In major cities like New Orleans, Metairie, and Baton Rouge, pedestrians have a lot to be wary of: With hundreds of thousands of residents, streetcars and city buses, and at least one car per household, there is a lot of commotion on the streets.
So even though pedestrians outweigh the number of cars on the road, pedestrian accidents occur far too often.
This guide will explain what every pedestrian and driver needs to know about pedestrian accidents, like the most common causes, the legal recourse after a collision, and how to stay safer on the road.
What Is the Most Common Cause of Pedestrian Injuries from Car Accidents?
For the first time in 30 years, pedestrian accidents and deaths are at an all-time high. From distracted driving to illegal crossing, these types of accidents occur far more frequently than they should.
In 2018, there were nearly 6,200 pedestrian fatalities while almost 138,000 pedestrians were hospitalized for non-fatal injuries. These statistics show us that there is one death every 85 minutes, alarming for both pedestrians and drivers.
And even if the accident isn't fatal, the pedestrian can still suffer from severe injuries like traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, paralyzation, and much more.
With that in mind, specific individuals are more at risk than others. This includes:
- Alcohol-induced drivers and pedestrians
- Older adults and children
- Drivers going at a high speed
- Those who live in urban areas
This may seem obvious: After all, being intoxicated leads to poor vision and judgment, so a pedestrian accident is bound to occur. Similarly, living in an urban area heightens your chances of an accident because the pedestrian-to-vehicle ratio is much higher.
Though these are common scenarios, pedestrian accidents are not inevitable. Fatal or dangerous car accidents involving pedestrians usually occur for one of the following reasons.
Pedestrian Accident Cause #1: Distracted Driving
When drivers use their cellphones, talk to their passengers, or attempt to eat or drink while behind the wheel, their attention is automatically split. Unfortunately, the human brain can't multitask behind the wheel as well as we'd hope. When drivers are distracted behind the wheel, they could easily miss an unsuspecting pedestrian trying to cross in front of them.
Pedestrian Accident Cause #2: Reckless Driving
One of the biggest culprits behind vehicular accidents is speeding, which often stems from impatience and reckless driving. Although laws control how fast a driver can go in certain areas, many drivers may partake in reckless driving behavior and accidentally hurt a pedestrian along the way.
Pedestrian Accident Cause #3: Intoxicated Driving
Whether under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a driver's reaction time, reasoning, and skills become impaired. One study found that an intoxicated driver would travel for an additional 12 feet when reacting to a hazard compared to regular reaction times.
Additionally, many pedestrians can be at fault in these types of situations as well: 33% of fatal pedestrian crashes occurred because the pedestrian involved had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or more. In comparison, only 17% of these pedestrian accidents involved a driver with a BAC of 0.08 or more.
Pedestrian Accident Cause #4: Failing to Stop or Yield
Rolling through stop signs, red lights, or crosswalks is one of the more significant issues in pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians have the right to use the crosswalk at almost any given time. So when vehicles don't stop at the stop line appropriately, they can accidentally run into somebody attempting to cross.
Pedestrian Accident Cause #5: Left-hand Turns
This happens most often when a driver attempts to make a left turn into a crosswalk where the pedestrians are simultaneously given a walk light or otherwise have the right of way.
What Happens When a Car Hits a Pedestrian?
If you've ever been a victim of a pedestrian accident, then it's essential to know that these factors play a significant role in what happens next. Here's what you should know.
A driver who hits and injures a pedestrian may face one of two legal consequences.
The first could be when an injured pedestrian files a personal injury lawsuit or a car insurance claim. The second instance is If the accident was fatal and the pedestrian's family decides to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Consequence #1: Personal Injury Lawsuit or Insurance Claim. The injured pedestrian may file a personal injury lawsuit, which is essentially seeking to recover damages, including medical bills for pain and suffering. The driver must compensate for any severe injuries that were caused by the accident. If an insurance company is involved, there will be an investigation to find a settlement that works for both parties.
