Attorneys For Pedestrian Accident Victims
When parents accompany their children to the bus stop or fitness-minded individuals jog to stay in shape, the result can be significant environmental and fitness benefits. Despite the advantages derived from walking, jogging, or running, anyone who travels by foot in any city knows that pedestrian safety is a serious issue. The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) reports that the first six months of 2016 saw 2,660 pedestrian deaths. Based on this data and historical trends, the organization projects an eleven percent increase in pedestrian fatalities over the prior year. This uptick in pedestrian fatalities is even more concerning because traffic-related deaths have consistently fallen in recent years.
Since pedestrians have no protection from injury when they are struck by a vehicle, the notion of a “minor” pedestrian accident is a fallacy. Even a small compact car weighs 3,000 pounds, so pedestrians tend to suffer catastrophic injuries even in crashes at low rates of speed. When a motor vehicle slams into the human body, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), broken bones, spinal cord injuries (SCIs), amputation of limbs, impairment of vital organs, or wrongful death are far too common. Pedestrians hit by cars tend to experience permanent debilitating injuries and disfigurement even if they survive their injuries.
Navigating Around Insurance Company Traps for the Unwary
Some of the tactics the insurance company might use to challenge your legal claim include:
Shift Blame: Insurers routinely try to blame pedestrians for causing their own injuries by failing to exercise reasonable care to avoid injury. The defense of comparative negligence frequently will be based on the claim that the pedestrian darted into traffic so close to the motorist that he or she had no time to stop. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, the pedestrian’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff.
Stall, Stall, Stall: Insurance companies are well aware of the hardships seriously injured pedestrian endure as medical and rehabilitative expenses spiral, and the amount of household income is reduced. The insurance company increases its profits by delaying payment of settlements as long as possible so that the funds can remain invested and earn a financial return. By contrast, the injury victim often feels increasing pressure to settle for less than the full value of the claim as the case lingers on without a recovery.
Disputing the Cause of the Injury: There are pedestrian accident cases where the insurance company has minimal opportunity to dispute liability. For example, the driver might proceed into an intersection crosswalk against a red light. The insurance company might use multiple approaches to accomplish this goal. Based on past medical records or accidents, the insurer might claim the medical condition is entirely the result of a past injury. If you delay obtaining medical attention, the carrier might even try to blame your injuries on an event that occurred after the pedestrian accident.
Requesting a Recorded Statement: An investigator for the insurance carrier usually will contact you seeking a recorded statement. Although the insurer’s representative might justify this statement based on the need to evaluate your claim, the actual objective is to find a defense to liability or to uncover facts that support a reduction in your claim value.
Seeking a Premature Settlement: When liability is relatively clear, the insurance company might offer a relatively quick settlement offer. This lowball offer might be intended to either resolve the case before you complete your medical treatment or retain legal representation. If you settle the case before your course of treatment is complete, you will be asked to sign a general release that waives your right to injuries or claims you do not even know exist. When you are without legal advice, the insurance company will try to exploit your lack of experience in determining the value of your claim.
Contesting Severity of Injury: Insurance companies love the phrase “low impact collision.” Representatives of the insurer often try to persuade unrepresented parties to accept a lowball settlement offer. This contention by insurers is particularly specious because pedestrians have no protection when struck by a vehicle, so serious injury frequently occurs even when a vehicle is traveling at slow rates of speed.
Execution of Documents: Insurance carriers might ask you to execute documents that the insurer claims will be used to facilitate processing of your claim. One such document is a consent to release of information. While some income information or medical history might be relevant, this type of release is overly broad and might result in disclosure of sensitive but irrelevant information. Ultimately, the purpose of this request is to obtain information that can be used against you.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
The lion-share of pedestrian accidents are caused by the carelessness or lack of attention of motorists, but some are caused by the negligence of third parties.
Our lawyers have been representing pedestrians for decades, so we know the many factors that contribute to these potentially fatal collisions, such as:
- Distracted Driving
- Drowsy Drivers
- Ignoring Stop Signs and Traffic Signals
- Failure to Exercise Caution in Pedestrian Areas
- Vehicles Turning Left
- Defective Vehicles (e.g., nearly silent electric cars)
- Unsafe Roadways & Intersections
Lax Pedestrian Safety Efforts Leave Vulnerable Populations Exposed to Harm
The pedestrian safety organization Smart Growth America provides an annual publication entitled Dangerous by Design, which focuses on a range of pedestrian issues. Motor vehicles claimed the lives of an average of thirteen people per day according to the pedestrian safety publication. While it might be alluring to assume that cars rarely run over people who are on foot, pedestrian accidents cause the death of 7.2 times more people than natural disasters.
