Drivers need to be vigilant while behind the wheel, especially when it comes to pedestrians. Sometimes it seems that they can appear seemingly out of nowhere, prompting you to swerve or brake suddenly.
There’s a whole science involved in learning how to avoid accidents with pedestrians, but sometimes even your best efforts can’t avoid a collision. If you end up in such a situation, keep the following important information in mind.
How to Avoid Accidents with Pedestrians
It goes without saying that the best way to deal with pedestrian accidents is to not get into one in the first place. This involves the use of defensive driving techniques that are designed to keep both you safe and anyone else you share the road with — and this includes pedestrians crossing the street.
Defensive driving is a skill you can practice or even take instruction on if you feel necessary. It focuses on increasing your awareness of your surroundings while driving, and not just in front of you but behind and to the sides. It extends past other vehicles to bicyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and simple pedestrians as well.
Defensive driving places a specific emphasis on looking out for people who may be distracted themselves. Watching for pedestrians using their phones or listening to music at intersections, and being especially aware of younger people and children who may lack judgment and awareness, is a requirement. Finally, it’s always in your best interest to give pedestrians the right of way to prevent an accident.
What to Do If You Do Get Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
Sometimes, even the most cautious and defensive driver will end up involved in an accident. It’s obviously terrifying to think that you’ve struck a pedestrian, but you’ll need to demonstrate calm and collected behavior to ensure you don’t make a bad situation worse. Here are some steps you should follow:
- Always attend to medical emergencies first. This means calling for an ambulance or other type of emergency medical help in the face of any injuries, especially serious ones.
- If you and the pedestrian can move safely out of the way, be sure to relocate out of the flow of traffic. This prevents any additional accidents with pedestrians or injuries from occurring.
- If they are stable and conscious, exchange contact information with the pedestrian. This incldues not just name and phone number but insurance information as well.
- Contact the police and fill out a full accident report. Never skip this step.
- As you are able to, document the accident site as much as possible. Use the phone in your camera to take pictures of the accident site, the roadway in all directions, and anything else you feel may be relevant.
- Contact your insurer. They will work with the pedestrian’s insurance company and lawyer to resolve any issues on your behalf, especially when it comes to compensation and fault.
- Never discuss fault, either by implying it or admitting it, with anyone at the scene. This includes the police, witnesses, and the pedestrian you struck.
Making Determinations of Fault
It can often be difficult to determine who is at fault in the wake of accidents with pedestrians. In such cases, determining fault relies on whether you, the pedestrian, or both of you were engaged in negligent behavior. This can be either unlawful or simply careless.
Careless or unlawful behavior on your part may expose you to not just civil liability but also legal consequences as well. Are accidents with pedestrians considered misdemeanors? The answer to this depends on what sort of behavior you were exhibiting. Speeding or careless driving, which may lead to an accident, are usually classified as misdemeanors, but the accident itself is usually not.
There are some cases where this is different, of course. If you leave the scene of the accident or if you were under the influence at the time of the accident, these carry some very serious charges. At that point, being at fault for the accident is the least of your worries.
Of course, pedestrians can be either partially or completely at fault for a car accident as well. A pedestrian who was jaywalking or had been in the crosswalk when it was unsafe for them to be would be considered negligent, as well as if they were walking on the road instead of on a sidewalk where one was available.
Sharing Fault for the Accident
In many cases, there are instances where you and the pedestrian end up sharing fault for the accident. If you were distracted by a phone call while driving and the pedestrian was also jaywalking, you can both be held responsible for the negligent behavior that caused the accident.
This can lead to not being held as financially responsible for the accident. Under comparative fault rules, which have been adopted by many states, you will only be liable for the percentage of fault that is yours. In some cases, such as in Texas, anyone who is more than 50 percent responsible for an accident is barred from seeking compensation, so if the pedestrian shares more blame than you it’s possible you may avoid any legal fees at all.
No matter what the situation is with your pedestrian accident, your best bet is to always consult with an experienced lawyer. An attorney with expertise handling car accidents, especially accidents with pedestrians, will be able to protect your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly, either by an insurance company or by the courts.