If someone driving a truck negligently strikes a pedestrian, that driver is likely liable for the injuries caused.
A young woman, employed as a nurse, was struck and killed by a pickup truck in the parking lot of her employer hospital on February 5th, CBS2 Chicago reports. Diane Shrogen, a nurse at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois, was walking toward the hospital in the parking lot, when a truck, outfitted with a plow to remove snow, backed into her. The driver is employed by the Good Shepherd, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office has indicated that there are no criminal charges pending against him.
With an atypically brutal winter hitting Chicago, the weather has required that special measures be taken by numerous groups to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists. Municipalities have been charged with clearing sidewalks and roadways of snow and ice. School districts all over Illinois have closed schools because of the extreme cold. Businesses have dispatched shovels, snow blowers, and snow plows to clear their parking lots and sidewalks. But, as in all things, these measures must be conducted in a reasonable way. Otherwise, the entity that ordered the measures can find itself liable for injuries, up to, and including, death.
If someone driving a truck negligently strikes a pedestrian, that driver is likely liable for the injuries caused. But, the liability will not stop there, if the driver struck the pedestrian while he was executing a job for an employer. The doctrine, called vicarious liability, makes the employer (the legal term is “principal”) liable for the actions of his employee (legal term: “agent”), if the action was within the scope of the employee’s duties. This is very important from the viewpoint of the plaintiff in such a case. Often, the driver does not have the financial resources to be able to pay for a settlement or verdict against him. This would make the employer a more viable choice as defendant. Further, the employer typically has liability insurance for any possible lawsuit that would arise from the employee’s actions.
A special concern for the plaintiff in such a case, however, is contributory negligence. Historically, someone injured by another, but who had acted negligently in placing themselves in a position to be injured, could not recover. The doctrine is called contributory negligence. The outcome for the plaintiff under contributory negligence theory can be rather harsh; if the plaintiff was only one percent responsible for the accident, he would not be able to collect anything. Because it is so harsh, only a couple of states in the US retain contributory negligence.
In Illinois, we follow a doctrine called comparative negligence. If the plaintiff is less than 50 percent responsible for the accident, he can still recover, with his damages reduced by the percentage of responsibility. If, however, the plaintiff is more than 50 percent responsible, he cannot recover at all.
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