Last updated on March 14th, 2023
When a Chicago man was hit by a car while standing in front of a chain convenience store in 2017, his instinct was likely to blame the driver. And, the driver did bear some responsibility. While pulling into a parking space in front of the 7-11, the driver accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake. The car lurched forward over the curb and pinned the man, who is going by “Carl” in press coverage, to the front of the store. His injuries were severe, and ultimately he lost both of his legs.
The story is a tragic one–one moment, the man was waiting for a ride to his job, and the next his life was forever altered. But recently, there was one bit of encouraging news. In February of 2023, the day before the case was scheduled to go to trial, Carl received a $91 million settlement. Of course, no amount of money can make up for his loss and pain. However, a significant personal injury settlement can help an injured person to carry on as well as possible.
For instance, that means not having to worry about the cost of or access to ongoing medical care. Financial compensation can also provide easier access to assistance, equipment, adaptive vehicles, accessible housing and other necessities and accommodations that make life easier and allow a person who has been seriously injured to enjoy more of it than they otherwise would have.
But, that money didn’t come from the driver who slammed him into the side of the building.
Of course, a driver who runs into a pedestrian standing on a sidewalk is typically liable for the injuries caused. In fact, the driver in this case entered a guilty plea to a charge of aggravated reckless driving.
However, the case isn’t always that simple. The responsible driver may be uninsured, or may simply not have adequate insurance coverage to pay for the necessary medical care and other losses. And, there are often additional responsible parties someone without a personal injury experience might never consider.
If you’ve seen news coverage of this story, you may know that it was 7-11 that agreed to pay $91 million dollars to the injured man. And, if you are like many people who have been discussing the case online, you may have wondered why. A property owner or operator isn’t generally responsible for injuries simply because the accident occurred on their property. Instead, they must generally have been negligent in some way that caused or contributed to the injury.
At first glance, 7-11 seems like a passive participant in this incident. A driver made a serious mistake, and it just happened to occur in their parking lot. However, a property owner or operator is responsible for keeping the property in reasonably safe condition for those visiting the property. In many states, including Ohio, that responsibility differs depending on the reason the injured person was on the property. The highest level of responsibility applies when the visitor is an invitee–someone who is on the property by invitation, for the benefit of the property owner or operator. That includes customers on store property.
7-11’s mistake was not installing bollards in the parking lot. If you’re not familiar with the term, bollards are those short posts–usually concrete–that you often see lined up between a parking area and a retail store or other building. The purpose of those posts is to prevent accidents just like the one that injured Carl. If a driver loses control of a vehicle, makes a mistake like the driver in this case did, or even decides to intentionally ram the building, bollards get in the way, protecting people in and in front of the store.
Of course, not every store has bollards. And, local building codes didn’t require them. So, why was the retailer responsible? In a word, history.
This wasn’t the first time a vehicle had crashed into the front of this particular 7-11. More significantly, further investigation showed that over the preceding 15 years, there had been more than 6,000 similar crashes at 7-11s around the country. In other words, 7-11 knew or reasonably should have known that the parking lot set-up posed a danger to its customers. But, it didn’t take action to make the premises safe.
For people who have been or may be injured in Ohio, this story carries an important lesson: it’s easy to overlook parties who may be partly responsible for your injuries. Identifying those parties can help ensure that you recover full and fair compensation for your injuries–compensation you may not get if you leave an empty chair in the courtroom.
The hazard described in this case is just one example of a situation in which there may be additional responsible parties after an injury. Some other examples include:
These are just a few additional examples of situations in which parties you may not have considered could be wholly or partly responsible for your injuries. In some cases, an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to tell you right away that another party may share responsibility. In others, the additional responsible party won’t emerge until your attorney does some investigation into the incident that caused your injury.
That’s one reason it’s important to talk with an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney right away after you’ve been injured in a car accident, a fall on someone else’s property, while using tools or equipment, or in another way that may involve someone else’s negligence. Even if you were injured at work and are covered by workers’ compensation, you may have a separate claim against a third party such as an equipment manufacturer.
At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, we’ve been helping Ohio injury victims secure fair compensation for decades. To learn more about how we can help pursue the compensation you deserve, call 937-222-2222 right now.
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