I was driving home from work a couple of nights ago…well, actually, I was between stops taking care of stuff on my way home….when I saw an accident at Decatur just south of Charleston Blvd. I was making a left hand turn to go south onto Decatur from the shopping center. I was a few cars back (maybe 3 – 6) in my SUV when I saw a woman making slowly making the left in front of me clip an electric wheel chair and throw its user to the ground.
I thought the car was going to go in front of the wheelchair, but saw the wheelchair yanked to the side and pieces fall off of it. I decided I had to stop and crossed the street to park and make sure everything was being taken care of. A young man was on the phone and verified he was calling 911. Another man was helping the women on the ground. A third had pulled her van in front of the car that hit the wheelchair to prevent her from leaving the scene.
After ensuring that I would not offer any specific help out in the middle of the street, I decided to move my truck around to block traffic from hitting the woman on the ground and those assisting her. As I got there, a Metro police officer arrived on his motorcycle and Paramedics got to the scene. So, I, again, decided to pull into the lot as I was not needed to block traffic. The man who had first rendered assistance and had been guiding traffic to that point left and the man who had called 911 was also gone. No other independent witnesses stayed at the scene.
I waited and gave a statement to the investigating officer and spoke with another woman who rendered assistance (and a blanket) to the woman on the ground. She had picked up a piece of the car from the ground, but I advised her it was best to leave it there for the officer to document. The driver spoke to me and told me that she had never hit anyone before and that she did not see the wheelchair and the sun was in her eyes. She also told me that she was going to keep going but that others yelled at her to stop. By the way….I never saw the van that stopped her once the police arrived.
I know this intersection and pass through it on a fairly regular basis. There is no left turn signal for traffic crossing Decatur and I thought the walk sign would have been on when our light turned green allowing us to make our left turns. I did not see the walk/don’t walk sign and cannot say it was in walk mode at the moment of impact from personal observation, but believed it was from past experience. I have since been at the intersection and noticed that the walk/don’t walk sign did not go into walk mode when the light turned green, but this was at a different time of day and there was no on waiting to walk across the street with the light. This unfortunate accident was, in my opinion, solely the fault of the driver who made the left turn and could not see due to the sun in her eyes.
Why did I stay? Because it’s the right thing to do. This incident proves this to me. Here, there were, likely, at least four eyewitnesses to the accident (myself, the man who called 911, the man who rendered assistance, and the person driving the van that stopped the driver from leaving the scene) – there were probably others in the cars in front of me as well as those stopped at the light on Decatur. Of those, it looks like ONLY I stayed to give a statement to the officer. Without my statement, liability may be more easily contested. Giving statements – or at the very least identifying yourself as a witness to an accident and providing contact information – can prevent those who drive negligently and their insurers from contesting liability in cases where none exists. This is becoming even more important where Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department may not show up to a call for policy or other reasons. It can help cases settle rather than be litigated on a he-said she-said liability fight.
Why did I write this? Two reasons. First, I wanted to discuss the importance of witnesses to come forward and speak up. This would be true even if the woman who was injured was at fault. Had that been the case, then she should not be compensated and the case should not be litigated causing expenses for an insurer and extra strain on the Court System. Those should be left for cases of true liability and damages issues.
Second, I wanted to memorialize what I could and could not remember from an accident that I saw less than a day ago. I can still picture the car driving slowly and hitting the wheelchair spinning it and throwing the woman to the ground. I can see the parts of the wheel chair flying off it into the street. I can picture the man who called 911, the man who rendered assistance and others at the scene. I can recall the at-fault driver admitting that she could not see and the sun was in her eyes. I know that I did not look to the Walk sign to determine what mode it was in at the time of the impact or immediately thereafter. Maybe I will need to remember these facts in the future as a witness to the case and memorialize them here. I’m sure there will be other details I do and do not recall, but these are the basic facts that come to mind at this moment.