Drivers owe a duty of reasonable care to all pedestrians. Pedestrians also owe a duty of care to follow traffic signals and crosswalk lights. However, a driver has a higher duty of care because pedestrians are more vulnerable to serious injury. Drivers are responsible for preventing accidents, following traffic laws, and driving safely. To recover damages after an accident, the pedestrian who suffered harm must show that the driver deviated from their responsibilities or acted negligently.
Generally, the pedestrian or the surviving family must show that the driver owed the pedestrian a duty of care, that the driver breeched that duty of care because they were negligent, and that the driver’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the pedestrian’s injuries.
Driver negligence can be shown in many ways, such violating traffic laws, texting and driving, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For example, California Vehicle Code 21709 VC makes it illegal for a motorist to drive in safety zones. These areas are set aside for pedestrians. A driver who drives in a safety zone and injures another will usually be held legally responsible. Aside from safety zones, if a driver strikes a pedestrian because he was speeding, trying to pass a stopped school bus, or didn’t yield to a pedestrian, they may also be held legally responsible.
Pedestrian Injuries from Car Accidents
There are many scenarios where a pedestrian can be knocked down, these include:
- Vehicles failing to yield to pedestrians;
- Biking on the sidewalk;
- Cars driving on the sidewalk;
- City buses with large mirrors that extend into the sidewalk; and
- Passengers opening the doors of parked cars.
Types of Pedestrian Accidents
At any given time on the busy streets of California there may be cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. When an accident occurs between a heavier more dangerous vehicle and a pedestrian, the pedestrian is always at the mercy of the vehicle operator. There is no protection between a pedestrian, heavier vehicle, and the ground. As a result, even a minor knock-down accident can cause serious injuries to pedestrians that are often one sided.
Under California personal injury law, a pedestrian who was injured in an accident can file a lawsuit against those who caused the accident. Damages usually include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you were hit by a vehicle, the driver’s insurance company will be quick to contact you to try to settle the claim for as little as possible. Having a skilled attorney fighting for your rights will ensure that you aren’t taken advantage and that you receive what is owed to you.
Pedestrian Accidents in Cross Walks
Crosswalk accidents are some of the more common accidents. Perhaps the pedestrian started to walk before the walk signal or maybe there wasn’t even a crosswalk. Maybe, the pedestrian instinctively apologized after the accident. The insurance company will be quick to blame the pedestrian and try to use his or her words against them. The question of “fault” is something that is decided by a jury.
CALIFORNIA’S COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE LAWS
A driver may have a more substantial duty of care than a pedestrian. However, if a pedestrian’s negligence contributes to their accident, such as crossing the street illegally, the pedestrian may face diminished compensation due to California’s pure comparative negligence law. Under this law, a plaintiff who is partially at fault for causing the damages they have claimed may still recover compensation. However, they lose a percentage of the case award to reflect the amount of fault they hold for causing the damages.
For example, if a driver hits a jaywalking pedestrian, the driver still holds a higher duty of care and will therefore absorb most of the liability for the accident. However, it’s not that simple. Since the pedestrian crossed illegally, the accident may not have occurred had the pedestrian used the crosswalk legally. Therefore, the pedestrian is partially liable for their accident. The judge overseeing the case will reduce the plaintiff’s claim award by an appropriate percentage. Unlike states that follow modified comparative negligence laws and bar plaintiff recovery if they hold more than 50% of the fault for their claimed damages, California’s pure comparative negligence law has no such limit.
COMMON INJURIES FROM PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS
When a pedestrian suffers an accident with a motor vehicle, it is almost always the pedestrian who suffers the worst of the damages. When a car or motorcycle strikes a person, the victim could suffer serious injuries such as:
- Bone fractures. The force of impact can cause severe bone fractures throughout the body, and the victim could suffer secondary fractures from falling to the ground after the initial impact.
- Spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord allows the brain to control the body’s movements and functions. If a pedestrian suffered an injury to their spine, they could face lifelong paralysis or other long-term medical complications.
- Brain injuries. A blow to the head can have devastating consequences. Even seemingly mild traumatic brain injuries like concussions can result in extensive brain damage. A pedestrian who suffers a brain injury could face permanent disability and loss of basic motor functions.
- Internal organ damage. The force of a car striking a pedestrian can damage the internal organs severely. It’s also possible for broken bones to pierce organs and cause critical medical complications.
- Soft tissue injuries. A pedestrian accident can involve rapid momentum shifts and impact forces that can damage the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, some of which may require surgery and rehabilitation.
It is easy to see how a pedestrian struck by a car can incur massive medical bills and require extensive care, sometimes lasting for years after such accidents. In a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff can claim compensation for all their damages, including those they have already incurred at the time of their filing the lawsuit and those they are likely to incur in the future.
POTENTIAL COMPENSATION FOR YOUR PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENT CLAIM
Your Sacramento pedestrian accident attorney will help you ensure you receive appropriate compensation for all of the medical expenses resulting from your accident. Additionally, it is easy to see how substantial medical bills and the inability to work can create a compounded financial problem for the plaintiff. In addition to your medical expenses, your Sacramento pedestrian accident lawyer can help you secure compensation for the income you lost while recovering from your injuries.
Pedestrian accidents typically cause catastrophic injuries like spinal injuries and brand damage, and the victim may be unable to return to their previous job after their accident. In this situation, a Sacramento pedestrian accident lawyer can help the plaintiff prove their lost future earning potential with the help of a financial expert who can act as an expert witness in the case. In the event the pedestrian accident also resulted in damage to expensive personal property, such as a watch or smartphone, the plaintiff can claim these property damages losses in their case as well.
Finally, California law allows plaintiffs to recover financial compensation for intangible damages. “Pain and suffering” in personal injury law refers to physical pain, psychological distress, and emotional trauma a plaintiff experienced due to the defendant’s actions. Many possible formulas can be used to calculate appropriate pain and suffering damages. Most judges simply multiply the plaintiff’s medical expenses by an appropriate factor considering the severity of their injuries, and other judges award pain and suffering compensation on a per-diem basis for as long as it takes the plaintiff to make the fullest recovery possible.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN CALIFORNIA
It is also possible for a plaintiff in a pedestrian accident lawsuit to receive punitive damages alongside their other awarded damages if the judge deems it appropriate. Punitive damages serve to punish wrongdoing in civil court and discourage similar behavior in the future. In California, there is no upper limit to how much a defendant may need to pay in punitive damages. A judge typically considers the wealth of the defendant and the egregiousness of their behavior in the given situation as the primary factors in determining punitive damages.
If the defendant in a pedestrian accident case is unremorseful, or if there is any evidence indicating the defendant was intentionally attempting to cause harm or operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol, the defendant will likely face criminal prosecution from the state of California while the civil claim from the victim unfolds.
If a person dies from wounds sustained from a pedestrian accident, they can no longer file a personal injury claim to recover their damages. Their surviving loved ones may file wrongful death claims instead. Similar to personal injury claims, wrongful death claims seek compensation for losses resulting from the death of a loved one that occurred due to negligence.
Just like in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff of a wrongful death claim must prove they have the right to file the claim under California law and then prove that the death in question was the result of the defendant’s negligence. Plaintiffs can receive compensation for losses the plaintiff incurred just before their death, such as hospital bills and surgery costs, as well as the surviving loved one’s losses, including the companionship and financial support provided by the deceased.
An Experienced Advocate by Your Side ~ California pedestrian lawyer
Having a skilled attorney can handle tough questions from the insurance company about who is at fault. Our experienced Sacramento pedestrian injury attorneys will work effortlessly to prove the negligent party’s fault by conducting investigations to gather all the facts. Contact us today at (916) 782-8400 to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help you.