- Consequence #2: Wrongful Death Lawsuit. If the accident was fatal, then there's a chance that the pedestrian's family or loved ones will file a wrongful death lawsuit. Under Louisiana law, the deceased's surviving family can bring a lawsuit against the driver who caused the death. The victim's family will request compensation to cover the losses, including funeral costs, medical treatment, pain, and suffering like depression or loss of companionship.
These consequences assume that the driver is entirely at fault, but this isn't always the case. In some situations, a pedestrian might be at fault for a traffic accident.
Is the Pedestrian Ever at Fault?
Under the Louisiana legislature, a pedestrian has the right of way, at all times, when using crosswalks. All cars and other vehicles must slow down or stop in front of a crosswalk when pedestrians are on the curb and about to cross. Vehicles must stop until pedestrians reach the “zone of safety,” which is when they've crossed and safely reached the other side.
Despite this law, pedestrians can still be at fault when involved in a pedestrian-vehicle-related accident. For example, if the pedestrian does any of these actions, they're automatically at fault:
- Not crossing at a designated crosswalk
- Crossing against a traffic signal
- Entering a street while intoxicated
- Walking along highway bridges and roadways
But while pedestrian-vehicle accidents account for 17% of pedestrian fatalities, it still takes two to tango. In other words, both drivers and pedestrians must be fully aware of the activity around them to better prevent fatal and near-fatal accidents while on the road.
How Can Pedestrians Be Safer On the Road?
Most pedestrian accidents occur out of designated crosswalk sections, at night, or both. According to data collected by the NHTSA, the highest number of pedestrian accidents resulting in fatalities occur:
- During the dark (72%)
- In the summertime, between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. (34%)
- At a non-intersection
- In urban (i.e., city) settings
That's why it's critical for pedestrians to practice these safety tips and observe rules that help decrease the amount of pedestrian-vehicle accidents. Here's what you can do to lessen your chances of an unforeseen accident as a pedestrian.
Tip #1: Follow Road Safety and Rules
To keep safe as a pedestrian, act predictably and follow the rules and duties of the road.
Always obey signs, signals, and general laws, like using sidewalks and abiding by crosswalk lights. Drivers expect to see pedestrians on sidewalks and at crosswalks, so abiding by this predictability lessens any chances of unforeseen accidents.
Tip #2: Be Visible At All Times
Pedestrians must be defensive while on foot. Be diligent about double-checking oncoming traffic when crossing entryways, exit ways, parking lots, and driveways.
This also means that you shouldn't assume drivers can see you, so never cross into a street thinking that the oncoming car will slow down in time. At night, increase your visibility by wearing bright clothing, reflective materials, and using a flashlight.
Tip #3: Avoid Distraction
Although there are no formal laws against using electronic devices while on foot, doing so could distract you and pull your attention away when near busy streets and intersections. Always be alert so that your electronics don't take your eyes or ears off the road.
“Today, more and more people are falling down stairs, tripping over curbs and other streetscapes and, in many instances, stepping into traffic, causing cuts, bruises, sprains, and fractures,” said Alan Hilibrand, MD, chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet.
“In fact, the number of injuries to pedestrians using their phones has more than doubled since 2004, and surveys have shown that 60% of pedestrians are distracted by other activities while walking.”
Additionally, alcohol and drug use can impair your coordination and judgment. Remember that a third of all pedestrian-vehicle accidents occurred when the pedestrian had a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
The bottom line is to avoid going anywhere if you're under the influence.
Pedestrian accidents are all too common in the United States, especially in busy cities like New Orleans and surrounding areas. Common mistakes and misjudgments like distracted driving, reckless driving, intoxicated driving, failing to stop or yield, and even something as standard as left-hand turns has the potential to turn fatal within seconds.
That's why both people should practice appropriate pedestrian safety skills by abiding by the laws, checking for oncoming traffic, being visible at all times, and avoiding distraction at all costs. However, if an accident does occur, then you should know your options.
Whether you were behind the wheel or on foot, an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best person you can consult with following a collision. The good news is that the Schwartz Law Firm team has more than 20 years of experience as personal injury lawyers. Our passionate attorneys aren't afraid to fight for your rights and hold drivers accountable while also securing the best settlement offered by the auto insurance companies.
Contact Schwartz Law Firm today for a free consultation and case evaluation.