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. If you have been injured, our experienced pedestrian accident lawyers can help.
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; and
- Failed to fulfill (“breached”) that legal duty through conduct or action (or through a failure to act); and
- Caused an accident or injury involving the plaintiff; and
- Harmed 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 pedestrian accident lawyers with experience helping injured people 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:
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 intersection
- Pedestrians who enter a stream of traffic and disrupt the flow
- Pedestrians who fail to use marked cross walks
- Pedestrians 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.
Questions Asked of our Pedestrian Accident Lawyers
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?
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:
- 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;
- Make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim;
- Preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical items and taking photographs;
- Locate people who witnessed the accident and who might be able to help you prove your case;
- 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
- Contact an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer to evaluate and pursue your claim.
What if I was partially at fault for the accident?
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%.
As a pedestrian, what duty is placed upon me to avoid accidents?
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.
How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?
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. In Texas, it is usually two years, but you don’t want to wait that long if you are going to pursue a claim. 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.
What damages are recoverable in pedestrian accident cases?
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.
Do I need to retain an attorney?
It is almost always a good idea to retain pedestrian accident lawyers 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.
What should I bring to my meeting with a lawyer?
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.
If you were involved in an accident in Texas, contact us if you are seeking experienced pedestrian accident lawyers.