If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle at night, with no witnesses, how is it determined who was at fault?
Although a police report may take the driver at his word, an experienced personal injury lawyer will explore further. He will ask what clothing the pedestrian was wearing and may hire a lighting engineer to calculate when the pedestrian could first be seen had the driver been attentive to the road.
Next, he will find out where the point of impact was in the road. If the pedestrian had crossed 2 lanes, for example, he might have been 26 feet from the curb when struck. At a normal walking speed of 3mph, the pedestrian would have been walking about 4.5 feet per second.
So, it would have taken that pedestrian approximately 6 seconds from the time he or she left the curb, until point of impact.
Now the attorney will work backward to try to discover where the car was 6 seconds before impact.
If the drivers testimony was that he was travelling 40 mph, that is 60 feet per second. 6 seconds before impact, the driver would be 360 feet from the point of impact.
Normal perception time to see a hazard is .75 seconds and normal reaction time to apply the brakes is another .75 seconds. So in that 1.5 seconds from the time the driver would have seen the pedestrian if he was paying attention until he applied the brakes, the car would have travelled about 90 feet feet at 40 mph and would still be 270 feet from the pedestrian.
The attorney would then find out the stopping distance of a car with good brakes travelling 40 mph or 60 feet per second. At 40 miles per hour, a normal stopping distance would be 118 feet. Since the car was 270 feet from the pedestrian, the car should have been able to stop in time before striking the pedestrian.
Either the driver was travelling much faster than he stated or he was not paying attention to the road in front of him. This accident was avoidable.
This is a simple example of how an experienced attorney can calculate who was really at fault in an accident. Police reports are wrong more often than not.
In real life, if the matter were to go to court, an accident reconstructionist, a biomechanic and an illuminating engineer might all be hired to help prove the case.