Archive for June, 2011

Proving Negligence in a Car-Pedestrian Accident

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Pedestrians are among the very most vulnerable travelers on our American roads. Unlike those who are driving by in an automobile, pedestrians have neither a steel cage around their body nor safety restraints to protect them from injury. The simple laws of physics dictate that when a pedestrian is struck by an automobile there will be substantial injury to the pedestrian. Flesh and blood is simply no match for the sheer weight and the amount of steel an automobile has. Additionally, many pedestrians are made up of the most vulnerable groups—children, the elderly and the handicapped—meaning the consequences of a pedestrian-auto accident is likely to be significant.

Duty to Protect Others from Harm

One of the basic legal tenets in proving legal negligence involves the duty to protect another person from harm. When we examine this particular legal precept, you can almost always apply it in cases where a pedestrian was harmed by a driver in an automobile. Envision a scenario where a pedestrian is walking along a sidewalk, minding their own business when suddenly a driver becomes distracted for one reason or another and edges off the road, striking the pedestrian and causing serious injuries.

Obviously all drivers have the legal duty to keep their vehicle on the road designed for vehicles and out of areas which are not designated for vehicles and are specifically used for pedestrians (or bicyclists).  If the pedestrian who was struck had been walking on the roadway outside a designated crosswalk, the legal issue of duty to protect others from harm would likely become much fuzzier

Failure in Duty to Protect

Obviously in the above scenario the driver failed in their duty to protect by leaving their designated driving area and striking a pedestrian who was well-within their own designated walking area. Many drivers are suffering from intoxication, sleepiness, or are simply inattentive and distracted, causing them to fail to watch the road carefully. Some even deliberately disobey traffic laws which are specifically designed to ensure the safety of pedestrians, such as speeding through a school zone.

Many drivers fail to check for pedestrians when making a turn, some are distracted by a passenger, the radio or a cell phone, while others are illegally driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Excessive speed can also be a factor in auto-pedestrian accidents—a driver going over the posted speed may simply be unable to stop in time to avoid injuring a pedestrian. Whatever the reason, when any of these bad driving habits occur and cause the injury of a pedestrian, the driver has failed in his or her duty to protect pedestrians.

Did the Failure in Duty to Protect Cause Injuries?

The third tenet of proving negligence occurs when the failure to protect the pedestrian caused injuries. In most cases of auto vs. pedestrian there will be injuries, so this third principle is rarely an issue. Over 4,500 pedestrians are killed each year from being struck by a motor vehicle, while another 70,000 plus are seriously injured.  Young children between the ages of 5 and 9, adults over the age of 70, and pedestrians who are walking while impaired by alcohol are the groups most often injured in an auto-pedestrian accident. The fact is that when a 5000 pound automobile hits a 150 pound human, damages will likely include broken legs, arms, ribs, and critical head injuries and brain trauma. In other words, when a car hits a person, it is almost a given that injuries will be involved.

Was Damage Done?

The fourth and final tenet of proving negligence revolves around whether or not the pedestrian who was hit by an automobile actually suffered damages—or injuries. As stated, in nearly every case, if a person is struck by an auto, there will be damages suffered. If, in a rare instance, a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle with no resulting injuries, then negligence may not be definitively proven.  In some cases, the pedestrian may also be judged negligent as in cases where they are crossing the street illegally, and some states follow a comparative fault rule meaning a pedestrian may be able to successfully recover damages even if he or she was partially at fault.

The best way to avoid pedestrian accidents as well as the entire determination of negligence and fault is to always drive defensively and to pay particular attention to young children and older adults who could be less aware of the drivers around them.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a Kansas City car accident, call us today to discuss your case.