As you make your daily commute walking along busy streets, you need to be aware of the potential legal consequences of distracted walking. With mobile devices dominating our attention, pedestrian can run into car accidents related to distracted walking are on the rise. Understanding the legal responsibilities of pedestrians and drivers is crucial to avoid unnecessary harm. This article examines distracted walking laws and the implications they have for pedestrians and drivers when accidents occur. We'll review relevant case law and provide recommendations on how to safely share roads and sidewalks in an age of constant digital distractions. Being informed on this emerging issue will help you take appropriate precautions to arrive at your destination safely.
The Rise of Distracted Walking Accidents
Distracted walking has become an increasing concern as mobile technology has evolved. Pedestrians engrossed in their devices are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. According to several analyzes of emergency room data, injuries related to cell phone use while walking has skyrocketed in recent years.
With more people owning smartphones, the temptation is always there to check one’s device while walking. However, this divided attention can have perilous consequences. Inattentive walkers may fail to notice potential hazards like vehicles, obstacles, or uneven pavement. They are less likely to follow the rules of pedestrian safety and may ignore traffic signals or walk outside of crosswalks.
Studies show that distracted walking can impair walking speed, disrupt navigation abilities, and reduce the ability to avoid collisions. Reaction times are delayed as attention is divided between the phone and the walking task. Texting while walking in particular has been found to significantly impact gait and visual attention. Some research indicates that distracted walking may be as dangerous as drunk walking.
Municipalities have started public education campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of distracted walking. However, lawsuits against cities and property owners are also on the rise. Victims of distracted walking accidents have filed claims alleging that not enough was done to ensure pedestrian safety. Businesses may also face litigation if an accident occurs on their premises. There are calls for bans on distracted walking, similar to laws prohibiting handheld phone use while driving. For now, pedestrians are advised to avoid distraction and to be fully aware of their surroundings to promote safety for all.
Legal Fault in Pedestrian vs. Vehicle Accidents
In the event of an accident between a vehicle and a pedestrian, determinations of legal liability and fault are complex. As a pedestrian, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities.
If a driver fails to exercise proper caution and hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk or at an intersection, the driver will typically be considered primarily at fault. However, if a pedestrian suddenly steps into traffic or crosses against the light, they may share some liability. Contributory negligence laws in some states mean that if a pedestrian is even 1% at fault, they may not recover any damages.
The specifics of each situation matter greatly in determinations of fault. Important considerations include:
- Whether the pedestrian was in a crosswalk and crossing legally with the signal
- The speed at which the vehicle was traveling
- Whether the driver was distracted or impaired
- Whether the pedestrian was distracted by a mobile device or headphones
- Weather and visibility conditions at the time of the accident
- The actions of both parties immediately before impact
In some cases, vehicle operators may not be found solely liable even if a pedestrian is deemed not primarily at fault. Lack of due care by either party may result in shared liability. Ultimately, the exact circumstances surrounding the collision, police reports, witness statements, and municipal traffic laws must be examined to reach a fair determination of fault and appropriate assignment of liability.
With the rise of distracted walking, more education is needed for both drivers and pedestrians to exercise caution and follow the rules of the road. Exercising vigilance and patience can help prevent tragic accidents. By understanding your rights and responsibilities in traffic situations, pedestrians can also advocate for their own safety.
Can I Sue if I'm Hit by a Car While Distracted?
As a pedestrian, you have certain rights and may be entitled to compensation if you are hit by a vehicle while walking, even if you were distracted at the time of the accident. However, your actions and the driver's level of fault will be considered to determine liability and the amount of damages.
- If the driver was entirely at fault for the accident by breaking traffic laws or driving negligently, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. The driver would be liable for your injuries regardless of any distraction on your part.
- If you were distracted by your cell phone or other device and failed to exercise reasonable caution as a pedestrian, you may still have a valid claim but would likely share some fault for the accident. Comparative negligence laws apply, reducing your settlement amount by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were found 30% at fault, your total damages award would be reduced by 30%.
- In some cases, the actions of both parties can be considered negligent, clouding the issue of liability. The specific circumstances of the accident, traffic controls, visibility, and other factors will determine how fault is apportioned between the pedestrian and driver. It may come down to a judgment call by insurance adjusters, lawyers and juries.
