The single most dangerous thing that threatens the safety of pedestrians walking along or near a crosswalk is an automobile. Ill-attentive drivers, or drivers who are ignorant of the traffic laws that are designed to protect pedestrians cause a number of fatal accidents, and countless injuries, to victim pedestrians each year. Some examples of provisions especially intended to protect pedestrians under Colorado law include:
- Crosswalk protection. When a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, drivers have a duty to yield to the pedestrian, so that the pedestrian may make a safe crossing of the street. Furthermore, when a vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk and yielding to the pedestrian, it is illegal for another vehicle approaching from the rear to pass the vehicle that is stopped at the crosswalk.
- Exercising appropriate care at street crossings. When a driver approaches a street crossing where pedestrians might cross, and particularly at street crossings located in residential areas, motor vehicle drivers are required to exercise appropriate care. If a pedestrian is crossing, the driver is required to yield to the pedestrian.
- Yielding to pedestrians at signs and signals. Drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at marked crosswalks, stop signs and flashing red signals. If these signs and signals are not in place, or are not functional (i.e., the power is out, or the driver knows that a stop sign is normally situated on a corner of street A and street B, but it has been knocked down as the result of an accident, storm, etc.), the driver has the responsibility exercising appropriate care and slowing down, stopping, or yielding the right-of-way to permit the safe passage of the pedestrian.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
While there are laws in place to protect pedestrians, many drivers do not know the laws, or are negligent or reckless while driving and cause accidents by hitting the pedestrian with their vehicle. Accidents involving pedestrians happen for a number of reasons, and are largely due to the negligent actions of drivers. Some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents are attributable to a driver’s failure to:
- Yield the right-of-way for a pedestrian.
- Slow down or travel at a reasonable rate of speed in light of the situation and driving conditions that they are faced with (i.e., weather conditions, traffic conditions, population density of the area where the driver is, whether children are present, etc.)
- Come to a complete stop at a stop sign or traffic light.
- Observe traffic signs or signals.
- Obey traffic laws concerning the safety of pedestrians.
- Provide enough room for pedestrians on the side of the roadway, or in crosswalks.
- Stop when school buses are loading or unloading school children.
- Drive safely and sober.
- Maintain control of the vehicle.
- Check crosswalks for pedestrians.
- To use a turn signal.
Types of Injuries Pedestrians Suffer
When a pedestrian is struck by a car, a number of different injuries can occur. Impact injuries are very common since there is little to nothing protecting the pedestrian from the impact with a fast-moving, multi-ton vehicle. Injuries to the lower extremities are common as most pedestrians are struck while walking or standing.
Forward momentum from the fast-moving vehicle is transferred to the pedestrian as he or she is struck, causing the pedestrian to be thrown to the ground many feet from where the impact with the vehicle took place. An impact with the ground often results in scraps, bruising, broken bones, head injuries and sometimes is fatal for the victim pedestrian. Some of the most severe injuries include loss of limbs, brain trauma, and spinal cord injuries.
Recovery after a pedestrian accident is often long and painful. It can take many months to recover, and a lot of money. Some victims require walking or mobility aids, or months of physical therapy and rehabilitation, just to get back to some semblance of what they are used to.
Laws Also Apply To Pedestrians
There are a number of laws that pedestrians must abide by as well. For instance, pedestrians should never leave a curb side suddenly and enter traffic, should never run into a roadway or cross an intersection diagonally, should use marked crosswalks to get across roads, and while in the marked crosswalk area, pedestrians should exercise reasonable care. Even though pedestrians have laws to follow as well, if a pedestrian is involved in an accident with a vehicle, the victim pedestrian should consult with an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer regarding the accident, even if the pedestrian might be partially responsible for the accident. If the driver acted negligently in some way that contributed to the accident, the pedestrian victim may be entitled to financial compensation for his or her injuries.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Pedestrian Accidents?
If the pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, the driver of the vehicle is most likely liable for any injuries suffered by the pedestrian, unless the pedestrian contributed greatly or caused his or her injuries, and the driver was exercising appropriate care at the time of the accident and was not negligent or reckless.
When the vehicle is a commercial vehicle, the pedestrian may be able to seek damages for his or her injuries suffered during the accident from the driver’s employer, if the driver was on duty when the accident occurred. Similarly, if the accident involves a bus, for example, that is owned and operated by the city, the pedestrian may be able to seek damages from the city.
Pedestrian Accident Damages
Pedestrians that are the victims of motor vehicle accidents may seek damages for their injuries. This can include medical expenses due to the injury, medical surveillance costs, future medical expenses that are anticipated as a by product of the accident (i.e., continued care, long-term rehabilitation, future surgical procedures, etc.), permanent disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of income for time lost at work due to the injury and loss of future income if the injury has rendered the victim disabled or incapable of maintaining his or her current income earning ability.