What Are the Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Posted: June 19, 2024

As a pedestrian, you are extremely vulnerable when walking near traffic. Without the protection of an enclosed vehicle, pedestrians are at high risk of suffering severe and even fatal injuries if struck by a car.

Pedestrian accidents can happen in an instant due to driver negligence.

Let’s take a closer look at some common causes of pedestrian accidents and how even pedestrians who are partly at fault for their injuries can still recover compensation for their medical bills and other losses.

If you or a loved one were injured by a reckless driver while walking, it’s important to contact a pedestrian accident lawyer right away to understand your legal rights.

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Driver Inattention and Distraction

One of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents is driver inattention and distraction. When motorists fail to keep their eyes and focus on the road, they can easily fail to notice pedestrians until it is too late to avoid a collision.

Common driver distractions include:

  • Texting or using a cellphone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or climate controls
  • Talking to passengers
  • Daydreaming or getting lost in thought
  • Looking at maps, directions, or a GPS

Distracted driving has become an epidemic in recent years, especially with the proliferation of smartphones. Drivers are responsible for operating their vehicles safely and attentively at all times. There is no excuse for taking your eyes off the road and putting pedestrians at risk. If a distracted driver hits you while you are legally walking or crossing the street, that is clear negligence and grounds for a personal injury claim.

Speeding and Aggressive Driving

Aggressive DrivingSpeeding and aggressive driving also frequently lead to pedestrian accidents. The faster a vehicle travels, the less time and distance the driver has to react to pedestrians and bring the car to a complete stop.

A pedestrian is also much more likely to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries when hit by a speeding vehicle compared to one traveling at a slower, lawful speed.

Examples of aggressive driving behaviors that endanger pedestrians include:

  • Driving well over the posted speed limit
  • Weaving in and out of traffic lanes
  • Tailgating other vehicles
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Passing illegally on the shoulder
  • Failure to yield right-of-way

Pedestrians have no chance against a speeding, multi-ton motor vehicle. Drivers who engage in aggressive driving and excessive speeding demonstrate a callous disregard for the safety of pedestrians and all others on the road. They can and should be held fully accountable when their reckless actions cause pedestrian accidents and injuries.

Failure to Yield Right-of-Way to Pedestrians

Pedestrians have the right-of-way in many situations, especially in crosswalks and intersections with traffic signals. Crosswalks exist to allow pedestrians to cross the street safely. Drivers must completely stop and yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks and at intersections, even when no stop sign or traffic signal controls the intersection.

Unfortunately, many motorists fail to yield to pedestrians when required. They may speed through intersections, roll through stop signs, or make turns without checking for crossing pedestrians. Some drivers seem to view yielding to pedestrians as optional rather than mandatory. This puts pedestrians at great risk.

Pedestrians crossing the street in a legal crosswalk have every right to expect that approaching vehicles will stop and allow them to cross safely. If you are hit by a car while lawfully using a crosswalk or crossing with a walk signal at an intersection, the driver is likely at fault and liable for your injuries.

Intoxicated Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is another major cause of pedestrian accidents. Intoxicated drivers have impaired judgment, reflexes, and reaction times. Their vision may be blurred, and they may have difficulty focusing and tracking moving objects like pedestrians.

Drunk drivers often commit other negligent actions as well, like speeding, swerving, and failure to obey traffic signs and signals. Some impaired drivers don’t even realize they have struck a pedestrian at first. They may continue driving and drag a pedestrian a significant distance before coming to a stop, inflicting horrific injuries.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is considered legally drunk.

But alcohol and drugs can affect a person’s driving ability at much lower levels. Driving while buzzed or after consuming any amount of intoxicants is unacceptably dangerous conduct. There is no excuse for getting behind the wheel while impaired and devastating the lives of innocent pedestrians. You can hold intoxicated drivers fully liable through the criminal justice system and a civil injury claim.

Poor Visibility

Limited visibility also contributes to many pedestrian accidents. At night and during adverse weather conditions like fog, rain, or snow, pedestrians can be more difficult for drivers to see. This is especially true if pedestrians are wearing dark-colored clothing that blends into the background.

While pedestrians should try to make themselves visible to traffic, the ultimate responsibility lies with drivers to operate safely for the conditions, use headlights, and keep a careful lookout for pedestrians at all times. Motorists must slow down and use extra caution when driving at night and in bad weather.

Sadly, some drivers fail to adjust their driving for the conditions. They may continue traveling at normal speeds even when visibility is very low. This makes it extremely difficult to spot pedestrians in time to avoid hitting them.

