A woman died recently in Hobart, Indiana, after crashing her car through a metal gate and landing in Lake George.
Witnesses who travelled behind the woman, 83 years old, noticed that she was speeding and driving erratically as she traveled down Route 130 and Route 51. She would weave in and out of traffic, and racing through red stoplights at up to 60 miles per hour.
At some point after the woman reached downtown Hobart, she "went airborne" at the top of a hill and her car smashed through a metal gate that separated the town from Lake George. Her car eventually landed in the lake, 50 feet from the edge, where the water was 10 feet high. Witnesses dove into the murky lake after her and spent 10 minutes working to pull the woman out, during which time they sustained injuries from broken glass. The Hobart Fire Department treated her at the scene and she was then transported to St. Mary Medical Center, where she later died. Lake County divers also spent more than one hour working to pull the car from the lake.
Despite her erratic driving, the woman managed to avoid causing injuries or fatalities. One witness speculated that her behavior might have been due to a medical condition, or possibly due to a broken accelerator. The age and condition of her vehicle prior to the crash is unknown.
It may be a while until the cause of the woman's behavior is better understood. Until then, one can only speculate whether, due to age or other inherent factors, she lacked the physical and/or mental capacity to drive. That is always a concern, especially since so many people are dependent upon driving to get from place to place, lacking alternatives like public transportation. Indiana requires drivers over the age of 75 to renew their licenses every three years in person, and every two years for those over the age of 85. The renewal process includes a vision test, but not a written or road test except under certain circumstances. Indiana's policy toward older drivers is in line with those of other states, but raises the question of whether drivers of a certain age should have more periodic road testing. A road test might reveal problems that the driver's normal behavior might not show.
Interestingly, when determining whether a party acted negligently, the party's mental capacity is generally not taken into consideration. The standard is whether a "reasonable person" with the same characteristics would have behaved the same way. Therefore, even someone who might not have acted recklessly had he or she been mentally clear could be found liable.
At the same time, it is possible that Gronlund did not act unreasonably, but experienced a broken accelerator that made her car impossible to control. In that case, Gronlund's estate or someone else in that situation would have grounds to hire an Indiana product liability attorney and file a product liability lawsuit. Whether the case would be successful may depend on whether the accelerator break could be traced to a design or manufacturing defect.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.