When you step out for a walk, the last thing you anticipate is getting involved in a road accident. Unfortunately, pedestrian accidents are all too common, in 2021, 17% of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians, and understanding your rights is crucial. If you’ve been hit by a car or vehicle while walking or running, this guide is designed to help you, the injured pedestrian, navigate the complex legal landscape and seek rightful compensation.
Common causes of pedestrian accidents
Each year, thousands of pedestrians are injured or killed in accidents. The reasons behind these accidents are varied, but certain causes tend to occur more frequently than others. Here are some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents:
- Distracted Driving: When drivers are not fully focused on the road, pedestrians can be put at serious risk. This can include texting, eating, or using a GPS while driving.
- Failure to Yield: Many pedestrian accidents occur when drivers fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections.
- Speeding: Drivers who exceed the speed limit may not have enough time to stop for pedestrians. High speed impacts are also more likely to result in severe injuries or fatalities.
- Impaired Driving: Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol pose a significant threat to pedestrians. Their impaired judgment and slowed reaction times can lead to devastating accidents.
- Left-Hand Turns: Drivers making left-hand turns can easily overlook pedestrians due to their focus on oncoming traffic.
- Backing-Up Accidents: When drivers back up without adequately checking for pedestrians, particularly in parking lots and driveways, accidents can happen.
Common injuries sustained by pedestrians in accidents
When a pedestrian is involved in an accident, the severity and nature of injuries can range widely. These injuries depend on several factors, such as the speed of the vehicle, the point of impact, and the overall health of the pedestrian involved. Here are some of the most common injuries sustained in such unfortunate incidents:
- Head and Brain Injuries: These include traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), concussions, and skull fractures. They can lead to long-term cognitive issues, memory loss, and may require extensive rehabilitation.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: These often result in partial or total paralysis, leading to a drastic change in the victim’s lifestyle. Medical treatment and rehabilitation can be lifelong and costly.
- Broken Bones: These are common in pedestrian accidents. The impact can cause fractures in arms, legs, ribs, and other parts of the body. Recovery times can vary, and in severe cases, surgery may be needed.
- Internal Injuries: These can be difficult to detect immediately after an accident. Signs of internal bleeding or organ damage may only become noticeable later, making them particularly dangerous.
- Lacerations and Abrasions: These often result from contact with the vehicle or the road surface. While not as severe as other injuries, they can still lead to scarring or infection if not treated promptly.
- Fatal Pedestrian Accidents: Sadly injuries can also be fatal with over 7,000 pedestrian deaths recorded in 2021. Partners and family members dependent on the victims of fatal road accidents may be entitled to compensation.
It’s essential for anyone involved in a pedestrian accident to seek immediate medical attention, even if they feel fine initially. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and early detection can greatly improve the prognosis.
Compensation for pedestrian accident victims
Being a pedestrian accident victim is a challenging situation. You are not only dealing with physical injuries but also financial instability due to medical expenses and lost income. To get back on your feet, you may be entitled to compensation. Understanding what you can claim for and how it’s calculated can provide some peace of mind.
What Can You Claim For?
The nature of your claim largely depends on the specifics of your accident. However, here are some common aspects that many victims can claim for:
- Medical Bills: This includes hospital stays, surgeries, medication, and future medical care related to the accident.
- Lost Wages: If your injury has caused you to miss work, you can claim compensation for the income you would have earned during your recovery period.
- Pain and Suffering: You may also be compensated for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident.
- Loss of Consortium: If the accident has significantly affected your relationship with your spouse, you can claim for this non-economic loss.
How Is Compensation Calculated?
Calculating compensation is a complex process and varies from case to case. It usually involves these key factors:
- The Severity of Your Injuries: Greater injuries often equate to higher compensation due to extensive medical treatment and longer recovery periods.
- Impact on Your Quality of Life: If your injuries have caused permanent disability or have significantly changed your lifestyle, this will be considered in the compensation determination.
