While walking within a marked crosswalk for pedestrians on a busy street in Henderson, NV, a young man was fatally struck by a vehicle traveling in the #1 lane at 40 MPH. This accident occurred at night, and was captured in the corner-view of two nearby security cams.
In fatal pedestrian-collision cases like these, driver visibility and precautions for pedestrians are essential to determine who bore responsibility for the accident. This busy intersection had no stop sign, traffic lights, or pedestrian-walking lights, and spanned across seven total car lanes. However, there were two nearby streetlights, a diamond pedestrian-caution sign and “shark teeth” street markings before the crosswalk.
The family of the victim filed a large wrongful death suit against the driver, feeling that he was primarily at fault for the accident. Richard Schoenberger of the San Francisco law firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger defended the driver as he personally knew how dangerous this crosswalk was from a previous pedestrian injury case at the same crosswalk. He set out to demonstrate that the inherent risk of this accident stemmed from the State’s improper protection of pedestrians in this crosswalk.
3D Forensic was brought on by Mr. Schoenberger to analyze and present the driver's visibility approaching this crosswalk.
Were these measures enough to reasonably prepare drivers to yield for crossing pedestrians?
The dangers of this crosswalk for pedestrians were well known as it had a history of five serious injuries recorded between 1998 and 2006. The average daily traffic of this roadway was about 15,000 cars a day, and yet despite multiple federal studies outlining its dangers, the State did little to improve its conditions prior to this accident. The 3DF team’s goal was to identify and illustrate these specific threats in their analysis.
To begin their digital recreation of the incident scene, the team started by laser-scanning multiple blocks around the accident location. This process captured 3D measurements of every nearby surface of the area, which could be registered to a three-dimensional space. After rendering this data, the team would have an environment where they could measure the exact distances between every element of the environment.
The team then took careful steps to place the exact perspective of the driver. Knowing the specifications of the driver’s car along with their height, the team placed the driver’s eyes in the 3D environment and observed what was visible through line-of-sight analysis. This approach allowed the team to break down elements of the crosswalk throughout the incident from the most important angle- the driver’s perspective.
Now, the team can share their material with road design engineers to analyze and demonstrate the effectiveness of the crosswalk protections. Their analysis yielded significant findings supported by 3D measurements.
The team and experts drew two major conclusions that disqualified the crosswalk’s protections.
First, surface measurements of this street revealed that the road’s curvature obscured the crosswalk outline at a significant braking point. The team discovered that the curve peaked about 100 feet before the crosswalk, hiding the white street markings from approaching drivers' line-of-sight. Perspective matching revealed that the crosswalk only came into sight 83 feet before reaching the crosswalk. This only allowed drivers going the speed limit less than two seconds to recognize the crosswalk and brake.
The team also noted how the existing traffic controls for the following intersection could create major confusion for drivers approaching the subject intersection. Line-of-sight analysis showed that as drivers approach the intersection focusing on what is ahead of them, they could clearly see the stoplights for the protected crosswalk that was actually a block away. This could cause drivers to think that the green light a block away actually means a green light for the approaching intersection. However, it is only when the driver is about 2.5 seconds away from the unprotected intersection that the crosswalk diamond becomes fully visible from behind a tree and streetlight. This is when drivers would realize the green light is actually for the following crosswalk.
When considering the diamond and shark teeth markings are mostly obscured until the drivers are within three seconds of the crosswalk, neither protection effectively warned drivers of the crosswalk with reasonable time to yield. Drivers are most likely to take cues from the stoplight ahead, making drivers even less likely to yield when there is a green light ahead.
These aspects of this crosswalk led the team to conclude that it hardly offered any effective protection for pedestrians. This analysis was shared with the driver’s defense team who planned to present this at their next settlement conference.
Following this conference, the plaintiff’s legal team was finally convinced that the true fault lied with the intersection’s improper protections for pedestrians. The focus of the family’s suit transferred from the driver to the State, and by working with Mr. Schoenberger and 3D Forensic’s production, they earned a seven-figure settlement for this wrongful death.
“We were extremely grateful for the outstanding work 3D Forensic did on this case. Their work product helped reduce a very complicated fact pattern and scene into a simple and digestible display of demonstrative evidence that was not only persuasive and effective, but also instrumental in our successful resolution.” -Richard Schoenberger, Shareholder Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger
**NOTE: Each case is affected by unique factors and requires an independent forensic approach. These case studies serve as general applications and are not universally applicable. The true identities of subjects, entities, and locations have been changed to protect anonymity.**
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