- If the driver cannot be located or identified, you unfortunately have little legal recourse to pursue damages. Unidentified hit and run drivers are considered entirely at fault, but without a defendant, a lawsuit cannot proceed. Your only options may be to file a claim with your own insurance or take no further action.
In summary, distracted pedestrians hit by vehicles may have viable legal claims but must be prepared for their own actions to factor into considerations of liability and compensation. The particulars of each accident ultimately determine outcomes. While no one asks to be hit by a car while walking, responsibility is not always clear cut.
What Compensation Is Available for Pedestrian Accident Victims?
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. The at-fault party, whether it be a driver, vehicle owner, or other entity, can potentially be held liable for the harm caused. As a victim, you have the right to pursue a claim to recover damages related to your injuries.
Compensation may be available for all reasonable and necessary medical care required to treat your injuries, including:
- Hospital stays
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Prescription medications
- Medical devices (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.)
You may be able to recover lost wages for time you had to take off work to recover from your injuries. This includes both wages you have already lost as well as potential future lost earnings.
Pain and Suffering
As a pedestrian accident victim, you likely endured physical pain, as well as emotional anguish and distress. Compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life can be pursued.
If any personal property, such as a cell phone, glasses, clothing, or other belongings, were damaged in the accident, you may be able to recover the costs to repair or replace those items.
The exact amount of compensation will depend on the details of your specific accident and injuries. Speaking with a personal injury attorney regarding your legal options is advisable. They can evaluate your claim, deal with insurance companies on your behalf, and help you pursue fair compensation for the damages you have sustained in a pedestrian accident.
Pedestrian Accident FAQs - Get Answers From a Texas Car Accident Lawyer
Who is at fault in a pedestrian accident?
Determining fault in a pedestrian accident can be complicated and may depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the crash. Both the driver and pedestrian can potentially be found partially or fully at fault. Some common factors that may affect fault include:
- Was the pedestrian in a crosswalk or crossing at an intersection when struck? If so, the driver may be primarily at fault for failing to yield to the pedestrian.
- Was the pedestrian crossing against a “Don’t Walk” signal or jaywalking? If so, the pedestrian may share some fault.
- Was the driver speeding, distracted, drowsy or intoxicated? Dangerous driving behaviors like these would typically place the driver predominantly at fault.
- Was it dark outside and was the pedestrian wearing reflective or high-visibility clothing? Lack of visibility on the part of the pedestrian could contribute to fault.
- Were there any obstructions that prevented the driver from seeing the pedestrian? Obstructed views may shift fault away from the driver.
What damages can a pedestrian recover?
If a driver is found at fault for a pedestrian accident, the pedestrian may be entitled to compensation for the following damages:
- Medical expenses: Costs of hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, medication, and any other medical care required due to the accident.
- Lost wages: Income lost as a result of missing work during recovery and treatment.
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for physical pain and mental anguish caused by the injuries.
- Permanent impairment: Additional compensation for injuries that cause long-term or lifelong disability or disfigurement.
- Property damage: Reimbursement for damage to the pedestrian's clothing, glasses, cell phone or other belongings.
- Punitive damages: In some cases, additional damages may be awarded to punish the driver for reckless or egregious behavior. Punitive damages are less common but can result in higher settlement or verdict amounts for the pedestrian.
A pedestrian accident attorney can help determine fault, assess damages, and pursue fair compensation for medical bills, lost work, pain and suffering, and other losses after an accident. They can advise you on your legal rights and options following this traumatic event.
As we have seen, distracted walking poses real dangers to pedestrians and drivers alike. While technology offers many benefits, using phones or headphones while walking can impair awareness and lead to accidents. Legally, the onus is on pedestrians to cross safely, but drivers must also exercise due care. Going forward, education and awareness campaigns, improved infrastructure like pedestrian islands, and moderate technology use can enhance safety for all. We all share the roads and sidewalks, so staying alert and looking out for each other makes our journeys safer. With care and community, and a proper guidance from lawyers at Fletcher Law we can reduce accidents and build a transportation system that protects pedestrians while recognizing our love of technology.