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Rick Shapiro
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Crossing Guard Killed Outside Chesapeake, VA School

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The on-the-job death of popular school crossing guard Lovette Person has shocked the many people who knew her in Chesapeake, Virginia (VA). Not only was she a familiar face around Western Branch Primary School, but accidents like this are rare in the city.

“The job had been so safe, in fact, that not only had no crossing guard died on the job in at least four decades, only two had suffered even minor injuries in that span, according to police spokeswoman Kelly O’Sullivan,” the Virginian-Pilot reported.

The Pilot noted that the pickup truck driver who struck Person told police she could not see because of glare from the sun as she drove east on Terry Drive. Police say she’s unlikely to be charged.

Although few crossing guards have been killed on crosswalks in Chesapeake, this is a recognized problem nationally. From 1993 to 2008, 120 U.S. crossing guards died while working, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the many warning signs on crosswalks, our law firm’s experienced Virginia (VA) accident injury attorneys still report on many cases in which injuries and even deaths have occurred on crosswalks. One of our clients suffered a serious leg fracture when he was hit by a car on a crosswalk in Virginia Beach, VA, in 2004. The case was settled for $227,000.

Sometimes seemingly minor collisions can have a major impact. In 2008 a woman in Seattle, WA, was crossing the street when she was struck by a Metro bus mirror and suffered a shattered arm and serious brain injury. The upshot of the mass transit accident was a $4.5 million settlement for the victim.

Crosswalk accidents raise concerns over the safety of marked crosswalks (i.e., crosswalks with explicit markings to indicate you can cross the street). There is some evidence that marked crosswalks are more dangerous than unmarked ones contained in a 1972 study that showed twice as many people suffered serious injuries while walking through marked crosswalks as opposed to unmarked crosswalks.

It’s possible that people have a false sense of security when they walk through a marked crosswalk. They believe drivers should be just as aware as they are about the crosswalk markings.

Perhaps there was also a false sense of security when Lovette Person was killed on a sunny morning. And although charges are unlikely in this tragic case there are surely unanswered questions. Crossing guards, according to the Pilot, are issued with traffic vests, a whistle, white gloves and a hand-held stop sign, although the last two items are optional and it’s unclear if the victim had them.

Whether any traffic or criminal charge is filed does not affect the civil negligence liability of the driver for a wrongful death action under Virginia law.

DM

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.