Limited visibility is no excuse for striking a pedestrian. Drivers can still be considered negligent if they hit a pedestrian, they couldn’t see due to failing to drive safely for the conditions.

Defective Traffic Signals or Lack of Pedestrian Infrastructure

In some cases, dangerous pedestrian conditions are caused by defective traffic signals or inadequate pedestrian infrastructure. If traffic lights or walk signals malfunction, it can lead to confusion and collisions between vehicles and pedestrians. Burnt-out street lights can also make it harder for drivers to see pedestrians at night.

Some roads and intersections lack sufficient pedestrian safety features like crosswalks, warning signs, and pedestrian bridges. This forces pedestrians to cross busy streets without any protection. Dangerous road designs that prioritize vehicle traffic over pedestrian safety put people on foot at risk, especially children, the elderly, and the disabled.

If a pedestrian accident was caused by malfunctioning traffic signals or deficient pedestrian infrastructure, injury victims may have a case against the government agency responsible for designing and maintaining the roads. These cases can be complex, but an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer can determine if a claim against the government is viable.

Pedestrian Negligence

Walk while distractedWhile drivers cause most pedestrian accidents, pedestrians can also engage in negligent behaviors contributing to crashes.

Cars can hit pedestrians if they:

  • Jaywalk or cross the street outside of a marked crosswalk
  • Cross against a do not walk signal
  • Dart into the street between parked cars
  • Walk along highways or roads without sidewalks
  • Fail to look both ways before crossing
  • Walk while distracted by texting, headphones, etc.

However, even in cases where a pedestrian acts unsafely or illegally, the driver may share most of the fault if they could see and avoid the pedestrian. Drivers have a high duty of care to watch for pedestrians in areas where they are likely to be present and to do everything possible to prevent collisions.

New York Contributory Negligence Standard

How can pedestrians recover compensation if they are partly at fault for their injuries? New York follows a pure comparative negligence standard in personal injury cases, including pedestrian accidents.

Under this legal doctrine, an injured pedestrian can still recover compensation even if they were partially at fault for the accident. However, their monetary recovery will decrease by their own percentage of fault.

The comparative negligence rule still allows injured pedestrians to recover compensation if they are not 100% responsible for the accident.

New York is an At-Fault Insurance State

It’s important to note that New York has a no-fault car insurance system. This means that pedestrians struck by a vehicle will first make a claim under the driver’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage for initial medical bills and a portion of lost wages, regardless of who was at fault.

Pedestrians can then pursue additional compensation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance if their injuries meet the serious injury threshold, which must involve at least:

  • Bone fracture
  • Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • Substantially full disability for 90 days

If your injuries qualify, you are eligible to seek compensation from the at-fault driver for both economic damages, such as medical bills and lost income, as well as non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering. An attorney can help determine if you meet the serious injury threshold.

Bottom Line: Consult a Lawyer Even if You Believe You Are Partly to Blame

Even if an injured pedestrian may have been partially at fault, they should still consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. A skilled pedestrian accident attorney can help accurately determine the division of fault and advocate for the maximum compensation possible.

Pedestrians should not assume they are ineligible for damages just because they may have been negligent in some way. New York law entitles injured pedestrians to be compensated in proportion to the driver’s share of fault, and a skilled lawyer will work to get pedestrian accident victims the full financial recovery they need and deserve.

Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Today

As you can see, most pedestrian accidents are caused by negligent drivers who fail to operate their vehicles safely and attentively around pedestrians.

From distracted driving to intoxication to speeding and failure to yield, careless motorists engage in a wide range of behaviors that put pedestrians at unacceptable risk. But even if pedestrians are partly at fault for their injuries, they can still recover compensation.

Pedestrians are extremely vulnerable to severe injuries with lifelong consequences if hit by a car. Medical expenses can easily reach the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Many pedestrian accident victims are left permanently disabled and unable to work or care for themselves. The physical, emotional, and financial impacts can be devastating.

If you or a family member suffered harm from a negligent driver while walking, you should immediately speak to a personal injury attorney to learn your legal rights. You may be entitled to substantial compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.

The driver’s insurance company may try to shift blame onto you and pay as little as possible. An experienced lawyer will fight against these tactics and work tirelessly to get you the full compensation you need and deserve.

No one should suffer due to a driver’s negligence. Pedestrians have the right to safety. By holding dangerous drivers accountable through legal action, we can get justice for injured pedestrians and help make our roads safer for everyone.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a pedestrian accident, don’t wait to get the legal advocacy you need. Contact the dedicated pedestrian accident lawyers at William Mattar Law Offices today at (716) 444-4444 or through our online form for a free consultation.

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