The uneasy and unofficial truce between pedestrians and cars will always be marred by high incidence of pedestrian accidents. Although a significant number of these accidents are the fault of drivers, this is not always the case. Two recent situations in Philadelphia show how drivers and pedestrians can both be at fault, yet the pedestrian is the one that will always lose in the end.
A recent article profiled the story of a Philadelphia pedestrian legally walking across an overpass who was forced to reach for a traffic light in order to avoid being at the center of a car crash. Unfortunately, one of the two cars in the accident hit the traffic light pole and sent the pedestrian and the pole to which he clung off of the bridge. After landing some 30 feet below, the pedestrian and the driver of one of the two vehicles in the crash were taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Although this is an unusual pedestrian accident for some obvious reasons, it is also unusual due to the fact that the driver of one of the vehicles was also severely injured like the pedestrian. In most car/pedestrian accidents, it is always the pedestrian that suffers the serious injuries or in all too many cases, catastrophic injuries or death from the severe traumatic injuries.
If you read the story, the first car, which T-boned the second car and sent it careening into the light post, is clearly at fault for the accident. Despite the fact that thousands of pedestrians are injured or killed in pedestrian accidents where they have followed all of the traffic laws, it can get a little murky as to where to squarely place the blame without witnesses. The accidents frequently happen when a pedestrian steps off of a curb at the change of a light or crosses an intersection. They also happen as they cross parking lots and driveways.
In most states including Pennsylvania, a pedestrian can only recover in a lawsuit against a driver when the accident was at least partially the driver’s fault. When a pedestrian walks in front of a moving vehicle while texting without being aware of their surroundings, it often leaves the vehicle’s driver with no way to avoid contact. In these cases, the pedestrian would be unsuccessful in a lawsuit. That brings us the growing incidence of what is termed “distracted walking.”
The Dangers of Distracted Walking
Pedestrian accidents are increasingly occurring because the person is on a cell phone, wearing headphones, or being distracted by some other electronic device. These are all prime examples where the pedestrian is at fault. Pedestrians bear just as much responsibility for being observant and following the law as drivers. That means no texting or wearing headphones while walking through intersections or parking lots.
Studies show that distracted walkers being treated at emergency rooms have quadrupled in the past seven years as well as a spike in pedestrian accidents where the person was killed. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics show 1,152 people being treated for injuries in emergency rooms after pedestrian accidents occurring while they were using a cell phone. The truth of the matter is that the problem of distracted walking is much bigger than the reported cases.
Officials in Philadelphia are attempting to create a safety campaign to discourage pedestrians from looking at their electronic device rather than where they are going.
Encouraging them to look up is certainly a start, but letting them know that they will have no legal recourse in the courts if they are the cause of their own pedestrian accident seems a an equally important deterrent.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.