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How Do Pedestrian Accidents Happen?
Pedestrian accidents are some of the most damaging vehicle accidents that occur in California and throughout the United States. When these accidents happen, the pedestrian involved is likely to suffer severe injuries, some of which may result in permanent or fatal damage. Every driver needs to understand their duty of care when it comes to avoiding collisions with pedestrians. It’s also crucial for pedestrians to understand the risk factors most likely to cause pedestrian accidents and how to avoid them.
The Kreeger Law Firm strives to provide our clients and prospective clients with as much information as possible about different situations that often lead to personal injury claims. Pedestrian accidents are common in California’s many metropolitan areas, and these accidents often cause devastating injuries to the victims. We have compiled the following list of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents in California. So, what are the main causes of pedestrian accidents? Review this information to better understand the risk factors you face when walking as a pedestrian and your responsibilities as a driver around pedestrians.
Throughout the United States, distracted driving is the leading cause of all traffic collisions, including pedestrian accidents. “Distracted driving” is a relatively broad term that applies to any situation in which drivers are not devoting their full attention to operating their vehicle and watching traffic patterns around them. Some of the most commonly reported types of distracted driving include:
- Cell phone use, especially texting while driving. California has implemented a ban on cell phone use behind the wheel. It is only legal to use your cell phone while driving if you use a device that allows for entirely hands-free use of the device, so your hands are free to maintain control of your vehicle.
- Eating behind the wheel. Many commuters grab drive-thru food on the way to work in the morning, but eating while driving is dangerous because it prevents the driver from using both hands to operate their vehicle. Additionally, a sudden spill or dropping food could potentially distract a driver enough to cause a pedestrian accident.
- Smoking. Many drivers smoke behind the wheel but doing so can be dangerous. Hot ashes may fly back into a driver’s eyes, or they may drop a cigarette and panic, causing them to lose control of the vehicle.
- Cognitive distraction. Sometimes a driver may lose focus on the road due to cognitive or mental distraction. They may be anxious about the day ahead or replaying a stressful day’s events when they should be more focused on driving. Even a few moments of cognitive distraction could cause a driver to fail to notice changing traffic patterns.
Anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task at hand is potentially dangerous, especially when pedestrians are nearby. A pedestrian is smaller and harder to notice than another car, so even momentary distractions can be enough to cause devastating pedestrian accidents.
Drivers must abide by posted speed limits and operate their vehicles as safely as possible. Speeding is dangerous not only for the driver but for everyone around them, pedestrians included. When a driver speeds, they may not be able to slow down or stop in time to avoid a serious accident, potentially striking a pedestrian. The higher the vehicle’s speed involved in a pedestrian accident, the more likely it is that the pedestrian will sustain severe or fatal injuries.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
It is illegal in California and the rest of the United States to operate any motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An impaired driver will have slower reaction times and may be unable to avoid colliding with a pedestrian. They may also fail to notice changing traffic signals such as red lights and turn arrows, causing them to collide with a pedestrian. DUI can not only lead to civil liability for an injured pedestrian’s damages but also criminal prosecution.
California prescribes escalating penalties for DUI convictions based on the severity of a driver’s intoxication at the time of arrest and their prior record of previous DUI convictions. However, even a first-time DUI offender can face severe criminal penalties if they hit a pedestrian, especially if they die from the incident. DUI that involves injury or death of a pedestrian will typically qualify as an “aggravated DUI,” and the offending driver could potentially face criminal charges, including vehicular manslaughter or even second-degree murder, depending on their actions.
Failing to stop at a stop sign or red light or failing to yield to pedestrians can easily cause devastating injuries when a driver strikes a pedestrian. Every driver needs to remember that a pedestrian always has the right of way, even if they jaywalk or fail to wait for a crossing signal. If a pedestrian accident happens because the pedestrian was negligent, likely, the driver who hit them will still incur liability for the pedestrian’s damages under California’s pure comparative negligence law.
Although California typically enjoys pleasant weather for most of the year, bad weather can cause accidents. When severe weather makes it difficult for a driver to see, the chance of an accident increases dramatically. Drivers should always use extra caution during severe weather conditions and ensure their vehicle’s headlights and wiper blades are functional at all times.
Many drivers do not know that making a left-hand turn is one of the most dangerous actions they regularly take, even when they perform left-hand turns completely legally. When a driver turns left, they inherently have less visibility than they do when they turn right, and this makes it more likely for them to miss a pedestrian. Drivers should always use care when making left-hand turns, especially when pedestrians are walking nearby.
