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The Vulnerability of Pedestrians
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable travelers on roads across America and in the state of Virginia. Unlike those who are in an automobile, pedestrians have neither a steel cage around their body nor safety restraints to protect them from injury. The simple laws of physics dictate that when a pedestrian is struck by an automobile there will be considerable injury to the pedestrian. Flesh and blood is simply no match for the sheer weight and the amount of steel of an automobile. Additionally, pedestrians are often made up of the most vulnerable groups—children, the elderly and the handicapped—meaning the consequences of a pedestrian-auto accident is likely to be significant.
Duty to Protect Others from Harm
One of the basic legal tenets in proving legal negligence involves the duty to protect another person from harm. When we examine this particular legal precept, you can almost always apply it in cases where a pedestrian was harmed by a driver in an automobile. Envision a scenario where a pedestrian is walking along a sidewalk, minding his or her own business, when suddenly a driver becomes distracted for one reason or another, edging off the road, striking the pedestrian.
Obviously, all drivers have the legal duty to keep their vehicle on the road and out of areas which are not designated for vehicles and are specifically used for pedestrians (or bicyclists). If the pedestrian who was struck had been walking on the roadway outside a designated crosswalk, the legal issue of duty to protect others from harm would likely become much more complex.
Failure in Duty to Protect
Unfortunately, many drivers today are impaired, sleepy, inattentive or distracted, any of which can result in a failure to watch for pedestrians. Some drivers may even deliberately disobey traffic laws which are specifically designed to ensure the safety of pedestrians, such as speeding through a school zone.
Excessive speed can also be a factor in auto-pedestrian accidents—a driver going over the posted speed may be unable to stop in time to avoid injuring a pedestrian. Whatever the reason, when any of these bad driving habits occur, causing the injury of a pedestrian, the driver has failed in his or her duty to protect pedestrians.
Did the Failure in Duty to Protect Cause Injuries?
In order to prove negligence, the failure to protect the pedestrian must have resulted in injury to the pedestrian. In virtually all cases of auto vs. pedestrian, there will be injuries to the pedestrian. According to the 2022 Governors Highway Safety Association report, (and taking the state of Oklahoma out of the equation for non-reporting), there were 3,434 pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2022 across the United States. Pedestrian fatalities across the nation have been increasing at an alarming rate for more than ten years.
In fact, pedestrian deaths now account for 17 percent of all traffic deaths with 2021 showing an all-time high of 7,485 pedestrian fatalities. While California—the most populous state—consistently reports the most annual pedestrian deaths, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont report only slightly fewer pedestrian deaths. The state of Virginia had 79 pedestrian deaths in 2022—a 52 percent increase over 2021 pedestrian fatalities.
Young children between the ages of 5 and 9, adults over the age of 70, and pedestrians who are walking while impaired by alcohol are the groups most often injured in an auto-pedestrian accident. When a 3000-pound automobile collides with a human being, injuries can include broken legs, arms and ribs, internal organ damage, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injury.
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Factors in Pedestrian-Car Accidents
Generally, there are two primary causes of car-pedestrian collisions—driver error or pedestrian error. Pedestrians may sometimes disregard traffic lights, jaywalk, or small children may suddenly dart into traffic, endangering themselves as well as the parent who pursues them. Drivers may also disregard traffic signals or traffic laws or may simply not be paying attention to the pedestrians around them. Almost 73 percent of pedestrian accidents happen after dark, suggesting the inability to see these pedestrians could be a significant factor in car-pedestrian accidents.
About 9 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were injured pedestrians—the highest among the age categories. The speed of the car is a major factor in whether or not the pedestrian will survive the accident—the faster the car is traveling, the less likely it will be able to avoid hitting a pedestrian and the more likely the accident will be fatal to the pedestrian.
Specific Driver Error Factors in Pedestrian-Car Accidents
Automobile drivers often will disregard crosswalks at intersections, creating a significant risk for a serious pedestrian accident. Drivers must always take appropriate measures to ensure pedestrians are not crossing the road before entering a designated crosswalk. Other times auto drivers will ignore traffic controls, particularly those which specifically relate to pedestrians, or will fail to yield to a pedestrian who has already entered the driver’s lane as they start to cross the road.
Unfortunately, impaired driving has left many pedestrians dead or seriously injured as the drunk driver drives onto a sidewalk and hits an unwitting pedestrian. There are even drivers who blatantly ignore the red, flashing lights of a school bus and pass, creating a high risk of injury to children who are getting off the bus.
Pedestrian Accidents in Virginia
According to a 2017 WTOP report, while there was an 11 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities in 2016, Maryland and Washington D.C. saw a decrease in pedestrian fatalities. Virginia showed an increase of 35 percent in the first half of 2016, as compared to the first half of 2015. This particular report cited an improved economy which resulted in more people driving and walking as the cause of the increased number of pedestrian fatalities. The report also listed distracted driving and distracted walking as factors, then noted that about 72 percent of the pedestrian/auto collisions occurred in travel lanes of a road or highway, 18 percent occurred in intersections, and 10 percent occurred on the road shoulder or a driveway.
What Are Common Injuries Following an Auto-Pedestrian Accident?
