Issues to Consider in Pedestrian Injury Cases
About 70,000 pedestrians are involved in serious accidents with motor vehicles every year. While some pedestrians may have contributed to their own injuries, many of these accidents involve issues of motorist liability.
Factors Contributing to Pedestrian Accidents
An auto accident attorney representing an injured pedestrian will look at the circumstances of the accident to determine which factors contributed to the accident, including:
- Drivers ignoring crosswalks
- Pedestrians not using crosswalks
- Distracted drivers
- Passing a school bus
- Repairing a vehicle on a highway
Duty of a Motorist
Anyone who drives a motor vehicle has a duty to other motorists and to pedestrians to exercise reasonable care. The duty of care includes not speeding and being cognizant of pedestrians, especially in residential and urban areas.
Increased Duty of Care
Motorists may have a heightened duty of care if they are in a residential area where there are schools and where children are commonly found. Although most residential areas have speed zones of about 25 miles per hour, a motorist may still have a duty to drive even more slowly and to anticipate that children may suddenly appear from between cars or run out into the roadway. Small children are not expected to exercise the same care as adults or to necessarily watch out for their own safety.
A car traveling at 20 miles per hour requires about 23 feet to come to a complete stop when based on the driver’s standard perception and reaction time, and if the driver is not distracted. According to studies from Safe Kids, about 25,000 children are injured by motorists each year while walking home from school.
Freeway Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians generally should never be walking on a freeway. By running across a freeway or even standing on the roadway, they may be exhibiting conduct below that of a reasonably prudent pedestrian.
There are circumstances, however, where motorists must move their vehicles to the shoulder to conduct repairs or await assistance. If an inattentive motorist strikes the driver—who is now a pedestrian—the driver likely will be considered negligent. However, if the roadway is unlit or the should is too narrow, there may also be municipal liability for defective highway design or maintenance.
If the accident occurs on a rural or narrow roadway, the pedestrian may be contributorily liable for not exercising ordinary care by moving the vehicle as far to the side as possible or for not noticing passing traffic. A personal injury attorney can assess whether the pedestrian has any contributory liability and determine what other parties, if any, may be at fault.
When pedestrians are injured and incur damages, they can sue the negligent party for compensation. But, unlike accidents involving autos where injured motorists can use their own uninsured policies to collect compensation, if pedestrians are injured by uninsured motorists, they will be forced to sue the motorist directly and hope that party has sufficient seizable assets.