Each year, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), some 2,000 pedestrians are involved in police-reported accidents with vehicles. Of those, between 150 and 200 are killed and another 200 to 300 are seriously injured. Children and older adults are often most at risk.
In the city of Raleigh alone in 2019, some 1,252 pedestrians were involved in vehicular accidents. The greatest number of accidents occurred in parking lots or intersections where inattentive or hasty drivers turn into people who are trying to cross the street.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, what are your legal rights to compensation after the accident? If you’re in the Raleigh area of North Carolina or the nearby areas, rely on our team at Life Law to listen to your story and provide you the legal resources and direction you need to seek financial recovery.
Both vehicle operators and pedestrians have a duty to act responsibly and with respect for the rights of each other. The North Carolina Driver’s Handbook states: “Saving a pedestrian’s life is always worth the driver’s lost right of way. The safe driver yields right of way to a pedestrian whether the pedestrian is entitled to it or not.”
This does not mean that a pedestrian has carte blanche to step into harm’s way in the face of a vehicle that is being driven safely and lawfully. As the driver’s manual points out, “whether the pedestrian is entitled” to a right of way or not, meaning fault can partially or wholly be placed on the injured pedestrian. Both drivers and pedestrians are expected to exercise reasonable care.
A driver’s duty of care can turn to negligence if that person is:
Driving while distracted
Failing to yield at intersections and crosswalks
Disobeying traffic signs and stop lights
Not signaling while turning
Driving impaired or high
Ignoring weather or traffic conditions
A pedestrian similarly can display negligence when:
Ignoring the “don’t walk” signal at a crosswalk
Entering and disrupting traffic
Failing to use marked crosswalks
Darting out in front of a vehicle
Children between the ages of five and nine are especially vulnerable because of their small size and their sometimes-impulsive decisions to run out into a road, and in general, because of their unfamiliarity with the dangers associated with vehicles. This imposes an even greater duty of care on a driver in, for instance, a school or playground area where children are present.
Not only are the driver and pedestrian charged with a duty of care, so too are the people and entities responsible for maintaining safe conditions where the accident took place. Remember how most accidents occur in parking lots? A parking lot owner who fails to maintain safe conditions may also be held liable, in addition to a municipality that fails to maintain safe crosswalks or stop signs and signals.
Negligence is the key term when it comes to seeking damages and compensation from a driver or third party like a parking lot operator.
A pedestrian injured in a vehicular accident can recover compensation for medical expenses — present and future — including therapy and adaptive devices, loss of income, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. An insurance adjuster will often take the quantifiable losses you’ve sustained (medical expenses and loss of income) and multiply that by a factor of one-and-a-half to five, depending on the severity of your injuries. The result will be what they call “general damages,” which includes compensation for pain and suffering.
As mentioned above, to obtain compensation you must prove that the driver was negligent and at fault for the accident. In North Carolina, a contributory negligence standard is in place. This means that the driver must be wholly at fault. You cannot recover damages if a court finds you to be at least one percent at fault for the accident. You can easily imagine how insurance adjusters on the driver’s side will use this standard to try to deny you compensation.
If you’ve been struck by a vehicle, you need to stay at the scene and contact the police immediately, unless injuries make that impossible. In all instances, you need to seek medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible. Also, if physically able, you should document everything and take pictures at the scene. If there are witnesses, get their contact information and statements. Of course, you also need to obtain the driver’s contact information and insurance details.
If your physical injuries prevent these steps, your family or loved ones can and should act on your behalf. If the incident resulted in a fatality, then the family can seek wrongful death damages.
While you’re recovering from injuries, the last thing you want to do is fight with an insurance adjuster. In fact, that’s probably never a good idea. They’re going to try to low ball you and get you to sign a waiver so you can’t file any future claims should new medical issues arise. You need to seek solid legal counsel familiar with personal injury claims to carry out the negotiations.
The most prominent legal issue will involve who’s at fault. The comparative negligence standard can and will be used against you to try to avoid compensation. An experienced attorney can assess the accident and help you exercise your full legal rights to recover damages, even if it means going to court.
If you’re in the city of Raleigh or in the counties of Wake, Johnston, Durham, Franklin, or anywhere in the state of North Carolina, and you have been involved in a pedestrian accident, contact our legal team at Life Law for a consultation. Let us get started on helping to return your life to normal and pursuing the compensation you deserve.