The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Were you a victim of a car vs. buggy crash in Amish country?

In certain rural areas of Pennsylvania, tight-knit communities of descendants of 18th-century immigrants continue to practice the Amish religion. They shun most modern technologies and live their lives without electric devices, automobiles and more. They travel on unadorned, black horse-drawn buggies. If you are a member of an Amish community, you will know that close encounters between buggy riders and other vehicles are not uncommon.

Authorities and dignitaries in Amish communities continue to work together to find the means to prevent crashes between buggies and cars. Some years back, officials reported that an average of 60 such collisions occur every year, with some of these accidents resulting in serious injuries or worse. Property damage can also be significant for both parties in a car vs. buggy crash because even buggies are expensive to replace.

What are the risks?

Most of the incidents in which horse-drawn buggies and automobiles collide involve rear-end crashes. Drivers of cars are often unprepared for the slow speed at which the buggies travel. Furthermore, drivers can come upon buggies unexpectedly at certain times of the day or in bad weather when buggies are not easy to see because of their lack of reflective devices or lights.

On a rare occasion that occurred in 2013, an Amish family's horse broke loose and ran onto the road where it struck a van. The driver of the vehicle remained in a coma for some time after suffering serious injuries. However, because of the lack of protection such as seat belts and air bags that are built into automobiles, it is usually the occupants of the buggies who are worse off when collisions occur.

What are the suggested solutions?

Authorities tried to get buggy owners to fit reflective orange triangles to the rears of their carts, hoping to make them more visible. However, the religious doctrine of the Amish prohibits any immodesty. Authorities later approved the use of gray reflective tape instead.

Other measures that engineers and transport planners in Amish country introduced include widening road shoulders to prevent buggies landing in ditches when they make way for automobiles to pass, along with some added paths specifically dedicated to horse-drawn buggies. Authorities in Pennsylvania have also issued a manual for drivers of buggies. High schools in Amish country use this manual for driver education.

What are your rights?

If you have been a victim of a collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn buggy, you may have grounds to pursue recovery of damages, and you can file a personal injury lawsuit in a Pennsylvania civil court. However, for such a claim to be successful, you must establish negligence on the part of the defendant -- only then will the court consider documented claims for damages. These may include financial losses and other damages such as pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment and more.

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