Pedestrians are extremely vulnerable when hit by a 3,000-pound (or greater) vehicle. Pedestrians have absolutely no protection, not even a helmet, so are likely to sustain serious injuries. While most people believe pedestrian fatalities largely occur in marked intersections, in fact, only about 25 percent of all pedestrian deaths resulting from being hit by a vehicle occur in an intersection. The following injuries are most likely to occur when a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle.
- The lower extremities are often the first part of a pedestrian’s body to come in contact with the vehicle. There can be trauma to the ligaments and muscles, pelvic fractures, lacerations, and broken bones.
- Pedestrians are also likely to experience injuries to the head, face, and neck when hit by a vehicle. Jaw fractures, damage to the skull, facial and head lacerations, vertebrae injuries, shoulder and neck injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries are all common injuries from a pedestrian accident.
- When a pedestrian lands on the hood of the vehicle, is thrown over the vehicle, landing on the pavement or sidewalk, or is thrown into a hard fixed object, injuries to the arms, wrists, and hands are likely as well as to the chest or abdominal areas.
- Bone fractures can occur anywhere on the body when a pedestrian is hit by a car. These may be “simple” fractures or breaks, or compound fractures where a broken bone punctures the skin. A bone that breaks in three or more places can require metal pins and screws to hold the pieces in place as they heal.
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries can potentially have lingering, even lifelong, effects. Symptoms of TBI can include cognitive difficulties, sensitivity to light, loss of coordination and balance, chronic headaches, mood swings, nausea, insomnia, weight gain or loss, and depression and anxiety. Brain injuries can require surgery, rehabilitative therapies, medication, and re-learning basic tasks.
- Internal injuries for pedestrians that are hit by a vehicle can be life-threatening yet may be overlooked when there are no overt symptoms. An injured pedestrian may think they are not that badly injured following a pedestrian accident, only to find out later they were experiencing internal bleeding or organ damage. The longer treatment is delayed for internal injuries the greater risk of permanent injury or even death.
- Soft tissue damage following a pedestrian accident can include sprains, strains, tears, contusions, and lacerations. While these injuries may be considered relatively minor, they can take many months to recover from, often requiring surgery, medication, and physical therapy. Soft tissue injuries can result in disfigurement and may require multiple cosmetic surgeries.
How is Liability Determined in an Auto-Pedestrian Accident?
All drivers in Virginia (and everywhere in the United States) have a legal duty to obey traffic laws and drive in a safe manner. Since pedestrians are especially vulnerable when hit by a 3,000-plus-pound vehicle, drivers have a special duty to watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Liability in a Virginia pedestrian accident case is similar to that when two vehicles are involved in an accident, although there may be some special rules that apply to pedestrians regarding the driver’s duty of care. Having an experienced Richmond pedestrian accident attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett helping you through this difficult time can significantly improve the outcome of your accident. It is imperative that you have the police come to the scene of the accident. A police officer will prepare a police report that may indicate liability in the accident. If liability is clear, that will be stated in the report, which could become an invaluable resource for your claim for damages.
The speed of the vehicle may have an impact on liability, in that if the driver was significantly exceeding the speed limit, this could contribute to the finding of liability. If the driver ran a stop sign, was driving while distracted, overly fatigued, or impaired, or was otherwise driving recklessly, this will also significantly impact the finding of liability for the accident. Your Richmond pedestrian accident attorney will use techniques and strategies to prove liability after comprehensively looking at all the evidence.
It’s important to note that Virginia is one of the few states that prohibits plaintiffs from recovering any damages if they are found even the slightest bit at fault. This is known as pure contributory negligence, and could impact your pedestrian accident claim if you contributed to the accident in any way. Find extensive information on liability of property owners.
Why Should You Hire a Richmond Pedestrian Accident Attorney Near You?
You may be severely injured following your pedestrian accident. You could be unable to return to work and make a living, unable to engage in normal daily activities, and facing months or years of medical interventions, rehabilitation, and corresponding medical expenses. The future may look bleak right now, which is why it is so important to have an experienced Richmond pedestrian accident attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett representing your interests.
Insurance companies are interested only in their financial bottom line, therefore, may use every trick in the books to pay you less than your claim is worth. They may even offer you a quick settlement that is not even close to the damages you are facing. When you have a knowledgeable Richmond pedestrian accident attorney who will fight for you at every turn, the insurance company will sit up and take notice. Our attorneys will advocate for you, handling all the legal details of your claim while you heal from your injuries, and determine what steps to take for your future.
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How a Richmond Pedestrian Accident Attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett Can Help
The best way to avoid pedestrian is to always drive defensively and to pay particular attention to young children and older adults who could be less aware of the drivers around them. If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian-car accident, you likely have serious, even life-threatening injuries which can takes months or even years to completely heal.
It is important that you contact a Virginia personal injury attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett who has experience dealing with pedestrian accidents. We have offices conveniently located in your neighborhood, whether you are in Richmond, Petersburg, Chesterfield or Mechanicsville. You need an advocate in your corner, and we will be that advocate, allowing you to heal while we focus on obtaining compensation on your behalf. Contact us at (804) 358-6741 today.