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Pedestrians injured in car accidents may be entitled to recover for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses or other damages. About 70,000 pedestrians were injured and 5,376 were killed in traffic accidents during 2015, according to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Pedestrians are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to traffic accidents because they do not have the protection of a vehicle around them. Only 18 percent of the 2015 pedestrian accidents occurred at road intersections, compared with 72 percent occurring at non-intersections.
While pedestrian-vehicle accidents are the most publicized and can be more severe, thousands of injury incidents occur each year with no motor vehicles involved. Poorly constructed walkways, hazards on the road, defects in parking lots and debris on sidewalks can lead to injuries or fatalities.
Recovering for damages following an injury as a pedestrian often requires a demonstration of negligence on the part of some other party. Negligence can be an act or omission that would not be performed by a reasonable person in similar circumstances and that puts other at a foreseeable risk. The elements of negligence in a civil case are duty, breach, causation and damages. The injured party must establish, therefore, that the defendant:
In a pedestrian-vehicle accident, the duty of the defendant may simply have been to drive safely. It is not uncommon for several parties to potentially be liable to the injured party following a traffic accident. Depending on the specific facts of the case, the driver of the vehicle, other drivers on the road and the parties responsible for constructing or maintaining the road, sidewalk or other relevant infrastructure may be liable.
Generally speaking, drivers have a duty of care to act reasonably under the circumstances while they are operating motor vehicles. Failure to exercise reasonable care may support a claim of negligence. More specifically, failure to obey posted speed limits, texting and driving, failure to yield right of way, disregarding weather conditions and failure to properly signal or obey traffic lights may constitute negligence. In some cases, negligence is established by demonstrating that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Additionally, drivers owe a special duty of care to children. The presence of children on or near a roadway is a warning that drivers should use greater care. Drivers are expected to drive more carefully when they are aware or should be aware of the presence of children.
Pedestrians, too, are expected by the law to exercise reasonable care for their own safety. Some jurisdictions make use of a concept called comparative fault to reduce recovery for pedestrians whose unreasonable behavior contributed to their own injuries. A pedestrian may be said to have contributed to an accident if he or she failed to use a marked crosswalk, for example, or ignored traffic signals, darted in front of a vehicle, or entered and disrupted the flow of traffic.
A pedestrian who is injured in an incident where a motor vehicle is not involved may still be able to recover under a theory of premises liability. In most jurisdictions, the party that owns or controls the premises has a duty to maintain the property in a safe condition and/or to warn pedestrians of dangerous conditions. A breach of that duty, if it causes injury, may give rise to a cause of action.
The plaintiff in such a case may be required to demonstrate that a dangerous condition existed on the premises, that the risk to pedestrians was not obvious, and that the owner of the property had knowledge of the dangerous condition. The owner's knowledge may be actual or constructive.
That is, the injured party may establish that the owner knew of the danger by demonstrating that the owner created it, knew of it and failed to correct it, or should have known of the danger based on the length of time for which it existed or its obviousness. Although the owners of a property will have responsibility for injuries on areas of their property, it is less likely that the owners will be liable for injuries that occur on public sidewalks near their businesses.
Liability is more likely in cases where the public walkways are used exclusively or near-exclusively by patrons of the business. In some cases, municipal or state governments may be liable for injuries that occur on public sidewalks, but their liability is often limited by statute. Strict notice and timing deadlines may also apply in such cases.
People who are injured in a pedestrian-vehicle accident should immediately contact the police and stay at the scene until emergency personnel arrive. The other parties to the incident have an incentive to divert fault away from themselves, so it's important to accurately document the incident as quickly as possible. If possible, the injured party should get names and contact information from any witnesses. It's also important to wait to make statements about the circumstances of the crash.
It's best to avoid giving statements to drivers or insurers until an attorney has been consulted. An attorney may be able to help identify potential sources of recovery for damages or gather evidence, including medical records and deposition testimony, for use during negotiations or at trial. An attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement for money damages or draft and file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified auto accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local auto accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.