Pedestrians frequent the streets of New York. Many people walk through the city, whether to get to work, for exercise, or simply to experience all New York has to offer. Walking proves more economical than driving and serves as a great way to avoid traffic jams. However, in congested urban areas, motor vehicles face a higher risk of hitting pedestrians. Staten Island remains the most dangerous area for pedestrians in the U.S., closely followed by the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
In New Jersey, pedestrians in Paterson and E. Orange also face a high risk of sustaining injuries in an accident. New York has some of the highest pedestrian traffic rates in the US. In a recent year, New York City experienced 121 pedestrian fatalities. Pedestrian accidents often go unreported, partly because the pedestrian doesn’t fully understand his or her rights, or because the driver leaves the scene without ever providing identification.
According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 6,000 U.S. pedestrians die each year due to motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 130,000 received emergency treatment for their injuries. Preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association for 2020 indicated a high pedestrian fatality rate of 6,721 pedestrian deaths, even though people drove much less during the pandemic.
Individuals over the age of 65 and those below the age of 15 face the most risk. Of course, nobody plans to sustain injuries in a pedestrian accident, but for the sake of your personal and financial well-being, it helps to know what steps you should take in the immediate aftermath of a pedestrian accident.
For more information or a free case evaluation, call an experienced New York pedestrian accident attorney today.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Many different things can cause a pedestrian accident. Many of these causes involve driver negligence. Factors contributing to pedestrian accidents include:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in a recent year, distracted driving caused 2,841 fatal accidents, 400 of which involved pedestrians. These may include manual, visual, or cognitive distractions, such as texting, checking a GPS, or reaching for an object.
Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
Drunk driving crashes claim the lives of about 28 people each day. Alcohol and drugs affect thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, all of which can cause a preventable pedestrian accident.
Driving while fatigued
The effects of driving while fatigued usually prove similar to those of impaired driving. When a driver drives while not fully awake, the driver may not see a pedestrian or react in time to avoid an accident.
Failure to yield or stop
We frequently see drivers who roll through stop signs rather than making a full stop; drivers making left-hand turns into the path of a pedestrian; or drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. All of these careless driver errors can result in a fatality.
Driving too fast reduces reaction time and the ability to stop. Typically, the faster the car travels at the time of the accident, the more severe the pedestrian injury.
A pedestrian may not hear a quiet car coming. The NHTSA reports that hybrids and battery-operated cars face a risk of causing a pedestrian accident40 percent higher than other vehicles. Residential areas face an even higher risk. You may struggle to hear these cars when traveling at a slower speed, and a pedestrian may be walking on the side of the road when you swerve to avoid the other vehicle.
Inclement weather conditions
Whether walking or driving, people frequent the road regardless of bad weather. Snow, rain, ice, and fog can impair visibility, cause slippery road surfaces, and make it difficult to stop, but these conditions don’t prevent people from hitting the roads.
Roads exist primarily for motor vehicles, and the design of most roads reflects this. Therefore, pedestrians may not have safe places to walk, such as sidewalks or safe crosswalks, on certain roads. Often, pedestrians must make dangerous detours, such as in areas with building or road construction. Roads that need repair may cause a car to swerve and hit a pedestrian.
Types of Pedestrian Accidents
No matter where or how they occur, hit and run accidents frequently involve pedestrians. Drivers may panic and leave the scene after hitting a pedestrian.
Common types of pedestrian accidents include:
- Parking lot and back-over accidents: Drivers must use extreme caution when in reverse. Backing-up accidents often occur in parking lots. Cars parked on either side may block the driver’s view and shoppers frequently cross behind parked cars. These accidents may also occur when a driver can’t see while backing out of a driveway, or the driver fails to thoroughly check all rear-view mirrors. Tragically, 96 percent of backing-up accidents involve victims under the age of five.
- Crosswalk accidents: Crosswalks exist to provide a safe area for pedestrians to cross the street. New York law states that drivers must yield to a person walking in a crosswalk, whether or not there the crosswalk has a signal or other traffic control device.
- Loss of control accidents: These accidents occur when a driver hits or sideswipes a pedestrian because the driver swerved or lost control of the vehicle.
- Failing to signal before turning or changing lanes. No matter how much care a pedestrian takes, if a driver turns without using a turn signal, the pedestrian will not know someone intends to turn. Approximately half of the drivers don’t use their turn signals.
Pedestrians face an increased risk of injury compared to other road users. If a car hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian will likely suffer serious injuries and/or death.
Common pedestrian injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries – A violent or forceful blow to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These may result in anything from a mild concussion to catastrophic brain damage.
- Spinal cord injuries – The spinal cord transmits signals between the brain and the body. Therefore, the effects of a spinal cord injury depend on the location of the injury. A spinal cord injury can affect breathing, can cause a loss of movement or sensation, and can have many other serious consequences. The accident may partially or fully paralyze the victim.
