Pedestrian Accidents

In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the U.S. logged nearly 7,400 pedestrian deaths. This was the highest figure in more than 40 years. The problem is getting worse here in Portland, too. Historically, on average, around 16 pedestrians die in Portland crashes each year. However, in 2021, that number ballooned to 27. The 32 pedestrian deaths in 2022 (according to the Portland Police Department) represented a figure last seen here in 1948.

There are many reasons for crashes that severely injure or kill pedestrians. Often, it comes down to a car, truck, or SUV driver driving unsafely. Some of the most common factors are speeding, driving under the influence, and drivers distracted by a cell phone call, text or app.  Additionally, though, a pedestrian may be overlooked by the driver of a large commercial vehicle (such as a TriMet bus or a Waste Management truck) who failed to properly use their mirrors to see a pedestrian who had the right-of-way.

Whether or not the driver exceeded the posted speed limit, speed is often a factor in the likelihood of a pedestrian crash causing a catastrophic or fatal outcome. The U.K. government studied pedestrian crashes and found that a pedestrian has a very high (95%) chance of survival if hit by a car going 20 mph, slightly better than even odds (55%) of survival in a 30-mph crash, and very low chance of avoiding death (15%) if the vehicle was going 40 mph.

Pedestrian Accidents and Civil Lawsuits

In a pedestrian crash, a speeding, impaired, or distracted driver may be liable civilly. Proof that a vehicle driver broke one or more laws can be helpful to an injured pedestrian. If it becomes necessary to sue a vehicle driver, the law normally requires the injured person to prove to the jury that the driver was negligent.  If, however, you can prove the driver broke the law (for example, proving they were speeding, legally intoxicated, or using their cell phone at the time of the crash,) then it's possible the court will presume the driver was negligent.  To do this, you need more than evidence of a conviction on a traffic violation, which Oregon law says is not admissible proof. This is why an injured pedestrian’s legal team might subpoena the police officer to testify as to what he/she observed or try to locate any cameras in the area of the crash in search of footage reflecting the driver's speed (or the license plate if it is a hit-and-run situation.)

These aren't the only types of evidence that may strengthen a pedestrian's case. If the accident occurred at night but the pedestrian was wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing, that could bolster an argument that the driver should have seen them. Furthermore, if the driver hit the pedestrian while the pedestrian was in a marked crosswalk, that would also potentially tend to strengthen the argument that the driver was negligent.

As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has pointed out, infrastructure design matters, too. Road features like sidewalks, refuge islands, and over/underpasses can create extra separation between pedestrians and moving vehicles, thereby reducing the potential risk to pedestrians.  In some situations, the decisions governmental entities make regarding road design may possibly be the basis for a legal claim. If the governmental entity responsible for the road knew (or reasonably should have known) that its design and maintenance decisions created unreasonably dangerous conditions at a particular location, then it potentially could be legally responsible.

Pedestrian Accidents and Insurance Claims

Filing one or more insurance claims can often be essential to obtaining necessary and proper compensation. If you were injured in a pedestrian crash, you can get your medical bills and lost wages paid by your own auto insurer based on your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If you don't have auto insurance coverage but you live with a family member who does, you potentially can get a payment from that loved one's policy based on their PIP coverage. As a pedestrian, even if you don’t have your own auto policy, you can still open a PIP claim on the driver’s policy regardless of fault. This coverage can be crucial for meeting financial obligations like your initial medical bills.

If the injured pedestrian pursues a claim against the at-fault driver's auto insurance policy and if the total damage suffered exceeds the limits of the at-fault driver's coverage -- which pedestrian accidents often will – the injured person or their estate can pursue that claim and also file a claim with their insurer based on their uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.

Insurance companies frequently try to avoid paying valid claims even to their own clients with whom they have a contract.  Often, folks have been paying premiums for years, only to have their own insurance company deny or minimize a claim.  That's why, whether you're seeking recovery from an insurance company or through a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you need the right advocate who is both knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to these issues. Even if you just have questions in the aftermath of a pedestrian accident, you need to be sure you're getting reliable information and sound advice.  The Oregon and Washington pedestrian accident attorneys at Kaplan Law, LLC are here to help you in these ways and more.  Whether it is investigating the crash, interacting with insurers, or pursuing civil litigation, our team is committed to helping each client get justice. Please call us at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online today to discuss how we can help.

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