Q: Is it accurate to state that there were not only issues about the extent of his injuries but issues about whether the other driver was responsible for striking his car?

A: Correct. The accident occurred at a four-way intersection. There were supposed to be stop signs on the two lanes that were to my client’s left and right as he entered the lane that travelled to his left. However, it turned out that one lane was missing a stop sign.

Q: Is it true that the driver who is to the right of the other driver at an intersection would have the right away if there is not a stoplight or a stop sign?

A: Yes. The negligence and liability of the driver who hit our client was pretty clear. In fact, the negligent motorist testified during a deposition that he was responsible for the accident.

Q: So, in many personal injury cases, there are issues related to the extent of a client’s injuries and whether there is enough insurance. What kind of injuries did your client have?

A: My client suffered two broken thumbs. One of the thumbs had to be surgically repaired, and the damages were pretty significant because he also was not able to return to his job at a fast food restaurant.

Q: Did he get surgery on either one of his hands?

A: Yes.

Q: It looks like, in the aftermath of the accident, police officers who arrived at the scene had video cameras either mounted to their patrol cars or on their vests. Did you do research and learn that there was camera footage?

A: Yes. We found out there was body cam footage that could be retrieved through a subpoena duces tecum, and the police department produced the video in response to that subpoena.

Q: I understand that you looked through all the video and found some very important information. Can you explain that, please?

A: Yeah, it was pretty interesting. One of the police officers was talking at the scene about how long the stop sign had been missing and how many wrecks had occurred at that particular intersection. That immediately created the basis for a claim against the owner of the shopping center due to not properly maintaining a safe premises.

Q: This meant you filed a lawsuit against the shopping center owner, as well as the other driver, correct?

A: Correct. We initially just sued the other driver. However, once we saw the response to the subpoena and the video footage, we also took legal action against the shopping center owner.

Q: That seemed to be a good legal strategy. Before this case went to trial, were you able to settle this case with both of the parties named in lawsuits?

A: Yes. The fact that we had two defendants helped us reach a level of insurance coverage that was enough to properly compensate my client for the amount of the damages he suffered in the accident.