- Economic Loss: Any financial loss resulting from the accident, such as medical expenses and lost wages, will be taken into account.
- Non-economic Loss: These are subjective losses related to pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
It’s important to keep in mind that each case is unique. A pedestrian accident lawyer can provide a more accurate estimation based on your specific circumstances.
Negligence and liability
When you’re walking, you have the right to feel safe. But all too often, reckless or negligent drivers shatter that sense of security. Understanding the concept of negligence and liability is important for any pedestrian who has been a victim of a road accident.
Negligence plays a pivotal role in any personal injury claim. It’s often the deciding factor in whether or not a pedestrian will receive compensation for their injuries. A driver is considered negligent if they fail to exercise reasonable care towards others. In the context of pedestrian accidents, this could mean speeding, failing to yield at crosswalks, or distracted driving.
Liability, on the other hand, refers to the legal responsibility for one’s actions or omissions. If a driver is found liable for a pedestrian accident, they’re typically required to compensate the pedestrian for their injuries and any property damage.
However, it’s essential to note that in some scenarios, pedestrians may be considered partly to blame for the accident. This can significantly impact the amount of compensation they receive.
Scenarios of Shared Liability in Pedestrian Accidents
- Ignoring Traffic Signals: A pedestrian who crosses the road when the ‘Don’t Walk’ sign is flashing may share the blame.
- Walking along Highways: If a pedestrian is injured while walking where pedestrian access is clearly prohibited, such as on freeways or bridges, they may be at fault.
- Emerging Suddenly into Traffic: Darting out into traffic from between parked cars or other obstacles can be considered contributory negligence on the pedestrian’s part.
These scenarios could result in a reduction of the compensation payout, depending on the specific laws of the state. This concept, known as comparative or contributory negligence, varies widely, so consulting with a pedestrian accident lawyer in such situations is crucial.
Note: Even if a pedestrian is partly to blame for the accident, they may still be able to recover a portion of their losses under the concept of ‘comparative negligence.’
Proving negligence and establishing liability can be complex processes, which is why it’s crucial to seek legal advice from experienced pedestrian accident lawyers.
Steps to take after a pedestrian accident
If you’re a pedestrian who has been struck by a vehicle, your immediate actions can significantly impact your potential legal claims. It’s crucial to handle the situation appropriately and calmly. Here are the key steps to take post-incident:
- Contact the Authorities: Immediately dial 911 to get both medical help and the police to the scene. Whether you think you’re injured or not, it’s vital to have a medical professional assess you.
- Gather Information: Gather as much information as you can from the driver, including their name, phone number, address, insurance details, and vehicle registration number. If any witnesses are available, collect their contact information as well.
- Document the Scene: If possible, take photos or videos of the accident scene, your injuries, the vehicle involved, and any other relevant evidence. This can be invaluable when building your case.
- Report the Accident: Report the incident to the local police department. This will provide an official record of the accident, which can support your insurance claim or lawsuit.
- Seek Medical Attention: Visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible for a complete check-up. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and having a medical record of any injuries can help your case.
- Consult with a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer: It’s important to consult with a lawyer specializing in pedestrian accidents as soon as you can. They can guide you through the legal process and help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Understanding time limits for filing a claim
When you’re the victim of a pedestrian accident, it’s essential to remember that time is of the essence. There are legal time limits, known as “statutes of limitations,” within which you must file a claim for personal injury. These limits vary from state to state.
In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives you two years from the date of the injury to go to court and file a lawsuit against those responsible for the incident.
Major US States’ Statutes of Limitation
|New York||3 years from the date of the accident|
|Florida||4 years from the date of the accident|
|Texas||2 years from the date of the accident|
|Pennsylvania||2 years from the date of the accident|
If you miss these deadlines, the court can refuse to hear your case, which can prevent you from receiving the compensation you deserve. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a pedestrian accident lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights.