A fatal accident involving a car and a pedestrian that occurred in Salem over 4-years ago recently ended up in criminal court before a judge. The judge found the woman accused of negligent motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an accident not guilty on all counts. The defendant had faced up to 10-years in prison. The court considered a number of factors in finding her innocent:
- the victim was not in a crosswalk;
- the accident occurred at night and in foggy weather;
- another driver testified that he also had not seen the victim in the street just before the accident.
Although the defendant left the scene of the accident contending she had not realized she had struck someone, it is apparent the judge found her testimony credible. This case underscores the rights and responsibilities of all parties in a car-pedestrian accident. Although as a pedestrian you are particularly vulnerable when crossing the street, you still must take some precautions in certain situations such as at night and when visibility is limited and not assume that any approaching motorists will see you and immediately stop. In the majority of cases, however, a motorist or some other party will be found at fault and be responsible for your damages if you were crossing in a crosswalk.
Safety of Crosswalks
Crosswalks are designed to give pedestrians a safe place to cross at intersections and at times, at other places on the street. Some crosswalks are at controlled intersections with traffic lights while others are lined with flashing lights to alert motorists that you have entered the intersection. Many others are simply lines on the street at intersections without traffic lights and may or may not have stop signs.
Generally, a pedestrian has the right-of-way when in a crosswalk but there are exceptions. For instance, if you are riding a bicycle in a crosswalk you may be violating a traffic law since bicycles are considered motor vehicles, although it highly unlikely you would be cited if it is a violation since it is not so clearly stated in many traffic laws. If at a controlled intersection, however, crossing against the light can lead to a ticket as well as put you at risk for injury.
Under Massachusetts law, motorists are required to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk when the person is on that half of the crosswalk of the traveled roadway on which the car is traveling, or when the pedestrian when approaching from the opposite end is 10-feet from being half-way across the marked crosswalk. It is also illegal for any motorist to pass a car stopped for a pedestrian in crosswalk, regardless if the pedestrian is within 10-feet of that half-way point. Further, motorists may not proceed unless there is sufficient space or opportunity beyond the crosswalk to proceed. Even if the traffic signal is green for the motorist, he or she must still obey the crosswalk law if a pedestrian is nonetheless in the crosswalk.
Many such accidents occur when vehicles are making right or left turns. Speeding while trying to turn while the light is changing or simply inattention by the driver leads to many serious or fatal accidents in these circumstances.
Liability for Pedestrian Accidents
Many pedestrians are killed or seriously injured while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk or in a parking lot. The unfortunate victim in the Salem case above was not in a crosswalk but this was not the sole factor in finding the defendant not guilty since the weather was key as was the fact that another motorist did not see the victim. As a pedestrian, you must be cognizant of traffic, especially at night in rain, snow, or fog, and assume that motorists may not see you. Some municipalities require that you only cross at crosswalks or at corners if none exist. If you walk out in the middle of the street, you are that much more at risk to be unseen and liability may not entirely fall upon the motorist who strikes you.
An experienced crosswalks injury lawyer will carefully examine the facts and circumstances if you were injured in a crosswalk accident because a defense lawyer will exploit any conduct that could be construed as not exercising reasonable care before the accident. For example, did you suddenly run out into the crosswalk or were you crossing against the signal? What were the weather conditions? Was the traffic light operating or was it not in sequence with the green crossing signal? Even the clothing you were wearing when struck may be a mitigating factor in favor of the motorist, though you are under no legal duty to wear bright clothing if you know you will be crossing the street at night or in poor weather.
Your own crosswalk injury lawyer will want a history of accidents at this intersection since the municipality should have been on notice that this was a hazardous intersection and taken steps to ameliorate or eliminate the hazard. Your attorney may also feel that an expert in accident reconstruction may be needed so as to dispel any allegation that you were comparatively at fault. Considerations in finding negligence by the motorist is where you were in the crosswalk when the accident occurred, the weather, if you had a green signal for you to walk, and how a motorist in the exercise of reasonable care would have acted when approaching a crosswalk.
What to Do if Injured
If you are struck in a crosswalk and fortunate enough to be conscious, there are things you can do to preserve your injury claim:
- Get immediate medical attention by calling 911 or asking someone to call
- Ask a witness to take cell phone pictures of the scene, including of you, the crosswalk, the vehicle that struck you and the motorist
- Obtain the names and contact information of all persons who witnessed the accident
- Get the driver’s license and insurance information of the driver who hit you or be sure that the driver is present when police arrive. Otherwise, ask someone to get that information for you
- Carefully note the location of the accident, time, and weather conditions
- Do not give statements to anyone other than the police officer if you are asked
- Do not give statements to investigators or insurance companies and refer them to your attorney
- Retain an experienced crosswalks injury lawyer as soon as possible
Damages in a Pedestrian Accident
Even in an accident where liability is clear and established by one or more parties, you have the burden of proving that your injuries were caused by the accident as well as the extent of your damages. A crosswalks injury lawyer from Burns and Jain can handle your claim from the outset so as give you the best opportunity to get you the compensation you deserve.
Damages in a pedestrian accident may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Emotional trauma
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain the Law Offices of Burns and Jain
Few injury claims are cut and dry and even if they are, you risk harming your claim by handling it yourself or by retaining an inexperienced lawyer. The lawyers are Burns and Jain have decades of experience in pedestrian accident and other types of injury claims. Call them today for an analysis of your injury claim: (617) 227-7423.