Every year people are injured and killed by motor vehicles while out walking, running, or jogging. Pedestrian accidents can be particularly devastating and result in serious, debilitating injuries or even death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,376 pedestrians lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents in 2015. This is a 9.5% increase from the prior year and the highest number of deaths since 1996.
In 2014, pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents in California were the highest in the nation. This was the second year that California had the most deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times. 701 people died in the state in 2013 and 2014 the numbers stayed nearly the same, with 700 deaths. In 2014, "23% of all motor vehicle fatalities were pedestrians." And the numbers seem to be continuing to rise in the state. In the first half of 2015, the death rate was on the rise again. The L.A. Times reported that "the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles in California rose 7% in the first half of 2015 compared with the year before." 347 people had been killed between January and June of 2015, compared with 323 in the same time period the year before. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the total number of pedestrian fatalities in California ended up being 813.
Pedestrian Accident Characteristics
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are certain characteristics that are commonly found when a pedestrian accident occurs. The first is the failure to cross at an intersection. The majority of pedestrian fatalities, 70%, "occur at non-intersection locations." Most fatalities occur after the sun has set. In 2013, the NHTSA reported that more accidents happened "in the dark (72%) than in daylight (25%), dawn (2%), and dusk (2%)." In addition, 73% of accidents involving pedestrians that year occurred in urban areas and just 27% happened in rural areas.
Other things can also factor into pedestrian accidents including alcohol and gender. According to the Department of Transportation, "[i]n 2012, alcohol involvement by either the driver or non-motorist was reported in more than . . . 48 percent of the traffic crashes that killed a pedestrian." Of motorists that were involved in a fatal pedestrian accident, "14 percent . . . had a BAC of .08g/dL or higher." Among pedestrians, the rate was higher, with 34% having a BAC of .08 or higher. Additionally, more pedestrians killed were men in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Reasons For Pedestrian Accidents
As the NHTSA reported, pedestrian deaths are at their highest since 1996. According to U.S. News, "pedestrian fatalities have been rising since 2005, and now account for 15 percent of total traffic deaths." The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported several reasons that pedestrian accidents may be on the rise including a better economy resulting in lower gas prices, drivers, and pedestrians being distracted by cell phones, and an "increase in the number of Americans walking for health, economic or environmental reasons."
Proving Negligence In Pedestrian Accidents
If a pedestrian is struck by a motorist, that pedestrian may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the motorist to recover damages for his or her injuries. In order to hold the driver liable for his or her careless actions, the pedestrian has to prove that the driver was negligent. Negligence can be defined as "[t]he failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation." Black's Law Dictionary 1133 (9th ed. 2009). To prove negligence in California, the plaintiff must show that "the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty, that the defendant breached the duty, and that the breach was a proximate or legal cause of injuries suffered by the plaintiff."Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, 6 Cal.4th 666, 673 (1993). A driver has a legal duty to operate his or her vehicle in a safe manner. Drivers who fail to do this can be held liable for any damages that occur as a result of their negligent actions.
If there is more than one cause of an accident, then the doctrine of comparative negligence may become applicable. For example, if a plaintiff in a personal injury case was partly at fault for his or her injuries, the defendant may raise comparative negligence as a defense. Comparative negligence can take different forms in different states. In California, pure comparative negligence was adopted in 1975 by the Supreme Court of the state in the case of Li v. Yellow Cab Company, 532 P.2d 1226 (Cal. 1975). Under this doctrine, fault is apportioned among the parties based on how much each party contributed to the plaintiff's injuries. Any compensation the plaintiff receives from the defendant is then reduced based on the percentage of the plaintiff's fault.
Fred is walking down the street approaching an intersection, checking his phone for the latest updates on the World Series. Barney is driving home after work, approaching the same intersection. The crosswalk signal is red, but Fred doesn't notice this because he is paying attention to his phone. Barney goes to make a right, assuming Fred is not going to cross. Fred, however, walks into the intersection and in front of Barney's car. He suffers a broken arm and several ribs. Fred later brings a lawsuit against Barney.
At trial, the jury decides that both parties are at fault for the accident. The jury finds Barney 70% at fault for the accident, but under comparative negligence also assigns Fred 30% of the blame for failing to obey the crosswalk sign. The jury then awards Fred $100,000. As Fred was 30% responsible for the accident, his damage award is reduced by 30%. Thus, he receives $70,000.
Contact An Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured by a motor vehicle, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Woods Williford. Our attorneys have extensive experience practicing personal injury law in California and are dedicated to helping their clients recover just compensation for the injuries they have suffered. Call us today at (888) 340-2440, or click here to fill out our online form.