According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the United States there are approximately 6,000 pedestrian fatalities and around 137,000 pedestrian injuries in vehicle-related crashes each year on average. When a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, obviously the injuries can be quite serious.
A personal injury lawyer can help you understand whether you can seek compensation for your injuries following a pedestrian accident. One of the important questions is who is liable for the accident.
What Does Liability Mean in a Personal Injury Case?
Liability in a personal injury case refers to the legal responsibility or accountability for causing harm to another person. The individual or entity deemed to be liable for an accident that causes an injury to another may be held responsible for compensating the person for their losses, including medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Liability can be determined through a variety of means, including negotiation between the parties or relying on the decision of a court after evidence is presented in a case. To determine liability in court, it generally must be established that the individual or entity had a duty of care to the injured party, that such duty was breached, and that the breach caused the harm.
Is a Driver Automatically Liable for an Accident Involving a Pedestrian?
No, the person driving a vehicle isn’t automatically liable for an accident that also involves a pedestrian. The same burden of proof exists in such a case that would exist in any other personal injury case. The injured party must show that the driver failed to take some sort of action or took an inappropriate action that led to the injury—effectively ignoring their duty of care.
For example, as a driver, you have a duty of care to be aware of others on the roadway. You also have a duty of care to try to avoid hitting someone else, including pedestrians. If a pedestrian is crossing the road in a crosswalk and you fail to yield to them—resulting in an accident—it would likely be determined that your duty of care was breached. If the pedestrian sustained injuries, you might be held liable.
What if the Pedestrian Is Breaking the Law?
Your duty of care still exists even if a pedestrian is crossing the road illegally. As the driver of a vehicle that can clearly cause serious injury, you have a duty of care to avoid the pedestrian if possible. A failure to act in a reasonable way to attempt to safeguard the pedestrian—even though they are crossing illegally—can mean you are held liable for any injuries that occur.
Comparative Fault and Why It Matters
However, in some cases, you may not have to cover all the damages caused in such an accident. Florida has what is called comparative fault laws regarding personal injury. That means that the potential fault of both parties involved in a case can be considered when courts decide how much financial responsibility one party may have.
For example, if a pedestrian crosses a busy street illegally by not going to the crosswalk and simply attempting to dash across the road, they may be considered fully or partially responsible for any accident that occurs. If they dart out into oncoming traffic even though it’s clear the vehicles are too close to be able to stop before hitting the pedestrian, they might be fully liable.
If, however, a driver doesn’t see the pedestrian because they were distracted by a text, the driver is also partially at fault. The court considers all the evidence of the case to determine the percentage of fault allocated to each party. It’s this percentage that determines the financial obligation for each party.
In a case where a driver is found to be 70% liable for injuries to a pedestrian, the driver would be responsible for paying 70% of the compensation awarded in the case. For example, if the court awards $100,000 in damages in such a case, the driver (or their insurance company) would be responsible for paying $70,000.
Why Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?
When you’re hurt in an accident, you have a right to seek compensation for damages when someone else may have been liable. However, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed compensation. In a civil case, which is what a personal injury lawsuit is, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. The plaintiff is the person filing the lawsuit and seeking compensation.
As the injured pedestrian, you have to demonstrate that you were, indeed, injured. You may need to present evidence about the extent of your injuries and the financial losses associated with them. You may even have to make a case for the driver’s liability or argue against a case for your own liability—such as if you were crossing or entering the road illegally at the time of the incident.
A personal injury attorney can help you make such a case. They work with you to gather evidence and come up with a strategy to improve the chances of getting the compensation you need to cover your losses and move forward with your life.
If you’re dealing with injuries due to a pedestrian accident, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to find out what your options are. Reach out today to Jiles Law, P.A., to find out how we can help with your case.