Pedestrian Accident Lawyer
Whether tourists are exploring the great sites and cities in the Carolinas or locals just trying to get to work, pedestrians are always out and about on the streets of Charlotte, Charleston, Asheville, and other areas. With so many people walking everywhere, it’s no surprise that pedestrian accidents are too common in North and South Carolina.
Pedestrian accidents can happen for any number of reasons. A driver may not be watching the road, someone may be crossing the street with low visibility, or a pedestrian might be looking at their phone instead of oncoming traffic. No matter the reason, you have legal options if you are involved in a pedestrian accident in the Carolinas that isn’t your fault.
These accidents often result in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries. You may be left with broken bones, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, and other injuries that can severely impact your quality of life — not to mention put you out of work for weeks or months. With the help of an experienced pedestrian accident attorney, you could receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
The legal team at Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers has been helping victims of pedestrian accidents get the compensation they deserve for over 26 years. We know what North and South Carolina law says about these types of accidents, and we know what it takes to win your case. Give us a call today at (855) 969-5671 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a pedestrian accident attorney.
How Prevalent Are Pedestrian Accidents?
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 2018 was the deadliest for pedestrians since 1990. That year, there were more than 6,200 pedestrian fatalities across the country. There are a few different reasons for this trend. More drivers and pedestrians are using their phones while traveling, which takes their eyes off the road. In addition, more consumers are buying SUVs and other large vehicles, which cause much more damage when they collide with a pedestrian.
More Americans are walking instead of driving to where they need to go. When you also consider that there are too few crosswalks and other safe crossing areas on local streets, it’s easy to see why pedestrians are struck on the roadway more often.
Specifically looking at the Carolinas, there were 1,187 total pedestrian collisions in South Carolina in 2017. Almost 1,000 of those caused injuries, and 164 resulted in fatalities. The majority of these collisions happened at night on local roads. South Carolina ranked eighth on a US News list of the top ten Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians, with 1,280 fatalities between 2010 and 2019. In North Carolina, there were 2,331 total pedestrian collisions that year, resulting in 2,065 injuries and 209 deaths.
What Are the Risk Factors for Pedestrian Accidents?
Anyone can get hit by a car while walking, but some factors increase your risk:
- The two age groups most at risk are children and adults older than 65. According to the CDC, adults over 65 make up about 20 percent of pedestrian deaths, while one in five children younger than 15 who died in car crashes were pedestrians. Kids are at more risk because they may not understand traffic rules and may be harder to see due to their small size. Unfortunately, very small children may not appear on rear back-up cameras, either. With older adults, sometimes age-related medical issues may increase risk. For example, some seniors have difficulties with balance or mobility that could cause them to stumble or fall when crossing a street. Hearing or vision loss may also make it harder for them to notice when a car is coming.
- Crosswalk difficulties. Well-marked crosswalks can reduce risk if everyone involved uses them correctly. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes pedestrians assume if they’re in the crosswalk, cars will stop for them – and they should. But that doesn’t always happen, and an accident may result. Another issue is pedestrians assuming they can cross if they don’t see anyone coming, regardless of what the crosswalk sign says.
- Income disparities. People walking in lower-income neighborhoods are at higher risk of being hit than those in wealthier areas. The pedestrian fatality rate in the nation’s lowest-income neighborhoods was almost double that of middle-income areas and nearly three times that of higher-income areas, according to one survey. This is believed to be related to a lack of resources for road maintenance and design, leading to fewer marked crosswalks and sidewalks.
- Going too fast in a car results in a higher risk of accidents and injuries in general. But for a pedestrian struck by a car, any additional speed can be an especially dangerous situation as they don’t have the sturdy frame of a car, airbags, or seatbelts to protect them.
- Alcohol use. You may be familiar with the dangers of drinking and driving, and this can contribute to pedestrian accidents. However, intoxicated pedestrians are also at increased risk. Of course, you may think it’s safer to walk home than drive if you’ve been drinking. It’s certainly safer for other people on the road. But alcohol use can also affect balance and coordination, and in some cases, an intoxicated person may be at higher risk of stumbling into the road when walking on a sidewalk. They may also have slower reflexes and a reduced ability to react to danger like a car headed their way. The safest options for getting home are to arrange for a designated driver, use a rideshare app, or spend the night where you are if you can do so safely.
- Distractions. We all know texting and driving are dangerous. But as with alcohol use, pedestrians glued to their phones are also at increased risk. Pay attention to the road and other surroundings, especially when crossing a street. Your phone can wait until you get home, or at least until you’re safely out of the street.
- The driver did not see the pedestrian. Even if no one is distracted by their phone, this can be problematic. Sometimes the driver looks before turning and just doesn’t see the walker. Maybe they blend in with their surroundings. An obstruction may be blocking the driver’s view of the pedestrian, like a large tree branch or shed in the way. Poor visibility due to weather or other issues could also be a problem.
