Visitor Question

My sister was in auto accident where traffic light was broken…

Submitted By: Janice (Pleasant City, Ohio)

My sister was in a vehicle accident in Cambridge OH on 6/25/17. It happened at the Walmart intersection where the traffic light had been malfunctioning since the previous Friday. She works at the Shoe Department Store beside Walmart.

She drove the money deposit across the intersection to the bank. She has to remove her seat belt in order to lean out the window to place the deposit in the bin. She then proceeded to cross the intersection again to shop at Walmart. Since the traffic light was not working, she had to stop to see if anyone was coming in both directions across 5 lanes.

She said she did not see anyone. But sometimes I’ve seen various signs and flags along the roadway so maybe there was something obstructing her view. So as she went across, there was a truck coming that hit her on the back passenger side of her vehicle. This caused her car to spin around and ejected her through the passenger side window.

She told me that she thought she had buckled her seat belt after leaving the bank but she either did not, or it did not latch. She was taken to Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center in Cambridge for evaluation and then MedFlight took her to Grant Hospital in Columbus.

She was diagnosed with concussion, 2 broken ribs, several cuts, scrapes, abrasions. She has several bruises and big swollen places, one on her arm and one on her hip. She has about 8-10 staples in the top of her head. She was extremely lucky to say the least!

She was released from the hospital 6/30/17. Her vehicle is totaled. She won’t be able to work for quite some time. She is incurring multiple medical expenses. The MedFlight bill alone was over $30,000. My question is, does she have a case against ODOT?

From my understanding, the traffic light at that intersection had been malfunctioning since 6/23/17. This was a Friday and ODOT had been contacted but decided to wait until Monday 6/26/17 to fix it. There are accidents at this intersection frequently. In fact, a woman was killed at this intersection a few years ago.

I feel that the fact that my sister did not have her seat belt on is irrelevant. Because had the light been working properly and her light was red, she would have stopped and waited for it to turn green. I don’t blame the person who hit her because they are in the same situation. If they would have had a functioning traffic light they would not have hit my sister as she was crossing.

I’m having a really hard time with whoever made the decision not to have this traffic light repaired in a timely manner. Was it because it was a Friday and no one wanted to work overtime to fix the light? Was it because ODOT would have had to paid someone overtime to fix the light on Friday after hours, or heaven forbid, to have someone fix it on a Saturday or Sunday?

I would just like to know if you think she has a case again ODOT. My sister is not a wealthy woman. She has many struggles in her life and this is the absolute last thing she needed. I realize if she had her seat belt on she may not have been as hurt but I also think the broken traffic light played a huge part in the outcome.

I also think the driver that hit her should look into filing a lawsuit as they are a victim as well. We do not know the other driver. I appreciate any insight you can provide.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Janice,

For years government entities were protected from civil actions under the doctrine of “Sovereign Immunity.” Basically, this means private persons could not sue governmental agencies, including federal, state and local municipalities. These agencies were effectively “off limits” to persons who were injured or who had other legitimate causes of actions against one of the agencies.

Over the years the doctrine has eroded so that now most governmental agencies waive immunity and, where appropriate, allow injured persons to sue the agency just as if the agency was a private person.

The State of Ohio’s position on its waiver of immunity can be found in Ohio’s Revised Statutes at Section 2743.02, which states in part:

“The state hereby waives its immunity from liability and consents to be sued, and have its liability determined,… in the court of claims created in this chapter in accordance with the same rules of law applicable to suits between private parties…”

Because of the seriousness of your sister’s injuries, and Ohio’s consent to be sued by private parties, your sister may have the basis of a legitimate personal injury claim. A 3rd party action such as this cannot effectively be pursued without experienced legal representation. This is especially true because the action would have to be filed in one of Ohio’s Courts of Claim. Once filed in the Court of Claims, the State would then be represented by their attorneys.

Fortunately, most personal injury attorneys in Ohio do not charge fees for initial office consultations. Gather your sister’s medical records the police report, photos, and any other information which may be relevant to the accident.

After visiting with several personal injury attorneys you will have a better idea of the likely success of such an action, the time it will take to pursue it, and an estimate of it’s payout.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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