Pedestrian accident rates are higher among vulnerable populations. Seniors age 65 and older face a fifty percent higher risk of being hit by a car when walking than younger adults. Both minorities and the elderly tend to be overrepresented in pedestrian fatality statistics. Although people of color account for only 34.9 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 46.1 percent of pedestrian fatalities. In some geographic regions, the disparity is even more startling. Native Americans account for only five percent of the North Dakota population, for example, but they account for 38 percent of pedestrian deaths. Pedestrian fatality rates also are higher in low-income areas.
While this data is impacted to some degree by the higher number of pedestrians among these populations, this factor does not come close to accounting for the entire disparity. Inadequate pedestrian infrastructure, which might include a lack of crosswalks, pedestrian traffic signals, poorly located bus stops, and more, also can contribute to pedestrian tragedies. Lack of investment in pedestrian safety features by public entities or unsafe designs can place those on foot in peril that would be easily preventable. Poor urban areas often are located near arterial roads, bus stopping points, and other locations of pedestrian activity. These types of traffic-related deaths occur without reasonable care by all parties involved in the street design process, such as local elected officials, federal policymakers, and transportation engineers. A focus on facilitating high speeds for vehicles while ignoring pedestrian safety often leads to dangerous areas for those walking, jogging, and running.
Who Is Responsible for Pedestrian Injuries?
Although negligent drivers are usually the primary cause of most pedestrian accidents, third-parties also cause these incidents. Our pedestrian accident law firm carefully investigates the facts and circumstances of our clients’ cases to identify all potential defendants and insurance coverage.
Some potential third-parties who might be financially responsible for pedestrian injuries include:
- Public entities for roadway defects
- Car and component manufacturers for defective vehicles (e.g., brakes that fail to engage)
- Passengers for distracting a driver
- Vehicle owners for negligently entrusting their car to a driver they know or should know is incompetent
Once we have recognized a potential defendant, we conduct an investigation and initiate the discovery process to confirm all potential sources of insurance coverage to pay a judgment or settlement. If the responsible party does not have insurance, we might conduct an asset search to determine if the party has another means to satisfy a judgment.
Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Pedestrian
While the rights and obligations of pedestrians usually will be governed by state law, we have provided an overview pedestrian accident law as an example of common provisions related to pedestrians.
Pedestrian Right of Way in Crosswalks: Motor vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks unless the intersection has a traffic control signal, or a pedestrian overpass or tunnel exists. However, pedestrians are prohibited from suddenly darting into traffic from a place of safety like a curb if it will not allow an approaching motorist sufficient time to stop. A vehicle approaching a crosswalk may not pass a vehicle that has stopped to let a pedestrian cross the street at an intersection.
Pedestrian Right of Way on Sidewalks: Vehicles entering or emerging at a building, driveway, private road, or alleyway must yield to pedestrians.
Pedestrians Crossing at Places Other Than Intersections: When crossing mid-block or at other non-intersections, pedestrians must yield the right of way to drivers.
Pedestrian Position in Crosswalks: Pedestrians must use the right half of the crosswalk when practical.
Pedestrians Walking in the Roadway: If a roadway is equipped with a sidewalk, pedestrians may not lawfully walk on the adjacent road.
Pedestrians Walking on a Roadway without Sidewalks: When pedestrians walk on a highway or other roadway without sidewalks, pedestrians must walk on the shoulder or left side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic as far to the left as practical especially if a vehicle approaches.
Nature of Pedestrian Injuries When Struck by Vehicles
While the risk of pedestrians suffering a catastrophic injury is relatively high, the probability of debilitating injury increases significantly with the speed of the vehicle during impact. The probability a pedestrian will experience a serious injury or death is directly correlated to the speed of the vehicle:
Risk of Serious Injury
|16 mph||10 percent|
|23 mph||25 percent|
|31 mph||50 percent|
|39 mph||75 percent|
|46 mph||90 percent|
Risk of Fatality
|23 mph||10 percent|
|32 mph||25 percent|
|42 mph||50 percent|
|50 mph||75 percent|
|58 mph||90 percent|
Although this data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety demonstrates a correlation between the rate of speed and the risk of serious injury or wrongful death, the charts reveal that even low-speed collisions pose significant threats to pedestrians. Age also constitutes an important risk factor in this calculation. The probability of serious injury or death for a 70-year-old pedestrian at 25 mph is substantially higher than the risk to a 30-year-old pedestrian at 35 mph.
Some of the serious injuries experienced by pedestrians run down by motor vehicles include:
- Broken bones & Fractures
- Impairment of vital organs
- Traumatic head injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs)
- Amputation of Limbs
- Permanent Disfigurement
- Wrongful Death
Forms of Compensation in a Pedestrian Accident Lawsuit
Because of the serious debilitating injuries that frequently occur when cars slam into pedestrians, parties benefit from the fullest financial recovery which can facilitate the best medical care, replacement of lost earnings, the best post-accident quality of life, and other compensation. Although no two pedestrian accident cases are identical, damages in a civil lawsuit will include both pecuniary damages (economic losses) and non-pecuniary damages such as pain and suffering.
