Cars Crashing into Storefronts – It Happens All the Time, But Shouldn’t

An elderly woman recently drove her sedan into a Bellevue Starbucks.

According to the Bellevue Reporter, customers at the Starbucks on Northeast 8th Street were given an extra shot of energy when a car crashed through the store’s front windows Wednesday morning.

An elderly woman was driving along Northeast 8th Street at 110th Avenue Northeast when she ran over the curb and the front of her car crashed through the storefront, according to the Bellevue Police Department.

It happens all the time and causes injuries and deaths.

We recently settled a case involving a driver crashing into a Circle K convenience store.  The driver thought his car was in reverse.  It was actually in drive.  He stepped on the accelerator.  The car lurched forward and crashed through the store window.

In fact, there are an estimated 60 crashes into buildings a day in the United States.

The first thought is to blame the driver of the vehicle.  But sometimes the owner of the vehicle isn’t at fault (see our blog on Sudden Medical Emergencies) and (more pragmatically) the driver almost never has enough insurance to cover the damages.

That means it’s necessary to get creative.  Injuries and deaths resulting from car versus building cases are frequently caused not only caused by negligent drivers but also by building owners who didn’t do enough to protect the people in the building.

Bollards are a great way to protect customers both in and around stores.  Unfortunately they aren’t used frequently enough and when they are installed they’re often too far apart.

Cases involving accidents at Costco (both in the U.S. and Canada) have probably been the most publicized.  In Ontario two children died when an speeding car slammed backwards into a Costco store.  In Burbank, California a vehicle drove into food court injuring three people.  In Hawaii, a car slammed into the entrance and injured three people.

On a state level California and Massachusetts are in the process of passing laws this year that would require safety barriers in commercial parking lots.

Local government is also taking action.  In Orange County, Florida lawmakers sprang into action after a hit-and-run crash into a day care that killed a four-year old girl.  The law requires barriers for child-care centers and housing for senior citizens.

Even though there aren’t laws in Washington specifically requiring bollard use, there are laws that require the owner of a property to make it reasonably safe (especially for customers and residents).  While it would be great to have laws specifically on-point, the general standards for property owners are more than enough to impose liability in these types of cases.





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