It’s no surprise many are out and about shopping during the holiday season. Parking lots and garages during the holiday season present higher risks because of the increased flow of traffic and heavier influx of distracted shoppers. This is evident by the unfortunate pedestrian auto accident in New Orleans, Louisiana which occurred recently.
On December 21, 2017, WWL reported a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle at Lakeside Shopping Center (commonly referred to as Lakeside Mall) in the parking lot causing severe bodily injuries and causing her to fracture her skull. According to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, the individual driving the vehicle fled the scene following the accident. Witnesses were able to capture a photograph and identifying information on the vehicle which was a 2008 Nissan Armada bearing Louisiana license plate number YRX913. The matter is still under investigation and anyone with information is encouraged to call the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office traffic division at 504-598-5880 or CRIMESTOPPERS at 504-822-1111.
The pedestrian injured at Lakeside is likely facing lifelong injuries and mounting medical bills. The pedestrian has many legal rights in this situation. As opposed to discussing the criminal aspects of this case, we will discuss the injured individual’s path to full compensation. First, one must address whether the driver and/or owner of the hit and run vehicle will be found. As witnesses were able to capture the license plate number of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle will likely be located very promptly by the investigating officers who will be able to identify the owner through the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles database. If the owner was the driver of the vehicle, the driver’s/owner’s auto insurance policy will be the first insurance policy to come into play.
If the owner was not the driver, but gave permission to the driver to use the vehicle, the owner’s insurance policy will likely come into play first, even if the driver had their own personal policy of insurance. This is so because, when there is no coverage dispute, the insurance policy on the actual vehicle will prime the insurance policy of the driver even if the owner was not at fault. It should be noted, even though the insurance policy of the vehicle owner will be primary, a claim can also be made against the driver’s personal auto insurance policy and that policy will likely provide additional coverage.
Even though the insurance policy on the vehicle will prime, there are certain situations where the owner’s insurance carrier could deny coverage. If the vehicle was “regularly” being used by the driver with the owner’s knowledge and the owner did not disclose this to the insurance company, coverage could be denied. This is so because this is tantamount to defrauding an insurance company – avoiding payment of premiums for additional drivers. If the vehicle was just being used by this driver on this specific occasion, coverage will likely be afforded under the “permissive driver” extension. However, if the vehicle was stolen by the driver and/or not being used with the owner’s permission, the insurance company covering the owner of the vehicle will likely deny coverage.
Let’s assume that there is no insurance coverage for the owner and/or the driver who fled the scene – because let’s face it, most people flee the scene of an accident because they do not have insurance or because they have something to hide. In this case, the injured pedestrian has additional avenues:
- a claim against the pedestrian’s own underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage of her auto insurance policy;
- a claim against the med-pay portion of her auto insurance policy;
- a potential negligence claim against third parties such as Lakeside Shopping Center, JC Penny or Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office; and
- a claim against any personal policy of excess insurance the pedestrian may have secured.
The injured pedestrian should first look to her auto insurance policy to determine whether she has “underinsured/uninsured” motorist coverage as this will apply even though she was not in her vehicle at the time of the accident. If you are hit by a vehicle, your underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage applies to you while you are walking and even riding a bicycle. The injured pedestrian may also have a provision in her auto insurance policy called “med-pay” coverage. “Med-pay” coverage is available to help cover medical bill expenses when you are injured by a driver of a vehicle.
There may even be a potential claim against the third parties such as Lakeside Shopping Center, JC Penny or Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. This is so because the owners, operators and entities which undertake to provide maintenance and control traffic on the premises are obligated to abide by certain contractual duties. At The Cardone Law Firm, we have taken on pedestrian auto accident cases in parking lots and made successful claims against third parties whose negligence caused and/or contributed to the accident. We have even taken on cases against Lakeside Mall for the negligent maintenance of garages on their premises.
Unfortunately, there is no uniform code which applies to regulations in parking lots or parking garages. This is when the necessity of an attorney is realized. As attorneys, we subpoena information from potentially liable third parties to see if there may be any extra duties which were undertaken but not complied with. For example, if a contract existed between JC Penny and Lakeside for Lakeside to provide additional traffic control during this holiday season and maintain the garage, and this was not done, or was done negligently, a valid claim against these entities could more fully compensate the injured pedestrian. We also have experience interpreting personal excess policies which could be very valuable to pedestrians who are injured and need additional funds to cover their medical expenses.
If you have been injured in a hit and run accident or have questions about your legal rights or interpretation of an insurance policy, phone cardone for a free consultation at 504-522-3333 or chat us online at www.cardonelaw.com.