Many pedestrian accidents happen when drivers back up and do not realize there is a pedestrian behind them. These accidents can occur in residential areas when drivers pull out of their driveways, and they can also occur in commercial areas. For example, a driver parked outside of a store may back up to leave and accidentally hit a pedestrian walking between the store and their own vehicle.
While many modern cars have reverse cameras that allow drivers to back up their vehicle more safely, not every vehicle includes this feature. Drivers must also use caution when reversing their vehicles, whether they are backing out of a parking spot, backing out of a driveway, or reversing to parallel park.
Can I Take Legal Action for My Pedestrian Accident?
Personal injury law in the United States hinges on “negligence,” a legal term to describe a party’s failure to act with reasonable care in a given situation. While the definition of “reasonable care” can be somewhat vague, the essence of the term is the degree of care that a reasonable adult should be expected to assume in a given situation. In any case involving a driver hitting a pedestrian, California law upholds that such an incident is a clear example of negligence on the driver’s part. All drivers in California and throughout the United States are expected to avoid hitting pedestrians at all times, even when pedestrians are themselves negligent and do not cross streets at appropriate places or ways.
If you or a loved one recently sustained injuries while walking in California due to the negligence of a driver, it is very likely that you have solid grounds for a personal injury action against the driver responsible for the accident. If you are unsure whether you have grounds for a civil claim, it is best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. California places a two-year statute of limitations or time limit for personal injury claims, and while this may sound like a long time, it is crucial to start building your case as soon as possible for the best chance of success.
Pure Comparative Negligence in Pedestrian Accident Claims
When a car strikes a pedestrian, the driver has the higher duty of care in the situation. Naturally, the driver will want to point out any details of the accident they can find that would potentially reduce their liability for the resulting damages. One of the most commonly sought defenses in California personal injury claims is comparative negligence, a legal term used to describe any situation in which a plaintiff bears partial responsibility for causing their claimed damages.
California is one of few states that upholds a pure comparative negligence statute. Most states that uphold comparative negligence laws do so under modified conditions, typically barring plaintiff recovery if a plaintiff is 50% or more at fault for causing their claimed damages. In California, it does not matter if a plaintiff is 99% at fault; they still have the right to claim compensation in a civil claim. However, they will lose a percentage of their case award equal to their fault percentage.
One of the most common examples of a situation in which California’s pure comparative negligence statute is likely to come into play would be a jaywalking pedestrian hit by a car. If the pedestrian suddenly crosses a street outside of a crosswalk, a nearby driver would not have a reasonable expectation to anticipate such behavior and may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision. In this situation, the driver would still have the higher duty of care because they are operating a motor vehicle, but the pedestrian would likely lose a percentage of their case award to reflect their own negligence.
How to Recover From a Successful Pedestrian Accident Claim
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a pedestrian accident, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the accident. Your civil claim can secure various types of compensation, including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damages. Pedestrian accident victims need to consult experienced attorneys about these situations to ensure they maximize the compensation they receive from their claims. These accidents have a high chance of resulting in catastrophic injuries.
When it comes to medical expenses resulting from a pedestrian accident, a plaintiff has the right to claim both immediate expenses and anticipated long-term costs resulting from the incident. For example, a pedestrian accident could send the victim to the hospital with severe injuries that require emergency care and cause permanent disability. The victim in this situation could claim their hospital bills and their long-term expenses for rehabilitation and other restorative therapies they require until they reach maximum medical improvement.
As far as lost income is concerned, a pedestrian accident plaintiff can receive compensation for wages lost while they recover from their injuries as well as lost future earning capacity. If their injuries prevent them from returning to their job or working at all in the future, an experienced attorney can help them prove the full extent of their lost earning capacity resulting from the incident.
Pain and suffering compensation will hinge on the severity of the victim’s injuries and any long-term damage they involve. For example, a plaintiff who only sustained bone fractures that will heal completely with no long-term effects will receive much less in pain and suffering compensation than a plaintiff who developed a permanent disability from their injuries.
Why You Need Legal Counsel
Pedestrian accidents occur in California for many reasons, and sometimes multiple parties may bear liability for the victim’s damages. Additionally, proving liability may not be as clear and straightforward as it seems at first. An injured victim may require professional assistance in establishing negligence and proving the full scope of their claimable damages. If you have suffered injuries in a pedestrian accident, you need legal counsel you can trust to review your claim as soon as possible. Contact the Kreeger Law Firm today if you need legal advice after you or a loved one sustained injuries as a pedestrian and believe you have grounds for legal action against the driver responsible.