According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), every year nearly 5,000 pedestrians are fatally struck by motor vehicles, and nearly 80,000 more are injured. Children between the ages of five and nine are most likely to be struck by a vehicle. Not only are they small and difficult to see, but they also act unpredictably and erratically. Many pedestrian accidents are preventable, and often occur when a pedestrian is attempting to cross an intersection and a driver is not paying attention. Poorly maintained roadways or construction and debris that is blocking the pedestrian’s path can lead to an accident.
Usually, in the event of an accident, a pedestrian’s primary legal claim will be against a negligent driver. Whenever a pedestrian is hit by a car while crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk (at any corner), the driver of the car is usually considered to be at fault. This is because drivers have a legal obligation to keep a proper lookout and avoid hazards in the road, and a pedestrian in these circumstances would generally fall under this rule. Contrary to what some may think or say, mid-block crossing by pedestrians is often legal, although pedestrians are never permitted to simply step blindly into the road and put themselves into a position of danger. Depending on the circumstances, an injured pedestrian may also bring a claim against the municipality if unsafe streets or traffic control devices played a role in the accident.
A Driver’s Legal Duty to Pedestrians
Drivers are obligated to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and failure to do so will be considered negligence. For example, in some conditions, even doing the speed limit may be negligent when road conditions are icy and slippery. Some common examples of negligent driving include:
When children are around, drivers must be even more cautious. When driving past a school, park, or residential area, drivers may be legally required to exercise an even greater degree of care than they would otherwise.
When Is a Local Municipality Liable?
A municipality may potentially be held liable if the street is in a dangerous condition or not built in accordance with approved plans. Another possible scenario in which a municipality may be liable is with a defectively maintained traffic control device, such as a red light. For example, where the actions of the government cause a pedestrian and oncoming traffic to both receive a green light at the same time. Governmental entities often have considerable immunities, and bringing a successful claim against them can be tricky and very fact sensitive. Immediate consultation with an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer is often the best was to insure a viable claim is not lost.
What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident
If you have been struck by a car while on foot, you may be confused and in a state of shock. The first thing you should do is call the police and seek medical attention. File a police report even if you think the accident is not severe enough to warrant it. It is important to document what has happened. Next, if possible take photographs of the accident scene as well as the car that struck you. If any witnesses were present, be sure to get their contact information, as well as the contact information of the offending driver. Next, call your insurance company. Regardless of how you perceive what happened, you should never say you were “at fault” to the insurance company or the driver that struck you. Acknowledging the facts you know to be true is one thing. Speaking to “fault” is another, and you may not yet know of important facts needed for an accurate assessment of responsibility. Contact an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer right away so that you can build a strong case from the beginning, and to make sure that you meet any statutes of limitations to prevent your claim from being barred.