Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

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Thrasymachus
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Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby Thrasymachus » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:43 pm

Back in late 2010 I hit a drunk pedestrian with my car late at night. Recently I got served papers by a police officer for a civil lawsuit regarding this. My insurance is also providing a defense attorney. Normally, like any sane person I avoid the legal system, but this has exposed me to it. According to my appointed lawyer, the way system works is he will try to put 100% of the blame on the pedestrian, while the opposing attorney in turn will try to pin the blame 100% on me.

According to my lawyer in most cases he wins and the other party gets nothing, and due to police report and surrounding facts he feels confident. This doesn't sit well with me. Is there anything I could possibly do to get the plaintiff a better settlement than otherwise possible, without at the same-time going over the $100,000 policy limit of my insurance?

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viniketa
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby viniketa » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:57 am

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catmoon
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby catmoon » Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:45 am

Well, if you win, you could give the settlement money to the pedestrian. However, the legal system might view this as an admission of guilt. Check with your lawyer.
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viniketa
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby viniketa » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:02 am

Of course, if you 'win', you don't get money (perhaps in NJ, payment of court costs by the losing party), but catmoon is right about the legal implications of personal payments to the pedestrian.

There might be one more option, which would be to organize some type of 'community fund' to pay medical costs for the pedestrian (and perhaps pay for re-hab, if appropriate). We see these all the time for victims of accident or disease. :thinking:

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:38 am

It might help to also know a few more details; what is it your fault? Was the pedestrian in a cross-walk? Or was he jay-walking? Did he just stagger out into the street as you were driving? Was there no opportunity to stop?

I agree with some of the other posts above; if you offer more money even from within the policy limits, you will be showing an admission of guilt. If it is not your fault, it is best to leave it in the hands of the attorney and let the settlement cover his medical costs and leave it as small a number as possible so that your insurance doesn't drop you or in the much worse scenario, they don't go after all of your assets when it goes above the policy limit.
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Thrasymachus
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby Thrasymachus » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:53 am


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David N. Snyder
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:03 am

Thanks for that info. You are not dismissing it as easily as the tourist and you certainly did not have intention to do any harm and there appears to have been no alternative for the outcome. Thank goodness, he is still alive; many car-pedestrian accidents result in fatalities.
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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby BuddhaSoup » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:32 pm

Thrasymachus:

You've received some good feedback, especially from David. I'm a lawyer and while I can't give you legal advice, I will offer a few comments that I hope can be helpful.

I practice law with a strong sense of ethics and a love for the law. Having said that, the legal system is not always set up for just and ethical results. IN an old story, it's said that a litigant once complained to old Judge Cardozo that he was not getting justice. "Justice?" responded the future Justice Cardozo, "in the courts you get law!"

The law can be an ass. So, be careful with your desire to bring metta to the plaintiff, as it is likely that his lawyer is going to try to hit you (and your carrier) for as big a judgment as he can obtain. Most plaintiff's lawyers are paid on a contingent fee, and it is usually 30-40 percent of the judgment or settlement. Having said that, a case as you describe may be ripe for settlement, as there are possibly bad facts on both sides of the case. It is the law in some states that pedestrians always have a right of way, and it can be found as per se negligence if an auto hits a pedestrian. In some states, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff can reduce or deny a judgment's value, for example, an intoxicated pedestrian in a roadway.

Trust your lawyer. He knows the negligence and contributory negligence laws of your state. He has read the police report, and he understands the good and bad facts of your case. He may have interviewed one of the police officers, and has a sense of how the police testimony will come out. He's reviewed the medical records of the plaintiff, and has an idea of the nature and extent of the injuries. He also knows the plaintiff's attorney, and knows whether this lawyer can try a case, or not, and whether the opposing lawyer settles most of his cases. He's likely also had some tentative conversations about what it would take to settle the case. He is working for the insurance carrier, but he also has a real incentive to get the settlement or resolution of the case on the most favorable terms possible.

If you have any questions about how to respond with metta and with ethics about your case, please bring these questions to your lawyer. Don't contact the plaintiff, and don't discuss having a fundraiser for his medical bills. As the law is an ass sometimes, be very careful about doing or saying anything that the opposing lawyer will take as an admission of liability.

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Re: Ethical dilemma: car accident with pedestrian, legal system

Postby Virgo » Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:28 am



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