Some of the types of compensation you might be entitled to receive include the following:
Pecuniary (Economic) Damages
- Lost wages (past, present, and future)
- Medical, hospitalization & rehabilitation expenses
- Burial costs (wrongful death lawsuit)
- Non-Pecuniary Damages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish
- Punitive damages (egregious cases)
Why an Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney Can Make a Difference
Injured pedestrians can retain any attorney to represent their interests, but lawyers differ significantly in terms of their experience, skills, and expertise. Our pedestrian injury lawyers have handled thousands of personal injury cases, which includes many involving injured pedestrians. This experience with the specific issues that arise in pedestrian accident cases, as well as the defenses often used by insurers to mitigate their liability can provide a significant advantage. We have provided an overview of the benefits of working with a proven pedestrian accident attorney.
The Anticipation of Common Defenses: Insurance companies will tailor their defenses to the specific facts of the case, but certain defense strategies frequently are asserted in pedestrian injury lawsuits. For example, the insurance company might attempt to shift blame to the pedestrian based on the theory of comparative negligence. The insurer claims that the pedestrian failed to exercise ordinary care for his own safety by engaging in unreasonably unsafe conduct like jaywalking. The insurance company could even argue its insured could not have avoided the accident because the plaintiff darted into traffic too close to the approaching vehicle.
Minimizing the Extent of Injury: Since pedestrians often have the right of way, insurance companies frequently focus on mitigating the amount they must pay out in a settlement or judgment. The insurer will closely examine medical records of the plaintiff to identify other causes for the medical condition suffered by the pedestrian. The best way to neutralize this tactic is to seek prompt medical attention and to participate in the full course of diagnostic scans, rehabilitation, and treatment. Insurance carriers might claim pre-existing injuries or post-accident events were responsible for the injury especially when there is a time lapse between the pedestrian accident and medical attention.
Balancing the Scales of Justice: Insurance companies have enormous advantages that include teams of investigators, adjusters, attorneys, and experts. Large national insurers also have deep pockets to fund litigation. When you have our large national law firm in your corner, you balance the scales of justice by putting centuries of collective experience, extensive litigation resources, attorneys recognized as industry leaders, and a network of experts behind you.
Avoiding Traps for the Unwary: The civil litigation process is a minefield of procedural, evidentiary, and substantive standards that can blow up a legitimate claim for damages. Experienced pedestrian accident lawyers can help you avoid critical mistakes like statements that compromise your position or the failure to comply with critical deadlines like the statute of limitations.
Determining the Value of Your Claim: The careless driver’s insurer might offer a quick settlement before you have completed the course of treatment for your injuries or obtained legal advice. Insurance carriers know that lay people do not have sufficient experience with prior settlements and verdicts or the factors relevant to damage awards. Our attorneys can draw on knowledge of prior cases, awareness of factors that determine damages, and experts to accurately determine the value of a claim.
What Should You Do If You Are a Pedestrian Struck by a Motor Vehicle
If you are the victim of a speeding, distracted, alcohol-impaired, or otherwise careless driver while walking, jogging, or running, certain actions in the immediate aftermath of the accident can improve the prospects for your claim.
These steps include:
- Seek prompt medical attention, attend medical and physical therapy appointments, and complete your course of treatment
- Have someone gather evidence at the scene by taking pictures of your injuries, the vehicle, and the surrounding area
- Summon law enforcement to the scene so that a law enforcement accident report can be prepared
- Avoid speaking to the negligent driver or the motorist’s insurance carrier
- Obtain legal advice and representation
Why Parker Waichman LLP Can Make All the Difference
Many law firms talk about experience and reputation, but the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have 350 years of collective legal experience. Since our personal injury law firm was founded in 1993, we have recovered over 2 billion dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Although we are a large law firm, we are committed to ensuring each of our clients receive the attention to their case and responsiveness to questions that they would expect if they were our only clients.
As you might imagine, we have received many awards and accolades, which include the following recent examples:
- Rated by U.S. News & World Report Among “Best Law Firms”
- Recipient of 9.8 Rating (Out of 10) by AVVO
- Member of Distinguished “Billion Dollar Trial Lawyers”
- Received Highest “5 Dragon Rating” Based on Extensive Peer Review
- Acknowledged as Recipient “Top 100 US. Verdicts”
- Awarded Highest Peer “AV” Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
The attorneys at our pedestrian accident law firm represent bicyclists, walkers, joggers, and runners in throughout the U.S. We invite you to speak with us for more information and an initial consultation, so contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529), or fill out our case inquiry form, or visit us in person.
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