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3D Accident Reconstruction Helps in Settlement for Man Hit by Car in Flashing Crosswalk

On a quiet night along the coastal community of La Jolla, California, an inattentive driver, distracted by his phone, approached a lit crosswalk. Without stopping, he barreled into the flashing intersection and collided with a pedestrian named Glen Ruknaitis, an artist and eccentric fixture in the Windansea beach neighborhood. The car hit Mr. Ruknaitis at 35 miles per hour, hurling him across the windshield and throwing him onto the rough asphalt.

Paramedics rushed Mr. Ruknaitis to a hospital where radiologists identified 16 orthopedic fractures. He remained there for days until the community noticed he was missing from his usual whereabouts. When a friend of Mr. Ruknaitis checked in on him at the local art gallery where he lived, the owner shared what happened. Concerned about his well-being, the friend referred Jillian Hayes of Hayes Law, APC, a former associate at CaseyGerry, to help him recover and attain justice.

Three days after the incident, Jillian and CaseyGerry partner Frederick Schenk arrived at the hospital and met with Mr. Ruknaitis. Initially, Mr. Ruknaitis was wary and distrusting of authorities. However, as Fred and Jillian established rapport and offered their aid, he realized their honest intentions and welcomed their help.

Due to the severity of Mr. Ruknaitis’ injuries, Jillian and Fred began the litigation focusing on establishing the driver’s liability. They retained investigators and an accident reconstructionist to collect evidence at the scene of the incident. Simultaneously, they gathered testimonies from witnesses who saw the accident occur. After receiving the police report, they discovered the Defendant was an accountant leaving a client’s house. Therefore, he was under the scope of his employment at the time of the crash. Thus, the two centered their case strategy on proving that the driver and his employer were responsible for the incident.

Because of Mr. Ruknaitis’ nomadic lifestyle, the Defense tried to frame him as an intoxicated transient who jumped into the Defendant’s path. As a result, Jillian and Fred knew a 3D accident reconstruction would be vital to rebut the Defense’s claim. The two brought on DK Global to collaborate with their accident reconstructionist and create an animation revealing the Defendant’s negligence that night.

The animation began with an overview of the incident’s location, highlighting the surrounding signage warning drivers of the pedestrian crosswalk. Lighting conditions were precisely recreated, showing Mr. Ruknaitis illuminated by the streetlamps. Then, Mr. Ruknaitis activated the beacons in the crosswalk before waiting for nearby cars to stop and yield. Suddenly, the Defendant raced down the street in the farthest lane, striking Mr. Ruknaitis without braking. Finally, with the accident reconstructionist’s guidance, the Defendant’s perspective was simulated to show the man preoccupied with his cell phone as Mr. Ruknaitis traversed the flashing intersection before he was struck.

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence and testimony exposing the driver’s carelessness, the Defense filed a motion for summary judgment. After soundly defeating the MSJ, Fred and Jillian agreed to the opposition’s request to mediate before the animation could be presented at trial. As a result, Fred and Jillian attained a favorable, confidential settlement for Mr. Ruknaitis.

For over 42 years, San Diego ABOTA President Frederick Schenk of CaseyGerry has focused his practice on class-action lawsuits, mass torts, personal injury, and representing the survivors of asbestos poisonings. Since 2006, Frederick has been recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers and was selected as a “Super Lawyer” for 12 consecutive years.

Jillian Hayes, owner and Managing Partner of Hayes Law, APC, specializes in personal injury and sexual assault litigation. She was recently recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers and listed amongst the "Ones to Watch 2021" by Best Lawyers. Notably, Jillian was one of the lead attorneys who successfully attained a monumental appeal for a woman burned by a defective battery in the Bolger v., LLC matter.

"What we were able to do in this case, through the work of DK Global consulting with us and our expert, was to show exactly how this accident occurred. To show where the impact occurred, how it occurred, and what happened to Mr. Ruknaitis as a result of this impact. Together with all of those elements, we told a brilliant story."
Fred Schenk - Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP
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