Pedestrians face some of the gravest dangers on the road. They have no structural protections, as car drivers and passengers do, nor do they wear helmets, as motorcycle drivers should. In 2012, there were 4,743 pedestrian deaths, and an estimated 76,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Pedestrians include people who walk, jog, hike, or run along the road.
Pedestrians who are injured by passenger cars, trucks, or motorcycles can make claims against the at-fault driver's liability insurance. Typically, the pedestrian will have to show the driver's negligence. All vehicle drivers owe a duty to pedestrians to use reasonable care to avoid the risk of harm to others on the road. Vehicle drivers may be distracted, drunk, fatigued, or otherwise using inadequate care. If a driver's failure to use due care causes a pedestrian injury, he or she may be found negligent.
What if a hit and run driver hits you while you're walking in the street? The police can try to locate the driver, but in many cases, hit and run drivers are not identified. Assuming you are a driver, your own uninsured motorist coverage may cover your medical bills and lost income after a hit and run accident.
Liability for Pedestrian Accidents
A pedestrian who is injured by a driver who violates a safety-related statute can sue for negligence per se in some states. Not all states recognize the doctrine of negligence per se, which permits an inference of negligence. Negligence per se, in states that do recognize it, permits an inference of negligence when the plaintiff can show the defendant violated a safety law, the plaintiff is a member of the class the safety law was designed to protect, and the violation caused the accident. For example, some states have a pedestrian crosswalk statute intended to protect pedestrians, and a driver who fails to obey the law and hits a pedestrian may be sued under negligence per se.
Most people assume that the driver of the vehicle was at fault for an accident. However, pedestrians do not always have the right of way, and sometimes a pedestrian is partially or wholly to blame for an accident. Insurers usually try to find a way to at least partially blame a pedestrian who is injured. Some situations in which a pedestrian may be at fault occur when a pedestrian jaywalks or crosses outside a crosswalk, a pedestrian crosses against a traffic signal, a pedestrian is walking in the street or highway while drunk, or a pedestrian walks in an area where pedestrians are prohibited from being.
When a pedestrian and a driver share fault, the state's rules regarding comparative negligence and contributory negligence will apply. In a pure comparative negligence state, the pedestrian's ability to recover will be reduced based on his or her percentage of fault. However, a pedestrian can recover some damages even if he or she is 99% at fault. In modified comparative negligence states, the pedestrian can recover up to the driver's percentage of fault except when the pedestrian is at least 50% at fault or, in some states, at least 51% at fault. In states that follow modified comparative negligence, the pedestrian will be barred from recovering anything if he or she is more than 50% or 51% at fault. Some states follow the doctrine of contributory negligence, and in those states a pedestrian cannot recover if he or she is at fault at all.
When a negligent driver kills an adult pedestrian, his or her family and dependents may be able to sue for wrongful death. The rules regarding who may bring a lawsuit after a loved one's death and how the recovery will be split can vary from state to state, but most of the time, the decedent's spouse and children may recover.
The damages that may be recovered after a wrongful death in most states include medical bills, funeral expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, lost income, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. The decedent's relationship with a particular family member will figure into the amount of damages. For example, children who are estranged from a deceased parent will recover less than children who had a close bond and were financially dependent upon the deceased parents.