Pedestrians are at the mercy of motorists. Those traveling by foot have very little control other than making sure they use a crosswalk. This is why motorists are required to yield to people crossing the street. As with any other traffic accident, liability for pedestrian accidents is based on negligence. Although motorists tend to take the blame for many pedestrian accidents, there are times when the person on foot is partially liable.
Injured pedestrians can be liable under a doctrine called contributory negligence. This doctrine will be discussed in more detail below. You will also find information on why children are especially vulnerable when it comes to pedestrian accidents.
Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Regardless of the situation, drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care while behind the wheel. If they fail to do this, they put other motorists and pedestrians at risk. If you are hit by a motor vehicle, you may have a potential claim for damages. What your accident attorney will have to prove is that the person who hit you was, in fact, negligent.
A driver could be found negligent if they violated a local traffic law. They can also be liable if they drive while distracted, intoxicated, or overly tired. Every case is different. What your pedestrian accident lawyer needs to demonstrate is that the driver did not behave the way a reasonable person would have given the circumstances.
Pedestrians Can Be Found Negligent
It may be tough to imagine a pedestrian being at fault for their accident. But that does not mean you cannot be held partially liable for your injuries. Pedestrians must also exercise reasonable care. They have a duty to use common sense and to protect their own safety as best they can.
Failure to exercise reasonable care might cause the court to find the victim partially responsible for their injuries. If this happens, there is a strong likelihood your accident claim will be reduced.
There are a variety of reasons a pedestrian can be found partially at fault:
- Walking on a highway
- Not respecting the right of way
- Wearing dark clothing at night
- Walking in the street while intoxicated
- Darting out into the flow of traffic
- Failing to use a crosswalk
- Ignoring a “Don't Walk" sign
- Ignoring other traffic signals
If you are partly at fault, it will impact your personal injury claim. It depends on the state where you live and whether the insurance company can prove that you were partly at fault.
How Does Comparative Fault Work?
If you are partially at fault for your pedestrian accident, it can have a significant impact on your claim. There are three main rules when it comes to partial fault. Depending on your state, the court will follow one of the following standards:
- Pure contributory negligence rule: In states that follow this rule, a plaintiff will not recover damages if they are even 1% at fault. Only four states still follow this rule: Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
- Comparative negligence rule: In states that subscribe to the comparative negligence standard, accident victims can recover damages regardless of their percentage of fault. Their damages will, however, be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if you were hit by a car while walking across the street, you may be found partly at fault for not using the crosswalk. If the judge determines you were 40% at fault, your damages will be reduced by 40%.
- Modified comparative negligence rule: This rule is the one most states use. There are two types of modified comparative negligence: 50% bar rule and 51% bar rule. Under the 50% bar rule, the plaintiff may not recover damages if they are found to be 50% or more liable. Under the 51% bar rule, the plaintiff may not recover damages if they are more than 51% liable. These rules seem to make the most sense. If a plaintiff is more than 50% or 51% at fault, the other party would be the one to file a lawsuit.
When you meet with your accident attorney, they will explain which rule is applied to your case.
Children Are a Special Case
The above rules apply to almost all personal injury cases. The rules are somewhat different when the victim is a child. This is especially true in pedestrian accident cases. Children ages 5-9 are at the greatest risk of being hit by a vehicle. At these ages, children are small, may move unpredictably, and typically lack the foresight to avoid danger effectively.
Drivers have a higher duty of care when it comes to children. Certain jurisdictions may not use contributory or comparative negligence in these cases. Under the "tender years" doctrine, young children, usually up to the age of 4, cannot exercise reasonable care to protect their safety or that of others and cannot be capable of negligence.
Damages in a Pedestrian Accident Case
If you suffer serious injuries in a pedestrian accident, you will likely be entitled to significant compensation. Ideally, your insurance claim will be settled, and you will not need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
If your personal injury lawyer does file suit in your case, they will make a demand for damages. These damages represent the losses you suffered as a result of the accident.
In most pedestrian motor vehicle accidents, victims are entitled to some or all of the following:
- Reimbursement for medical bills
- Compensation for future medical expenses
- Property damage such as glasses, electronics, and other personal items
- Pain and suffering
- Compensation for lost wages
- Future lost income
Your personal injury attorney will have to prove that you suffered these damages. As long as your pedestrian accident attorney can also prove that the insured was the responsible party, there is a good chance they will negotiate a settlement with the driver's insurance company.
How Long Do You Have to File Your Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one is injured in a pedestrian accident, you only have a certain amount of time to file a legal claim. Every state has certain laws that govern how long plaintiffs have to file their personal injury claims. These laws are called statutes of limitation.
Most states allow accident victims two or three years to file suit. However, every state is unique, so make sure you ask your pedestrian accident attorney what filing deadline you face. In most cases, the statute of limitations starts from the time of the accident.
If a personal injury claim involves a fatality, the statute of limitations may change. This is because many states have special rules regarding wrongful death claims.
If you miss the filing deadline, you will lose your right to sue the driver who hit you. You will not be able to file a claim against their insurance policy. Your best bet is to talk to a pedestrian accident attorney for legal advice as soon as possible after the accident.
You Don't Have to Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help
Meeting with a personal injury lawyer can help you understand your options and how to protect your legal rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a car accident lawyer near you who can help. Most firms offer a free case evaluation.