One of the most devastating types of motor vehicle accidents are accidents involving pedestrians. A pedestrian who is struck by a car or other type of motor vehicle can be seriously injured, maimed, permanently disabled, or even killed as a result of an accident. Unfortunately, it looks like pedestrian fatalities are on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015, there was a 4% increase in pedestrian deaths from traffic accidents. This is following a general increase in traffic fatalities overall. The NHTSA's early estimates are that about 35,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2015. U.S. News reports that "[n]early three-quarters of pedestrian deaths occur after dark." Alcohol also can play a factor in pedestrian crashes. A third of the pedestrians who were killed in a motor vehicle accident "had been drinking alcohol", while about 15% of drivers were under the influence with "blood alcohol content at the legal limit or higher."
The Governor Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggested that the reason that there are more pedestrians out and about may be because of "[w]armer weather and shorter winters along with a greater awareness of health benefits may also be encouraging people to walk more." In addition, the GHSA stated the "[t]he growing use of cellphones distracting drivers and walkers may also be partially to blame." Lower gas prices and a better economy could be additional factors in the increase in crashes. However, this increase is not a one year anomaly, according to U.S. News. Rather, "pedestrian fatalities have been rising since 2005, and now account for 15 percent of total traffic deaths."
If you or a loved one is struck by a motor vehicle while out walking, you may have significant and serious injuries to contend with. You could end up spending months in the hospital and going through rehabilitation, or you may be left with a permanent disability that no amount of rehabilitation will be able to help. Understandably, after such a devastating accident, you may want to seek compensation from the person responsible for your injuries. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you as you navigate through the legal system and insurance claims process. Contact us here for more information.
Negligence In Pedestrian Accidents
If a driver hits a pedestrian, that driver was likely driving negligently. If a person is negligent, and as a result of that person's negligence, someone else is injured or property is damaged, the negligent person can be held liable for the injuries or damage that he or she has caused. Negligence is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as "[t]he failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation." Black's Law Dictionary 1133 (9th ed. 2009). For example, if a driver fails to yield to a pedestrian because the driver was on his phone and not paying attention, then the driver has likely failed to exercise the appropriate standard of care as the reasonably prudent person would not text or Snapchat while operating a motor vehicle. That phone-obsessed driver could be found negligent and be held responsible for damages.
In order to prove negligence, certain elements must be met. In Colorado, the plaintiff must show that "the defendant owed a legal duty of care; second, the defendant breached that duty; third, the plaintiff was injured; and fourth, the defendant's breach caused that injury." Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 324 (Colo. 2004). If a plaintiff can prove all these elements, then the plaintiff may be able to hold the defendant liable for any injuries or damage that was caused by the defendant's negligent conduct.
Comparative Negligence In Pedestrian Accidents
Sometimes there is more than one cause of an accident. If a plaintiff is partially at fault for his or her injuries, then there are some things that the plaintiff needs to be aware of. In some states, any negligence on the part of the plaintiff can completely bar the plaintiff from recovering damages from the defendant, even if the defendant is primarily the cause of the plaintiff's injuries. However, this is not the case in Colorado. Rather than following the harsh doctrine of contributorily negligence, Colorado follows the more fair doctrine of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence permits a plaintiff to be partially at fault and still recover for his or her injuries. However, any damages the plaintiff is awarded are reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff's fault.
There are different kinds of comparative negligence. In Colorado, the state permits a plaintiff to recover damages even if he or she is negligent, "if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought." C.R.S. 13-21-111 (2016). Thus, if a plaintiff is less negligent than the defendant, the plaintiff can still recover damages for his or her injury.
For example, let's say Polly was walking towards an intersection crosswalk. The crosswalk sign had turned to the red hand, indicating that pedestrians should no longer cross. However, Polly ignored this sign and headed across the intersection anyway. Unfortunately, Daniel was making a right turn at the same time. Daniel had assumed Polly was going to wait when she reached the intersection. Daniel hit Polly with his car, knocking her down and causing a head injury as well as breaking several ribs. Polly files a lawsuit against Daniel for her injuries.
A jury decides that Polly is partially responsible for her injuries because she failed to follow the traffic signs. She is determined to be 35% at fault for her injuries, while Daniel is determined to be 65% at fault for the accident. Because Polly's fault is less than Daniel's, she can still recover damages for her injuries. Let's say the jury awards Polly $100,000. Her award would then be reduced by 35%, so she would recover $65,000 instead of $100,000.
Contact a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence conduct of another, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today. Jeremy has been representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases for over a decade. He has extensive experience helping his client's recover just compensation for their injuries. He offers a free consultation to all potential new clients. Call the office today to discuss your case at 303.825.2223 or fill out the online form here.