On Monday, a 53-year-old man drove his SUV over a curb and smashed into an Apple store at the Derby Street Shops in Hingham, where it lodged in the back wall of the shop. One man was killed, and at least 18 more people were injured.
The driver, Bradley Rein, claims his foot got stuck on the accelerator, and that he tried jamming his brakes with his left foot to stop the vehicle. Police confirm that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and Rein turned his phone over willingly to law enforcement. The investigation is still ongoing, but at this moment, it appears to have been a bizarre – though deadly – accident.
If you are wondering “How on Earth can this happen?” you’re not alone. As a firm that has represented folks in multiple cases involving out-of-control vehicles and building strikes (sometimes called “car incursions”), we know that cases like these are more common than you might think, and that the injuries people suffer are often devastating, if not deadly. For example:
- Our client was struck by an out of control vehicle which crashed through a storefront in a shopping plaza and crushed her against a brick wall. The claim against the driver of the vehicle who hit the gas, instead of the brakes, was resolved for $1.2 million on the eve of trial.
- Our client was crushed to death by an out-of-control car driven by elderly woman whose foot got stuck on the accelerator. The car jumped the curb at a strip mall and struck the man as he exited a retail store. We successfully argued that the mall was negligent for failing to place pedestrian protection bollards at the store entrance which was in direct line with a long driveway entrance. The case resulted in a recovery of $2.15 million for the family of the victim.
- We are currently representing clients in a case where five people were killed, and 13 seriously injured, when a valet at an auto auction house lost control of his Jeep and ran multiple people over.
In short, we have seen this happen before, and helped many people who have suffered serious injuries as a result of being hit by an out-of-control vehicle.
What causes out-of-control car accidents?
Gas pedal problems are nothing new; Tesla and Audi have both had complaints lodged against them for sudden unintended acceleration. We also know that Toyota in particular has a history of accelerator issues as well as problems with its throttles. It is possible that investigators will find that there was a similar problem with Rein’s Toyota 4Runner – a vehicle that has been subject to recall 39 times between 1988 and 2019. The general theory is that these incidents are the result of hardware or software problems, defects in the electrical system, and even floormats.
But the most common cause of out-of-control car crashes is human error. In fact, many of the news stories about “sudden acceleration” end up being stories about the mistakes that drivers make. This can include:
- Pedal confusion (hitting the gas instead of the brake)
- Being distracted behind the wheel
- Falling sleep behind the wheel
- Losing control while speeding
- Being drunk or otherwise impaired behind the wheel
Other causes include cars spinning out from traffic crashes and medical emergencies.
How can cities reduce the number of pedestrian accidents and building strike crashes?
According to the Storefront Safety Council, “Storefront crashes occur more than 100 times per day:
- 46% of all storefront crashes result in an injury
- 8% of all storefront crashes result in a fatality
- Each year in the US, as many as 16,000 people are injured and as many as 2600 are killed in vehicle-into-building crashes.”
One way to reduce these types of accidents is to install pedestrian protection bollards. Bollards are posts, usually made of iron or concrete, that create a perimeter around a space. They have dual purposes: they serve as visual guides for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and they prevent vehicles from entering a space. By installing bollards on the sidewalks around storefronts, shop owners can essentially eliminate the risk of a storefront crash. The Storefront Safety Council supports this choice, suggesting that insurance companies could offer incentives to commercial property owners to install the barriers.
Another way to reduce accidents from out of control cars would be to install medians with concrete barriers. Median barriers, like bollards, serve as a visual guide for traffic, but they can also stop cars from crossing multiple lanes.
Finally, commercial property owners should also consider their parking lot designs. Roth Construction recommends adding signage to parking lots that tells drivers to slow down, and to design lots so that cars cannot face the building.
As drivers, the best thing we can do is to stay sober and alert behind the wheel. But we cannot control the actions of others, which means local governments and property owners needs to step up to protect people – especially pedestrians, who are often the victims of these crashes.
What should I do if my gas pedal gets stuck?
If you are driving a vehicle and your accelerator gets stuck, there are a few things you should do:
- Remove your foot from the gas pedal immediately.
- Put your car into neutral (Franklin Automotive says “this may cause the engine to rev but you will begin decelerating since the gears are not engaged with the speeding engine.”)
- Apply pressure to your brakes. (Don’t slam them)
- Put your hazard lights on.
- Steer the vehicle to the side of the road.
- Turn the car off.
- Call for a tow truck.
What should I do if I am hit by an out-of-control vehicle in Boston?
Whether you are in a vehicle, on a bike, on a motorcycle, or traveling by foot, the first thing you should do after any car accident is seek medical attention. Even if you think you are injured, you should be examined by a doctor; some injuries may take time to fully present, and identifying the signs of those injuries as quickly as possible may be the difference between a strong recovery and a lifetime of pain.
After you have sought treatment, call the Boston car accident attorneys of Breakstone, White & Gluck. We have decades of experience representing injury victims in courtrooms and in settlement negotiations, and significant experience representing folks who have been hurt in these specific types of cases. We don’t back down when insurance companies refuse to play fair, and we don’t settle cases for less than what they are worth. We make sure you get the proper medical care you need, deal with the insurance companies on your behalf, and prepare your case for a jury in case that is what’s best for you. We provide “worry free” representation for our clients because we are focused on your recovery.
If you sustained injuries or losses in a car crash caused by an out-of-control vehicle anywhere in Massachusetts, we want to help. Call our firm in Boston or fill out our contact form today and get started with a free consultation.