When a vehicle hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian usually ends up with more significant injuries than the driver of the vehicle. Laws tend to protect the pedestrian, and that makes sense. For an unprotected human being, a vehicle is akin to a guided missile. Pedestrian accident injuries can be catastrophic. However, that does not mean drivers are always at fault for pedestrian accidents. In some cases, pedestrians are partially or entirely to blame for an accident.
Vehicle and Pedestrian Accident Issues:
Let’s look at a few issues that arise with vehicle vs. pedestrian accident cases.
- How the laws determine fault in a collision involving a vehicle and pedestrian.
- What happens if a driver and pedestrian share blame for an accident?
- Who pays for damages when a vehicle and pedestrian collide?
If you’ve been involved in such an accident, the first legal issue a pedestrian accident attorney will address is who is at fault. The person liable for the accident is the person or persons at fault.
Proving liability means proving someone was “negligent.”
- The person had a legal duty to avoid harming you, in this case, hitting a pedestrian.
- The person breached that duty.
- The breach of duty caused the accident.
- The breach of duty resulted in pedestrian injuries or pedestrian death.
Sometimes liability is clearly that of the vehicle driver like when a driver exceeding the speed limit strikes a person in a marked crosswalk; the driver is at fault. If a person crosses not in or near a well-marked crosswalk in dark clothing without warning at night, the pedestrian is likely going to bear some fault.
Many cases have mixed fault of both parties. Let’s say a driver hits a pedestrian crossing the street outside of an intersection. The driver was not speeding, but it was either light outside or well-lighted at night. Is the jaywalking pedestrian at fault for the accident? Or would a reasonably prudent person see the pedestrian in time to avoid him or her? Did the driver sound his or her horn to stop the person from entering the roadway? The driver and pedestrian may both have fault for the accident.
Pedestrians generally have the right-of-way.
As a general rule, pedestrians have the right-of-way, and drivers are to yield to them whenever possible. The risk to the unprotected person, as a matter of public policy, demands that drivers do everything in their power to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Metal can be fixed or replaced, but lives, bones, and organs cannot be replaced.
A pedestrian may be liable for an accident if:
- The pedestrian suddenly jumps into the street without warning such that there was nothing the driver could have done to avoid the accident.
- The pedestrian crosses a street in an area other than at or near a crosswalk or intersection.
- The pedestrian does not properly follow a traffic control signal.
- The pedestrian walks on a road where pedestrian traffic is prohibited.
Shared Fault in Pedestrian and Vehicle Accidents – “Comparative Fault”
Sometimes pedestrian and vehicle accidents happen because all people involved in the accident were careless. A speeding driver might hit a person in the roadway at night in dark clothing in an area with no artificial lighting. Speeding could be aggravated by inattention. The pedestrian may enter the roadway suddenly.
We had a case years ago where two teenagers were walking down a dark street out in the country during a heavy snowstorm when a car behind them failed to see them in her headlights, and a young pedestrian was killed.
The teenagers certainly should not have been walking together side-by-side in the roadway in a snowstorm at night in the dark. However, the driver should have been traveling slower for the conditions and should have seen the teenagers in her headlights in time to sound her horn, apply her brakes, and steer clear of the couple. Ultimately, the wrongful death case was settled out of court for reasonable payment made by the driver’s insurance company to the parents of the deceased young girl and to the traumatized young boy, considering the fault comparisons.
Laws about comparative fault vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some follow a pure comparative negligence rule, and some jurisdictions, like Indiana, follow a modified comparative fault. Since Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, let us focus on that.
Understanding Comparative Fault in Indiana
Let’s say a jury finds the pedestrian’s economic damages to be $400,000. The jury also finds the jaywalker was 25% at fault for the accident, and the driver was 75% responsible. Under Indiana laws, the driver’s insurance would have paid $300,000, which is $400,000 reduced by the pedestrian’s percent of fault.
In modified comparative negligence states, such as Indiana, you cannot recover any damages if your proportion of fault exceeds 50%. 51% fault cuts off the right of the plaintiff pedestrian’s right to recover anything. This rule is why Indiana’s comparative fault statute is considered “modified.”
Also of note is that in Indiana, there is a statute protecting governmental entities and their subdivisions with the old rule of contributory fault. When suing an Indiana governmental subdivision, say, an on-duty police officer who was the vehicle’s driver, if the pedestrian has any fault at all, then the pedestrian would recover nothing. He or she would be barred from recovery.
Recovery Options After a Pedestrian-Vehicle Accident for a Pedestrian
If you’re injured in a pedestrian and vehicle accident, you need to figure out who might pay for your accident-related losses. These options include the following:
- Medical bills coverage – fault liability.
- The at-fault driver’s insurance liability coverage – fault liability.
- If the at-fault driver was on the job, that driver’s employer’s insurance vehicle coverage for medical payments and liability – vicarious liability.
- Your own auto uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage – contractual liability.
- Worker’s compensation lost wages coverage – contractual coverage.
- Your health insurance coverage – contractual liability.
- Private insurance coverage
- Worker’s compensation medical coverage
You should file an insurance claim against all potential sources of insurance recovery. Health insurance usually has a right to recover from your recovery some or all of the paid claims that it made. This is a legal issue that only a lawyer can determine and arrange reductions.
The value of an injured pedestrian’s claims is determined by the following:
- The severity of injuries.
- Past and future medical expenses.
- Past and future lost income.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Mental anguish.
- Medical expenses.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Do you need a personal injury attorney?
If you are injured in a pedestrian and vehicle accident, and you have significant injuries or need treatment, then you need a pedestrian accidents lawyer. A lawyer can help you determine who is at fault, answer your questions, explain your legal options, and file a lawsuit if necessary. Do not go it alone.
“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”[Author unknown]
At Garrison Law Firm, LLC, you never pay an attorney fee until your case settles or results in a jury verdict recovery. We handle these cases on a contingent fee, which means we take a percentage of the recovery. We also advance case expenses in nearly all cases, so you never have any out-of-pocket expenses. Expenses get repaid once the case resolves and gets paid from the recovery.
Call Garrison Law Firm at 317-842-8283 for a FREE CONSULTATION, and learn your rights today.