Pedestrians are a particularly vulnerable segment of traffic, which is why motorists must yield to people crossing the street or otherwise crossing the paths of automobiles. As with any other traffic accident, liability for pedestrian accidents is based on negligence. In this section, you will find a wide variety of resources and articles on pedestrian accidents, including a general overview; information about pedestrian accidents on interstate highways; links to additional pedestrian accident resources; and more.
Q: I've been hurt in a pedestrian accident and I want to file a claim for my injuries. What's the first thing I should do? A: There are a number of things you can do in the first few days and weeks after an accident to protect your right to compensation, such as: 1) write down as much as you can about the accident itself, your injuries and any other losses (such as wages) you've suffered as a result of the accident; 2) make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim; 3) preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical items and taking photographs; 4) locate people who witnessed the accident and who might be able to help you prove your case; 5) notify anyone you think might be responsible for the accident and tell them about your intention to file a claim for your injuries, especially if a government agency or employee may be involved; and 6) contact a personal injury attorney to evaluate and pursue your claim.
Q: What if I was partially at fault for the accident? A: You may bear some responsibility for the accident, which may reduce your eventual recovery. For example, if you were 50% at fault, your recovery may be reduced by 50%.
Q: As a pedestrian, what duty is placed upon me to avoid accidents? A: Every pedestrian has the duty to obey traffic laws and to reasonably observe traffic conditions. Generally speaking, pedestrians should not begin or continue their forward course across a street if they are aware of the approach of a vehicle.
Q: How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit? A: Every state has certain time limits called "statutes of limitations," which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. In some states, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit arising out of an automobile accident. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, your claims can be dismissed. Consequently, it is important to talk with a lawyer as soon as you receive or discover an injury.
Q: What damages are recoverable in pedestrian accident cases? A: The injured party may recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering. If the defendant's conduct is extreme, punitive damages may be awarded. If the pedestrian dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the pedestrian's death, as well as damages which stem from the loss of society care and comfort of the decedent.
Q: Do I need to retain an attorney? A: It is almost always a good idea to retain an attorney in a pedestrian accident case because there usually will be some questions related to fault and comparative negligence. Expert witnesses may need to be retained to reconstruct the accident factors, and help determine responsibility for the accident.
Q: What should I bring to my meeting with a lawyer? A: You should provide a lawyer with any documents that might be relevant to your case. Police reports, for example, contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding auto accidents. Copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Information about the insurer of the person who caused your injury is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident scene, your property damage, and your injury. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you haven't collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don't worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them during investigation of your claim.
An injury suffered as a pedestrian on an interstate highway presents complex legal and factual issues. Pedestrians have an obligation to use an appropriate level of care to protect themselves against the dangers that a particular circumstance presents. So, if a pedestrian's own conduct fails to meet this standard and an injury on an interstate highway results, he or she may see their recovery reduced or their claim entirely precluded.
Nonetheless, there are instances in which pedestrians injured on interstate highways may be entitled to recovery in a legal claim. A general negligence claim may be pursued against any driver at fault for causing an accident involving the pedestrian. A legal claim may also be possible against state or federal agencies responsible for road design, construction, repair and/or maintenance. These agencies owe highway users a duty to exercise reasonable care, so when a highway defect contributes to a pedestrian injury on the interstate, the agency (and its contractors) may have legal responsibility for failing to correct the defect. If you or a loved one are involved in a pedestrian accident on an interstate highway, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case and your legal rights.
What is a Pedestrian Doing on the Highway?
Pedestrian accidents on interstate highways are more common than you may think. More than 10 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur on interstate highways. What is a pedestrian doing on the highway in the first place? Read more below.
Crossing or Entering
Believe it or not, the most common reason for pedestrians to be on the highway is to walk across it. Given the speed of motorists on a highway, it is not surprising that pedestrian accidents happen because the motorist didn't have time to avoid hitting the pedestrian. Many motorists don't even see the pedestrian until it is too late.
Walking in Roadway After Dark
More than 90 percent of crashes involving pedestrians walking in the roadway happen after dark. Contributing factors include suicidal behavior, driver inattention, and alcohol use.
Walking or Standing on Shoulder
Pedestrians struck by vehicles while walking or standing on the road shoulder also account for a small percentage of pedestrian fatalities. In some cases, pedestrians may be on the roadway illegally. Driver error and driver distraction causes most of these crashes.
Pushing or Working on Vehicles
Pedestrians may have mechanical problems with their own vehicles, and may be either working on them or pushing them out of the roadway. These accidents usually involve driver inattention, sleepiness, or drunkenness.
Tending to or Involved in a Previous Crash
Pedestrians injured on interstate highways may be in the roadway because of a previous crash. In some instances, they are injured or thrown from their vehicles. In other cases, people may be exchanging information, inspecting crash damage, or waiting for help. These pedestrian accidents may result from inattentive drivers and poor lighting.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that each year nearly 5,000 pedestrians die in motor vehicle related accidents, and more than 78,000 pedestrians suffer injuries when hit by a car or truck. In addition to pedestrian-vehicle incidents, thousands of non-vehicular pedestrian accidents also occur annually. Poor property maintenance, sidewalk or parking lot defects and/or construction or other debris on walkways cause or contribute to these accidents.
Whether a vehicle or property defect causes an accident or injury, a pedestrian may recover damages for the injuries suffered if someone else's negligence caused or contributed to the incident. 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 plaintiff under the circumstances; andFailed to fulfill ("breached") that legal duty through conduct or action (or through a failure to act); andCaused an accident or injury involving the plaintiff; andHarmed or injured the plaintiff as a result.
The outcome of each case will depend upon a careful analysis of the facts of each accident as they relate to each of these essential elements. 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.
The early involvement of a personal injury attorney with experience helping injured pedestrians is the best way to assess and protect any potential legal claim.
Pedestrian - Vehicle Accidents
Usually, any recovery in a pedestrian negligence case involving a motor vehicle will hinge upon the exact duty of care owed by those involved. 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 who negligently operates a vehicle may be required to pay damages for personal and property damage caused by that negligence.
Driver's Duty of Care
Generally, people who operate automobiles must exercise "reasonable care under the circumstances." Any failure to use reasonable care is considered negligence. A few of the most common factors contributing to driver negligence are:An inattentive or pre-occupied driverA driver's failure to observe posted speed limitsA driver's failure to yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked cross walksDisobeying traffic signs or signalsFailing to signal while turningDisregarding weather or traffic conditionsDriving 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 intersectionPedestrians who enter a stream of traffic and disrupt the flowPedestrians who fail to use marked cross walksPedestrians 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 attorneys as soon as possible
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