Pedestrian accidents result in about 4,700 fatalities each year across the US, with Massachusetts experiencing about 30 to 40 such fatalities each year and hundreds more who suffer injuries of varying severity.
According to the Massachusetts crosswalk law, a pedestrian has the right-of-way at a marked crosswalk where there are no traffic signals. A motorist must stop and allow the pedestrian to proceed once the individual is on that half of the crosswalk where the motorist is present, or is within 10 feet of the traveled part of the roadway on which the car is traveling.
Regardless of the law, pedestrians continue to be struck and seriously injured or killed by motorists for a variety of reasons:
- Distractions such as cell phone use, talking, adjusting radio or gazing out the side or rear window
- Intoxication or drug impairment
- General inattention
- Reflecting on something other than driving
- Blinded by sunlight
- Insufficient roadway lighting
Bicyclists are also legally responsible if they strike a pedestrian who is lawfully crossing the road. Many bicycle riders are unaware that they are required by law to obey all traffic laws, which includes stopping at stop signs, waiting for red lights to change and to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Bicyclists may be covered by their homeowners or renter’s insurance.
Degree of Responsibility
Although pedestrians do have the right-of-way in a crosswalk when the light is in their favor or, if there is no traffic light, when they are within a short distance of the approaching car, this right is far from absolute. Like a motorist, pedestrians have a duty to use proper caution and reasonable care in looking out for their own safety. This means not suddenly darting out into the roadway or to keep walking when a car is speeding towards them and expecting it to suddenly stop. If there is a stoplight at the crosswalk, pedestrians do have to wait for the “Walk” signal or risk injury and be comparatively responsible for their own injuries.
Should the motorist claim or have evidence that the pedestrian ran out into the crosswalk or was trying to cross against the light, the courts may find comparative fault and apportion liability between the parties. In Massachusetts, you cannot collect damages from a negligent party unless that party was at least 51% at fault. If fault is equally apportioned, you may not collect anything. Also, your damages are reduced by your degree of fault so that if your damages are $100,000 but you are determined to be 40% at fault, you only collect $60,000.
Sources of Compensation
If you are injured, you can certainly sue the driver who struck you. In many cases, however, the responsible driver is uninsured or underinsured. Also, a panicked or oblivious motorist may flee the scene in a hit and run scenario. Is there any recourse for pedestrians under these circumstances?
In uninsured motorist and hit and run cases, you can use your own auto policy. The minimum policy in Massachusetts is $20,000 so we recommend you consider purchasing additional uninsured coverage. This also covers family members who are injured in pedestrian accidents by uninsured drivers or by hit and run motorists.
Should your injury be serious or a loved one suffered fatal injuries, however, you can also use the underinsured (UIM) provision of your auto policy to collect additional compensation, provided you first exhaust the other party’s limits and your UIM coverage exceeds those limits. For example, if the other party’s limits were $20,000 and your UIM policy provides $100,000, you may collect an additional $80,000 from your own insurer.
Retain Crosswalk Accident Attorney Tim Houten
Not all crosswalk accidents are cut and dry. Very often, a motorist will insist that you ran out into the street or tried to cross against the light. Insurance adjusters will also try to minimize the nature and extent of your injuries, question your ability to return to work or challenge the necessity or reasonableness of your medical treatment and expenses. Attorney Tim Houten is an experienced crosswalk accident lawyer who has successfully handled complex issues of liability and proof in all Massachusetts state and federal courts over his over 20 years of representing accident victims in Middleton and throughout the Commonwealth. Call him today for a free assessment of your injury accident case.