More than 4,000 pedestrians were killed and another 70,000 were injured in car accidents in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At that rate, one pedestrian is killed every two hours and someone is injured every eight minutes.
Accidents involving pedestrians tend to have more severe injuries and, as a result, more costly medical bills. Pedestrians do not have the protection of a vehicle structure or airbags to prevent serious injury, and pedestrians are typically 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than the occupants of the vehicle.
Despite the adage “Pedestrians always have the right of way,” determining liability in a pedestrian accident is not always easy. Levels of fault will depend on the circumstances of the accident, including the time of day, the location of nearby crosswalks, the area, the physical and mental state of the driver, and each party’s behavior leading up to the incident.
On the driver’s side, any failure to use reasonable care—that leads to harm—while operating a vehicle is considered negligence. Negligent driving activities include:
- Distracted driving
- Texting while driving
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to observe posted speed limits
- Failure to observe traffic signs or signals
- Disregarding inclement weather or traffic conditions
- Inattention or fatigue while driving
- Failure to signal when turning
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However, drivers are not the only ones who can be negligent in a pedestrian accident. Pedestrians also have a responsibility to exercise a reasonable level of care under the circumstances, which includes obeying traffic laws. If a pedestrian acts recklessly (for example, by running out between parked cars and into the path of an oncoming car), he or she could be found at least partially at fault in the accident.
New Jersey operates under a modified “comparative negligence” system. Under this system, each party is assigned a certain percentage of fault in the accident, and this percentage dictates the amount of damages at stake. In the state of New Jersey, the injured person can be partially responsible for the accident and still win damages as long as he or she was not more than 50 percent at fault in the accident. (In other words, as long as the other party was more negligent—or at least just as negligent—the injured person can still collect damages.)
Under comparative negligence, the damages you are eligible to receive will be reduced based on your percentage of fault. For example, say you were going 15 mph over the speed limit when a pedestrian darted out in the middle of the street. You were unable to stop in time, causing $100,000 worth of damage and injuries. The court or insurance adjuster may decide that you were 60 percent at fault for speeding and the pedestrian was 40 percent at fault for jaywalking/not taking proper care. The pedestrian’s total damages would be reduced by 40 percent to $60,000 to account for comparative negligence.