Cars crashing into storefronts is an ongoing safety concern that receives too little attention.
What began as an effort to protect government buildings in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has for Rob Reiter become a passion to protect everyone from the hidden dangers of vehicles driving into storefronts. The turning point for Reiter was a July 2003 incident at a Santa Monica Farmers Market, where an elderly driver killed 10 people and injured 63 other customers and pedestrians.
Palm Beach injury lawyers continue to see an increasing number of these cases. We recently wrote about the dangers of parking lots, but storefront crashes continue to cause a significant number of injuries.
Storefront Crashes and Pedestrian Injuries in Palm Beach
The Sun-Sentinel reported that two people were killed recently when the driver of a Kia lost control and slammed into a Publix Storefront in West Delray, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
After a rash of storefront collisions late last year, NBC6 in Miami reported that Florida led all states with 17 percent of the nation's storefront crashes, according to statistics from the Storefront Safety Council.
Barrier requirements are left largely to local authorities in Florida. Miami-Dade County began requiring barriers in 2012, wherever motorists can park directly in front of a store. In Broward County, there are no such requirements.
Liability and Litigation in Storefront Crash Cases
An at-fault driver's auto insurance policy will typically be the first line of defense for those injured in a storefront crash. However, such coverage is often woefully inadequate, particularly in cases where multiple victims are injured or killed.
Victims may also pursue a premises liability claim against the store owner or property owner. Florida premises liability law will require victims to show following:
- The owner of the business or property owed a duty of care to visitors.
- That the victim's accident was foreseeable.
- That the accident might have been prevented by installation of reasonable barriers.
A victim's own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may also be another means of recovery. Nearly one in four drivers in Florida are on the road without insurance, and Florida auto insurance law requires just $10,000 of minimum coverage. Adding uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage to your policy is a critical step to protect you and your family in the event of a serious accident.
Storefront Safety Council reports more than half of these crashes are caused by operator/pedal error. Nearly half of the drivers involved are over the age of 60. The council estimates such crashes occur over 60 times a day, killing 500 and injuring another 4,000 each year.
With the high risk of these crashes, commercial property owners and property managers cannot argue the risks were not foreseeable, particularly when parking is allowed in close proximity to sidewalks and storefronts.
Incorporating safety into storefront design, installing bollards and other safety devices, and taking other parking-lot and traffic-flow safety measures are the best ways to prevent such tragedies in the first place. Those injured should see help from an experienced auto accident attorney to ensure all at-fault parties are identified and held accountable.