When motor vehicles collide with pedestrians, the injuries that result are often devastating.
Southern California’s mild year-round climate makes walking a popular mode of transportation, and the number of people who prefer a nice long walk is steadily increasing. Unfortunately, the number of pedestrians injured or killed is also on the rise in California.
According to several government studies, thousands of people are being killed each year nationwide while walking down the street. In California, there were an estimated 352 deaths in the first half of 2017, which equates to 0.89 per 100,000 people. That puts California at 15th overall in the country for the highest number of pedestrian fatalities.
California is doing its part to decrease the risk of fatalities by installing more roundabouts while cities like San Diego have created an annual pedestrian safety month to raise awareness on how to prevent pedestrian accidents.
Common Injuries That Could Result From a Pedestrian Accident
If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that the resulting injuries can be both painful and costly. The same goes for pedestrian accidents, and depending on the severity of the incident, these injuries can sometimes end up being much more severe than the impact of getting into a fender bender with another vehicle. We’ll go over some of the most common pedestrian-related injuries so you know what to expect if you ever find yourself walking near an intersection that isn’t heavily lit or otherwise visually safe.
According to Yale-New Haven Hospital, head trauma is one of the most common injuries seen in pedestrian accidents. Head trauma can be associated with a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
Broken bones account for approximately 12% of all traffic-related injuries annually and result in more than $5 billion worth of hospital bills per year. If you break your arm while walking across a street, you could be facing weeks (or even months) spent in physical therapy recovering—not to mention out-of-pocket costs for treatment like casts, crutches, screws, rods, and pins!
A pedestrian accident can cause internal injuries, which are not always visible to those on the scene. Internal organs, particularly if they’re already compromised in some way, can be further damaged by an impact with another vehicle or object. This can lead to serious internal bleeding and other dangerous conditions that may require immediate surgery.
About 10% of pedestrian-involved accidents result in some form of traumatic brain injury, ranging from mild to severe. A mild concussion is characterized by memory loss and can occur with or without physical symptoms like dizziness. If you feel disoriented after a car accident, it’s essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What To Do When Hit By A Car
Fortunately, a number of pedestrians who are hit by a car survive with only minor injuries. Others may have more serious injuries that require a lengthy recovery time period, rehabilitation, and/or surgery. If you have been struck by a vehicle, you are likely thinking, “I’m a pedestrian hit by a car — what do I do now?”
If you were struck by a vehicle, one of the first things you should do is speak to a skilled San Diego pedestrian accident injury lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights and help preserve evidence to prove the other party was liable.
Treat Any Visible Injuries
Take care of any wounds that are visible at first, such as scrapes and cuts. Seek medical attention immediately if necessary; don’t try to tough it out when you think something may be wrong.
Get Copies of Police Reports
It may not seem like it, but you’ll probably want as much evidence of your pedestrian accident as possible. Always get copies of any police reports or witness statements in case they’re needed later on. These documents can be helpful if you decide to bring a lawsuit against another party involved in your accident or if you need them for your insurance company.
Get Copies of Medical Records
Make sure you get copies of all your medical records after any pedestrian accident. These records may help you prove that you’re not at fault for what happened, and your doctor can also use them during your recovery.
Understand Your Rights as an Injured Pedestrian
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may have legal rights that could result in compensation for your injuries. The first step is understanding these rights and whether or not they apply to your situation.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians who walk down a busy street are more at risk for being struck because of the greater amount of traffic. Even if you are on the sidewalk and wait for a green light, you cannot predict or control how other motor vehicle drivers will behave.
Almost all pedestrian accidents are caused by the automobile driver’s actions. Distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle accidents, and it’s no different with pedestrian losses. Perhaps the driver is programming their GPS, looking at their cell phone, or something else takes their attention away for even a second. It’s harder to see a pedestrian out of the corner of your eye than a vehicle stopped in front of you, creating even a greater risk for the pedestrian.
Other common causes of pedestrian accidents include:
- Unmarked Crosswalks: Intersections are very common for pedestrian accidents, and crosswalks with signals can greatly reduce the risk. It’s important to have clearly marked pedestrian pathways in or near parking lots because drivers are paying less attention to pedestrians while looking for parking.
- Left Turns: Even crosswalks with signals can be a dangerous spot for pedestrian accidents when a left turn is involved. People are often looking elsewhere, typically at the approaching traffic, and they may not see you in the crosswalk until it’s too late.
- Electric Cars: While designed to help reduce carbon emissions and save on fuel, your quiet hybrid or electric vehicle might contribute to pedestrian losses. Pedestrians use both their eyes and ears to watch for oncoming traffic. Electric vehicles can be so quiet that a pedestrian may not hear you approaching.
- Wearing Dark Clothing: This is especially a problem with pedestrian accidents that happen at night. If you are wearing dark clothing, it is harder for a driver to spot you in the dark. This is especially true on residential roads with poor street lighting.
- Alcohol Involvement: Alcohol can contribute to all sorts of accidents, and drivers are not the only ones to blame here. Someone walking home drunk after a late night might inadvertently walk out into traffic without even realizing it.
Comparative Negligence in California
You might be wondering, “I got hit by a car, can I sue?” The answer is almost always going to be yes, even if you were partially at fault for the loss. California follows the less restrictive theory of comparative negligence. This means fault is apportioned between the involved parties.
There are two types of comparative negligence — pure and modified. With pure comparative negligence, you can collect for a portion of your damages even if you were primarily at fault. With modified comparative, you are barred from recovery if you are over 50% at fault.
Comparative negligence is what a majority of states follow now, which is a welcome change from those who still follow contributory negligence. With contributory negligence, if you are even 1% at fault, you are completely barred from recovery.
The differences between pure and modified comparative negligence can be demonstrated with an easy example. If you are the pedestrian and are deemed to be 51% at fault, you would be able to collect up to 49% of your total damages in a pure comparative state, while the other party would be able to collect for 51% of their damages.
In a modified comparative state, you would not be allowed to collect anything while the other party would be entitled to 51% of their damages.
Recoverable Damages in a Pedestrian Accident
There are a number of different types of damages that are recoverable against the negligent party. Some of these include:
- Medical expenses related to your injuries
- If you missed work due to the accident, you can claim your lost earnings, including sick days and other employment benefits
- Pain and suffering which is a subjective amount intended to compensate you for the emotional and physical trauma you endured in the accident
- Loss of future earnings if it is expected you cannot work for the foreseeable future
- Loss of consortium which is a claim by the non-injured spouse if you cannot provide companionship, comfort, protection, sexual relations, etc.
- Loss of enjoyment of life which is compensation for your inability to participate in activities you enjoyed prior to the accident.
Retaining a San Diego Accident Attorney
If you were a pedestrian involved in an accident, it’s important to contact a skilled San Diego accident attorney to ensure your rights are protected. The Levinson Law Group specializes in injury accident claims like pedestrian accidents throughout the greater San Diego area. Contact us online or call our office at 760-827-1700 to schedule a consultation.