There are around 5000 pedestrians that die in motor vehicle accidents every year. This is the official statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). The organization also reports that around 78000 pedestrians suffer injuries when they are being hit by a car or truck. In addition to these accidents that are brought by vehicles, there are also non-vehicular accidents that also cause injuries to the pedestrians. Poor property maintenance, sidewalk or parking lot defects and/or construction or other debris on walkways cause or contribute to these accidents.
A person may recover damages if there has been negligence on the part of another person which caused the accident. Negligence is the legal term for the failure to do (or not do) something that a reasonable person would, in a similar situation, in order to protect others from foreseeable risks. In order to establish negligence in a pedestrian accident, the injured person (the “plaintiff”) must prove that the person at fault (the “defendant”):
- Owed a legal duty to the claimant under the circumstances; and
- Failed to fulfill (“breached”) that legal obligation through conduct or action (or through a failure to act); and
- Caused an accident or injury involving the claimant; and
- Harmed or injured the claimant as a result.
Careful analysis of the facts of every accident can be a factor to the outcome of the case. When a pedestrian injury occurs, there may be more than one party with legal responsibility for the accident. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, those with potential liability include:
- The driver of a vehicle that strikes a pedestrian;
- The party responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, roadway or parking lot where the accident occurred;
- The pedestrian himself or herself.
To be able to assess and evaluate the legal claims possible, it is good to seek the help of an injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Pedestrian – Vehicle Accidents
One of the first issue brought up in every claim is the standard of care that was asked from the person responsible. Both drivers and pedestrians must adhere to the laws of the road and exercise reasonable care. In many cases, it may seem obvious who was careless or negligent, but the courts look to a number of factors in applying the facts of each case to the elements of a “negligence” claim. A person that has been negligent in the operation of a vehicle may be obligated to pay the damages and damages brought to property brought by his negligence.
Driver’s Duty of Care
Generally, people who operate automobiles must exercise “reasonable care under the circumstances.” If there is a failure to render the expected standard of care, there is a presumption of negligence. A few of the most common factors contributing to driver negligence are:
- A preoccupied or inattentive driver
- Failure of the driver to observe speed limits
- Failure of the driver to yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked cross walks
- Disobedience to traffic signals and symbols
- Failing to signal while turning
- Disregarding weather or traffic conditions
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Driver’s Special Duty of Care to Children
Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at the greatest risk of being hit by a motor vehicle. Children are smaller and less visible and their conduct is unpredictable. The law imposes a higher duty of care on drivers when it comes to children. The very presence of children is a warning of danger to the driver to exercise greater care. Thus, a motor vehicle driver must exercise a greater degree of care when they know or should know that small children are at play in the immediate area. This is especially true when one is driving in the vicinity of a school and residential districts where children are known to play.
Pedestrian’s Duty of Care
A pedestrian must exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety. The care required of the pedestrian must be in proportion to the danger to be avoided and the consequences that might be reasonably anticipated. Contributory negligence may be assessed against a pedestrian if they failed to exercise such care and directly contributed to the cause of their own injuries.
A few of the most common factors contributing to pedestrian negligence are:
- Pedestrians who ignore the “walk” signal at an intersection
- Pedestrians who enter a stream of traffic and disrupt the flow
- Pedestrians who fail to use marked cross walks
- Pedestrians who “dart” in front of a vehicle
Other Pedestrian Accidents
The legal area of premises liability controls claims for losses based on the actions of property owners or possessors, including most non-vehicular related pedestrian accidents. In most states, those in control of land have a duty to maintain their property and a duty to warn people of hazards on it.
To recover damages in a premises liability case, the injured party must prove a dangerous condition on the property and knowledge of that condition by the person or entity controlling the property. A dangerous condition exists when something on the property presents an unreasonable risk to people on it, and the risk is not an obvious one. Knowledge of the dangerous condition is established by showing that: 1) the owner or possessor created the condition; 2) the owner or possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or, 3) the condition existed for such a length of time that it should have been discovered and corrected prior to the incident in question.
While a property owner will be responsible when a dangerous condition exists on his or her private walkways, such an owner is not usually responsible for injuries resulting from a fall on a public sidewalk located outside his or her property, especially when this property is owned and maintained by a city or town. However, some courts will impose liability on a business owner when business customers exclusively use the public sidewalk.
If You are Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
Be aware that those who may be legally responsible for your injuries might try to blame you for the accident, by claiming that your own negligence was the cause of what happened. If you have been involved in a pedestrian accident, you should do the following:
- Call police immediately.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident before help arrives.
- Gather names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
- Do not make any statements to anyone, including drivers and insurers.
- Call a qualified and experienced pedestrian accident or personal injury attorney as soon as possible.