- Fractures – Individuals can experience many different types of brain fractures. Some can prove painful and lead to other complications or require treatment, such as surgery or physical therapy.
- Soft tissue injuries – Victims of pedestrian accidents often suffer a variety of sprains, strains, cuts, bruises, and dislocations. These painful injuries may result in scars and other long-term problems.
- Organ damage and internal bleeding – Organ damage and internal bleeding can prove fatal if not properly treated.
- Amputations – In some cases, a pedestrian accident can result in the amputation of limbs and extremities.
- Emotional trauma – Whether victims suffer a physical injury or not, they may suffer ongoing emotional trauma.
- Death – The average car weighs over 4,000 pounds. Motor vehicle sales have shifted from passenger cars to light trucks and SUVs, contributing to the increased risk of pedestrian fatalities. When a car strikes an unprotected pedestrian, the victim faces a high risk of death.
Basic New York pedestrian law
Drivers must drive with care. Countless laws support and enforce this obligation. Both drivers and pedestrians have a duty at all times to keep a lookout for one another.
Certain laws apply to pedestrians in particular, including:
- Pedestrians may not use expressways or interstates.
- If a road has a sidewalk, pedestrians must use it. If a road doesn’t have a walkway or sidewalk, walkers must use the left side of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic.
- When crossing a street, pedestrians must obey all traffic control signals, signs, and pavement markings.
- In the absence of a traffic control signal, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
- When a car enters or exits a driveway, private road, alley, or similar route, the driver must yield the right-of-way to a walker on a sidewalk.
- In an intersection or crosswalk, drivers must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian using a cane or accompanied by a guide dog.
- If an intersection does not have a crosswalk, sign, or signal, pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles.
Following a pedestrian accident, the driver of the car usually bears liability. However, in some cases, other parties may have contributed to the accident.
- The designer or manufacturer of a defective car or component.
- A municipality may bear liability for creating a hazardous condition due to missing or malfunctioning traffic control signs and signals.
- Another person or entity, such as a construction company, may bear liability for creating an unsafe detour for pedestrians.
Damages in a pedestrian accident case typically include all current and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If the victim does not survive, the victim’s family may have a cause of action for wrongful death.
What Should You Do if You Have Suffered an Injury in a Pedestrian Accident?
If a car hit you, you likely experienced serious injuries. You may not know what to do next. Your words and actions after an accident may affect a future lawsuit and the amount of your potential recovery.
If possible, to protect yourself and your legal rights, you should:
- Seek medical attention. For both your health and any future legal proceedings, you should seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Even if you think you have only suffered minor injuries, many injuries don’t appear immediately. Individuals hit by a car, and possibly knocked to the pavement or shoved into other obstacles, often suffer concussions, broken bones, internal damage, and more. Prompt medical attention may save your life and improve your chances of recovery. In addition, medical records may serve as important evidence if you file a lawsuit.
- Move to a safe area. Depending on your injuries, you should try to move to a safe area to avoid further crashes. Use caution. Some victims should not move without assistance from emergency medical professionals.
- Contact the authorities. In New York, as in most states, if you experience a vehicle crash, you must report it if it involved property damage of $1,001 or more, or if anyone sustained injuries or died. If the driver does not stop or refuses to call the police, the pedestrian should call them. Law enforcement officers will file a report of the incident, which may provide valuable evidence in a civil suit.
- Gather information. Collect contact information for any witnesses. If possible, take pictures of the vehicle, the accident scene, and any traffic signs and signals in the area. You should also inquire whether the area had traffic cameras or other video cameras, which may have recorded the accident.
- Keep records and receipts. Evidence, such as the police report, will help establish liability. Also, you should keep records of all medical expenses from the first emergency treatment to any later treatment related to the accident.
- Be cautious. After an accident, usually, everyone feels upset, and most people have the impulse to talk to everyone about what occurred. Even injured individuals who didn’t play any role in causing the accidents in which they sustained injuries may apologize or accept blame for the accident. As a general rule, you should always avoid discussing the incident with anyone other than the police, medical responders, your own lawyer, and your insurance company. Do not post pictures or comments about the accident or your injuries on social media, as these may affect any legal claims. Do not agree to any settlement or sign a release without speaking to your own attorney.
Contact an Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney
A pedestrian accident lawyer will not only protect your legal rights but also handle communications with the other parties and their insurance companies. Experienced attorneys have the skills and resources to gather evidence and calculate damages to obtain your full and fair compensation. An attorney will negotiate a settlement or take your case to court.
Pedestrian accidents happen in an instant but can leave you with a lifetime of pain and loss. If you or someone you love has sustained injuries in a pedestrian accident, you need an attorney by your side.
The law establishes deadlines for filing lawsuits and other claims, so you should consult an attorney as soon as possible.
For more information or a free case evaluation, call an experienced pedestrian accident attorney today.