The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed and more than 70,000 injured by vehicles each year.
Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties
The rights and duties of pedestrians are defined in your state’s Motor Vehicle and Traffic Safety Code. A pedestrian is anyone who is walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down, as defined by the NHTSA. The pedestrian has the right-of-way in crosswalks, public roads and highways, and on public and private sidewalks. Pedestrians should obey traffic signals, including lights, do-not-walk and walk signals, and any other pedestrian safety devices or warnings. Pedestrians must use the sidewalk along a roadway, if one is available. If no sidewalk is available, the pedestrian must walk along the shoulder of the road facing the traffic. A pedestrian must look around, and act reasonably and prudently for the conditions around them, even when they have the right-of-way. Pedestrians must be aware of their surroundings, use common sense and do whatever is reasonable and prudent to avoid harm.
Pedestrian Accidents – Common Causes
When an accident between a driver and a pedestrian occurs, either person can be at fault. Here are some common causes of accidents between pedestrians and drivers:
Caused by Driver (or other)
- Failure to yield to pedestrian
- Distractions, such as cell phone, eating, music, or applying make up
- Drunk driving
- Equipment failure
- Poor road conditions/maintenance
Caused by Pedestrian
- Ignoring a signal
- Walking outside the crosswalk
- Walking along a high speed thoroughfare
- Failing to walk on the sidewalk
Primary and Secondary Injuries
An auto accident injury to a pedestrian can result from the primary point of impact, or may occur as a secondary reaction to the force of impact of an accident, as a pedestrian is pushed into a solid object. For example, a pedestrian might be struck by a car and have their leg injured as a result. Then, the force of that impact propels the pedestrians into another vehicle, which results in a skull fracture and some broken ribs.
So What Should You do if you’re an Injured Pedestrian?
As any auto accident lawyer will tell you, all personal injury claims require evidence. If you’re injured in a pedestrian accident, you’ll need the driver’s name and contact information, and his insurance company’s contact information. You’ll need to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company, and contact your insurance company to report the accident as well.
Assuming you’ve already determined the accident was not your fault, now it is time for you to build your claim against the driver you believe was at fault. You’ll need to be able to prove the driver’s negligence. You need to ask yourself if the driver breached his duty of care, were the driver’s actions the direct and proximate cause of your injuries, was the driver negligent, and were there outside forces that may have relieved the driver from being at fault.
Build Your Claim
Drivers should obey the law, use common sense and act reasonably. If they fail to do so, it is negligence. To file a successful claim against a driver, you’ll need to prove the driver breached his duty to care for any pedestrians around him, and this breach resulted in your injuries. You can find evidence of this from several sources.
State Motor Vehicle Handbook
Your state’s motor vehicle handbook outlines the driver and pedestrian rights and duties. Look for rules the driver may have broken that lead to the accident.
Police, fire and rescue workers make a report, which will include their impressions of the cause of the accident, whether you or the driver was ticketed and witness names and contact information. If the driver was ticketed, this may help your case. If you were ticketed, you may not have a case.
Witness statements may be useful because witnesses often see things you don’t, and may be able to point to the cause of the accident, and who was at fault.
Statements by the Driver
Excited utterances, statements against interest, and admissions may occur when there is an accident. A driver may say something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” or “I was on my cell phone.” Courts traditionally allow these statements to be used as evidence of liability.
Any photos of the impact point on the car and accident scene are helpful. They may contradict a driver’s assertions that it was too dark to see, for example.
Retain the clothing you were wearing when the accident occurred. Look for car paint or debris on the clothing and accessories you were wearing.
Get a report of the weather conditions at the time the accident occurred. You can get this free of charge from the National Weather Service, at http://www.weather.gov/.
Medical Records and Bills
You may have made a statement to the doctors or nurses at the emergency room about the cause of the accident. Request a copy of the admission chart from the hospital. Your medical bills serve as evidence of the injuries you received, and the treatment you were given. You’ll also need the details of them later to determine your out-of-pocket costs and lost wages when settling the compensation portion of your claim. A vehicle lawyer can also assist you with the terms of fair and just compensation.
Negotiating Your Claim
Once you’ve presented your evidence and built your case, it’s time to negotiate the claim. You’ll negotiate with an insurance company claims adjuster based on the evidence you have. You need to present evidence showing what happened immediately before, at the time of, and after the accident, and during your recovery. If you’ve done a thorough job preparing your evidence, you should be able to settle easily.
If you cannot come to a satisfactory agreement with the claims adjuster, you can choose to take legal action and contact an auto accident lawyer. An experienced and well-qualified lawyer should always be consulted when injuries are serious, such as head injuries, broken bones, scarring or the wrongful death of a family member. Most attorneys will consult with potential clients free of charge.