A tragic story about a hit and run pedestrian accident reported in the February 18, 2015 edition of the North Shore News provides important lessons for both drivers and pedestrians.
The News reported that on the evening of December 4, 2013, 25 year old Madeline Beckett was driving to her parents' home in North Vancouver when she was distracted by an item falling off the passenger seat of her car. During the few seconds that her eyes strayed from the road on that dark night, she failed to see 22 year old university student Leanne Pickard crossing at a crosswalk. Madeline struck Leanne, who was thrown over the top of car and landed 20 feet away. The impact broke the car windshield.
Another driver who witnessed the accident called 911. Leanne was rushed to hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain injury. Madeline panicked and kept driving. A retired police officer out walking his dog noticed Madeline's broken windshield and called police. Minutes later, police located Madeline at her parents' home, where she admitted to having been in an accident.
Madeline was charged, and later pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident. On February 11, 2015 she was given a nine-month conditional sentence, including six months of house arrest, and a two-year driving ban. Leanne, who now suffers from partial paralysis and is still learning to speak again, has a life sentence of disability.
Leanne has commenced a civil action for the physical and financial damages that she has suffered as a result of the accident. Depending on the severity of her injuries (and particularly whether she will ever be able to work and earn income as she might have had the accident not occurred), her award for pain and suffering, income loss, future care and other expenses may run into the millions of dollars. If her award exceeds the amount of third-party liability insurance that Madeline carried on her vehicle, Madeline will be personally responsible for the excess and could be paying that judgment for the rest of her life.
Whether we are drivers or pedestrians, this sad tale holds lessons for all of us.
According to ICBC statistics, distracted driving was the third-highest cause of accidents between 2008 and 2012. Drivers have a duty to give their full attention to the other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists with which they share the road.
And when an accident happens, it is imperative that you stop and identify yourself to the other party, or to police. Madeline failed to do so, and she now has a criminal record in addition to the civil action she is facing.
Hopefully, Madeline took the precaution of securing the maximum of $5 million in third party liability insurance available from ICBC when she insured her car. This will protect her from financial devastation in the event that a court award in Leanne's favour runs into the millions of dollars.
Pedestrians can also learn from this story. Crosswalks give you the right of way, but they do not protect you from distracted or careless drivers. Always make sure that drivers see and slow down for you before you step off the curb, especially at night.
In addition to protecting your safety, protect your financial security by carrying Underinsured Motorist Protection, which for a small premium of $25.00 can provide you with an additional $1 million in insurance coverage. This coverage will provide much needed funds in the event that the driver who hits you and causes catastrophic injury doesn't carry enough third party liability insurance to pay the full amount of your claim.
Be safe, and be smart. Take care of yourself and others when you head out on the road.