Driving is such an integral part of modern society that we regularly forget or without concern assume the risk of being involved in a car accident. Thankfully, most vehicle on vehicle accidents are relatively minor and do not involve personal injury. Conversely, pedestrian accidents have the potential for severe injury. Not only is the pedestrian completely exposed without protection from the impact with the vehicle in question, he or she also faces danger from the impact with the ground or road surface.
In addition to the greater injury potential, pedestrian accidents, although occurring far less frequently than vehicle accidents, are more common than many people realize. A few numbers compiled by studies commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2014:
• 4884 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States
• Approximately 65,000 were injured
• On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes
Proving fault in a pedestrian accident, however, which a personal injury attorney must do to collect monetary damages for the injured pedestrian, is not always easy to accomplish.
Most pedestrian accidents occur as the pedestrian is crossing a roadway and an inordinate number of victims are the young or elderly. Although it may be true that a child can be easily distracted and not pay attention and an older person can take longer to reach the other side of the street when crossing, statistically, pedestrian accidents are most often the result of driver negligence.
Driver distraction is a common cause of pedestrian accidents. Cell phone usage, whether talking or texting, is immediately thought of as a cause for driver distraction, which can cause a driver’s negligence in:
• Running a red light
• Not looking before turning at an intersection with a crosswalk
• Failing to slow down in a school zone
• Driving recklessly
Another common form of driver negligence is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se is a legal theory that a personal injury attorney can use to prove a driver’s liability for an accident, if:
• The driver is found to be in violation of a statute.
• The purpose of the statute was for safety.
• The driver’s actions caused the type of injury the statute was designed to prevent.
For example, if a driver failed to stop at an intersection with a clearly posted stop sign and struck a person in the crosswalk, that may suffice as negligence per se.
Fault of the Pedestrian
Pedestrians have a duty to act reasonably, and in some circumstances, there may be an allegation that in addition to the fault of the driver of the vehicle, the pedestrian was in some manner negligent and was partially culpable for his or her own injuries. If so, most jurisdictions have what is known as comparative negligence laws that allow for a partial recovery of damages based on a pro-rated analysis of fault. That may mean, for instance, if the total damages were $50,000 and the pedestrian was found to be 20 percent at fault, the final recovery would be limited to $40,000.
An investigation into the causes of a pedestrian accident may reveal some issue with the road conditions or the road itself. For example, the timing of the signals at a crosswalk may be improperly set so that it is difficult or impossible to cross safely within the allotted time. Visibility, lighting and uneven surfaces may also be factors contributing to the cause of an accident.
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate the causes and explain the options you may have.