- Quieter cars. Some newer vehicles, especially hybrid or electric ones, have exceptionally quiet motors. The car owners may like the lack of noise, but it is harder for pedestrians to hear a car coming. The risk is even higher for walkers who are hard of hearing.
Ways to Reduce the Risk of Pedestrian Crashes
Not all pedestrian accidents can be evaded, but these tips will allow you to lower the risk as much as possible:
- Do everything you can to be visible, especially if you regularly walk or run after dark. Twilight and sunrise are also bad times to be out, as there is some light, but often not enough to see clearly. Wear reflective clothing or add reflective patches to the clothes you already have.
- If you have kids, ensure they understand crosswalk safety and why it’s essential to always look both ways before crossing.
- Use crosswalks whenever available, but make a point to be aware of approaching cars – don’t just assume they’ll stop.
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings when walking. Some people like to put on headphones/earbuds and listen to music when walking, but this can prevent you from hearing a car coming. Staring at a phone is also a distraction that can put you in harm’s way. Waiting until you get home to use electronics is the safest option. Keep both eyes and ears open for signs of approaching vehicles when out.
- When driving, look very carefully before turning. If you see pedestrians approaching a crosswalk you’re coming up on, slow down, even if you have the light. Be prepared to stop in case the pedestrian walks out in front of you unexpectedly. This is also a good idea if you see someone walking parallel to or on the shoulder of the road – if someone stumbles or falls into the street, you should be going slowly enough that you can stop in time.
- When backing up, don’t rely solely on rear-view cameras, especially if you’re near a school, daycare, or other areas where small children might be around. Check your mirrors, then turn your head and look.
- Don’t speed, run red lights or stop signs, or drive recklessly. Pay attention to your driving and avoid distractions.
Seeking Compensation After a Pedestrian Accident in the Carolinas
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you will almost certainly seek compensation from the driver who hit you. However, your ability to seek compensation is determined by state law. North and South Carolina follow different statutes regarding laying blame for injuries after a pedestrian collision.
South Carolina Comparative Negligence Laws
Like most states in the country, South Carolina follows a form of comparative negligence law. This means you can still recover compensation for your injuries, even if you were partially at fault for the accident. Specifically, if you are less than 50% at fault for your injuries, you can recover compensation, but it will be reduced by the percentage you are at fault.
For example, let’s say you are crossing the road because you believe traffic is clear both ways. However, the walking signal in front of you says, “DON’T CROSS.” A car turns onto the road, doesn’t see you, and collides with you, causing severe injuries. During the trial, the court finds you are 20% at fault for the accident because you didn’t wait for the crossing signal. You are ultimately awarded $100,000, but because you’re 20% at fault, you would only receive $80,000.
North Carolina Contributory Negligence Laws
Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina follows a contributory negligence statute. If you are partially at fault for your injuries, you cannot receive compensation. However, there are exceptions to this law. One of the most common is if the victim is a child. If a child under seven is hit by a car, even if they were partially at fault for the accident, their family may still be able to recover compensation. The same applies if the victim is cognitively impaired.
If the driver acted with gross negligence, such as being drunk or driving recklessly, contributory negligence might not apply. Finally, the “last clear chance” rule can apply if the driver had an opportunity to avoid the pedestrian but didn’t take it. This is a very complex law, but it’s one that a defense attorney will explore in North Carolina.
Establishing Negligence in Pedestrian Accident Cases
No matter the state, to seek compensation, your pedestrian accident attorney will need to determine if the driver acted with either malicious intent or, more likely, negligence. Negligence is a legal term that applies to a person who acts in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t and therefore causes injury.
To prove negligence, there must be a duty of care established. In this instance, the driver had a duty of care to avoid causing harm to pedestrians by driving safely and following traffic laws. If they do not uphold this duty of care, they are said to have breached it. For instance, speeding through an area where pedestrians are common is a breach of duty of care. However, if a pedestrian suddenly steps in front of an approaching car, that driver may not be liable.
Third, it must be shown that the breach of duty of care caused the injury. In pedestrian accident cases, this point is typically not disputed, since it’s usually clear that the injuries sustained were caused by the collision. Finally, you must have suffered real monetary damages, such as property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
Speak to a Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today
Pedestrian accidents are becoming more common — and more deadly. You have legal options if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a pedestrian accident. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, our experienced pedestrian accident attorneys are intimately familiar with state law determining who is at fault for accidents and how much compensation can be recovered.
From the moment you call us to the end of your case, you will never owe us a dime. We only get paid if we win your case. Call us today at (855) 969-5671 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a pedestrian accident attorney.