Since grade school, Americans were taught the general rule that pedestrians have the right of way. Notwithstanding this common knowledge, motorists continue to hit people crossing or walking along Colorado streets, causing serious injury and death. In 2012, close to 65,000 pedestrians were injured by automobiles in the United States. Further, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that pedestrians accounted for 4,743 deaths in 2012. According to that same publication, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes.
What is the Duty of Care?
A pedestrian may recover damages for the injuries sustained as a result of someone else’s negligence. Negligence is the failure to do (or not do) something that a reasonable person in a similar situation would have done. To establish negligence in a pedestrian accident, the injured party must prove that the negligent party owed a legal duty under the circumstances but breached that legal duty though action or inaction and caused an injury to the injured party.
Usually, pedestrian-vehicle cases hinge on the duty owed by all involved. Both drivers and pedestrians must follow the rules of the road and exercise reasonable care. In many cases, it may seem obvious who was negligent but courts look at numerous factors in negligence elements. A driver who negligently operates a motor vehicle may be required to pay damages for personal and property damage caused.
At the same time, pedestrians are required to exercise reasonable care for their own safety. The care required is proportionate to the danger to be avoided. Contributory negligence may be assessed against a pedestrian if they failed to exercise such care and, in doing so, contributed to their own injuries.
The physical damage that can result from a pedestrian accident is often debilitating or life altering. If the impact was very serious, the pedestrian could be subject to various injuries, including the following:
- Facial Lacerations
- Dental Damage
- Broken Bones
- Joint Issues
- Head Trauma
- Herniated Discs
- Neurological Damage
- Spinal Cord Damage
- Disc Bulge
- Ruptured Disc
- Internal Organ Trauma
Sadly, head injuries are not uncommon because pedestrians are unprotected. Upon impact, pedestrians could suffer a minor brain injury like a concussion or a very serious traumatic brain injury, which would equate to devastating results like memory loss, decreased bodily function, or even permanent disabilities. Further, pedestrians can be subjected to very serious spinal cord injuries.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Unfortunately, pedestrian accidents can happen at any time and in any place. Because pedestrians have no protection, the injuries sustained can be very serious. A few of the most common factors contributing to driver negligence are:
- Distracted Driving
- Reckless Driving
- Drunk Driving
- Poor road conditions
- Poor visibility due to weather conditions
- Faulty traffic signals
- Hazardous walking surfaces
Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at the greatest risk of being hit by a vehicle because they are less visible and unpredictable. Accordingly, the law imposes a higher duty of care on drivers when it comes to children. The presence of children is a warning of danger to the driver to exercise greater care. Thus, a driver must exercise a greater degree of care when they know or should know small children are in the area. This is particularly applicable around schools, parks and residential areas.
As previously mentioned, pedestrians have a duty to exercise reasonable care for their own safety as well. A few of the most common factors contributing to pedestrian negligence include:
- Ignoring the “walk” signal at an intersection
- Entering traffic and disrupting the flow
- Failure to use marked crosswalks
- Darting in front of vehicles
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