For many individuals, walking is their primary mode of transportation or a standard connector between other forms of transportation. However, for others, it is a way to enjoy the sound and scenery of Washington while staying healthy. Crosswalks, traffic signals, and sidewalks are meant to keep pedestrians safe. The term “pedestrian” includes people who are walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, using electric foot scooters, skateboards, in-line skates, and any persons using any type of mobility assistance device. Pedestrians that have been struck by a motor vehicle are more likely to suffer fatal injuries or death compared to occupants of a car.
Washington Traffic Safety Commission has reported that in 2017, every three days, a pedestrian died in a traffic-related collision. When pedestrians sustain injuries in a traffic-related collision, they can be extremely severe because pedestrians lack the metal protection occupants in motor vehicles have. Overall, 2017, had the highest pedestrian death with a total of 109. Whether you were struck by a vehicle or injured because of a defective sidewalk, it is essential that you obtain an experienced attorney to resolve any complications in your case. If you were involved in a vehicle-pedestrian collision or non-vehicular pedestrian accident, consult with a skilled pedestrian accident attorney.
Lawyer for Injured Pedestrians in Bellingham, WA
If you have sustained injuries after a pedestrian accident, it is crucial to retain the expertise of a legal professional. The catastrophic injuries after a pedestrian accident can include paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and broken bones. Furthermore, if your child was injured in a pedestrian-vehicle collision, it is imperative to seek legal assistance.
At PNW Trial Lawyers, we spend the time and costs necessary to litigate and investigate each case thoroughly and give you the attention you deserve. The availability of our partners and lawyers to talk to our clients does not end with the initial consultation and is not limited to a few calls throughout the case. We will keep you informed throughout the process because our priority is making sure you focus on your recovery.
If you, a loved one, or someone you know has been involved in a pedestrian accident, contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. PNW Trial Lawyers serves clients in Bellingham, Everett, Anacortes, Mount Vernon, and the surrounding areas of Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County.
Overview of Pedestrian Accidents
- Pedestrian Accident Statistics
- Washington State Pedestrian Laws
- Pedestrian-Vehicular Collisions
- Common Causes & Injuries in Pedestrian-Vehicular Collisions
- Compensation in Pedestrian-Vehicular Collisions
- Non-Vehicular Pedestrian Accidents
- Determining Liability
- Additional Resources
Pedestrian Accident Statistics
It is common knowledge that pedestrian safety has become a significant concern and priority. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), 6,283 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2018. As the pedestrian-vehicle collisions continue to rise, new initiatives, resources, and awareness implementations continue to take place to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries on the road. The Pedestrian Safety Advisory Council and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission have reported the following statistical information pertaining to pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
Washington State Accidents involving Pedestrian & Contributing Factors
2012 – 2014
Impaired Pedestrian (Alcohol or Drugs)
Pedestrian Failure to Yield to Driver
Impaired Driver (Alcohol or Drugs)
Driver Failure to Yield to Pedestrian
Total Traffic Fatalities
2015 – 2017
Impaired Pedestrian (Alcohol or Drugs)
Pedestrian Failure to Yield to Driver
Impaired Driver (Alcohol or Drugs)
Driver Failure to Yield to Pedestrian
Total Traffic Fatalities
The information above demonstrates that although it is risky for drivers to be under the influence of alcohol or marijuana while on the road, it is also risky for pedestrians. The data illustrates that in the prior three-year period (2012 – 2014), the total traffic fatalities involving a pedestrian was 15%. In heavy populated areas, where the number of pedestrians on the road is higher (e.g., cities), pedestrians are at higher risk. From the prior three-year period (2012 – 2014), 67% of pedestrians struck by a vehicle sustained serious injuries, and there was a 69% fatality rate. Every three hours, a cyclist or pedestrian is involved in a collision with a vehicle.
During the recent three-year period (2015 – 2017), there was an increase in total traffic fatalities involving a pedestrian to 16.3%. Furthermore, the fatality rate of pedestrians struck by a vehicle was 75.3%. There was also a 7% increase in the severe injuries’ pedestrians sustain when they are struck by a vehicle compared to the prior three-year period (2012 – 2014).
Statistical Information of At-Risk Group in Pedestrian-Vehicular Collision
When we step outside our homes, we do not expect to be in an accident, whether it’s a collision with a motor vehicle or an injury caused by property defects of a homeowner, business owner, or municipality. Every pedestrian, in one way or another, can be at risk. Unfortunately, in pedestrian-vehicular collisions, some groups are at elevated risk of death and catastrophic injuries. Young children up until the age of 14, middle-aged males (ages 45 to 64), and the elderly (Ages 65 and older) are groups of pedestrians that are at higher risks of fatality and sustaining catastrophic injuries if they are struck by a motor vehicle. According to NHTSA, in 2016, children of ages fourteen (14) and younger accounted for 20% of traffic collision fatality. Furthermore, 70% of pedestrian males were killed in traffic crashes. However, the elderly (ages 65 and older) was the highest age group with the most significant number of pedestrian fatalities. See DOT HS 812 493
Washington State Pedestrian Laws
All drivers must yield to pedestrians and exercise due care in sidewalks, crosswalks, parking lots, and any areas that are occupied by cars and pedestrians. When drivers stop, they must make a complete stop and allow pedestrians to cross the road safely. Although drivers must exercise care, so must pedestrians.
Below are some of Washington’s Pedestrian Laws:
- RCW 46.61.050: Obedience to Control Devices/Traffic Signals – Pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device, unless “otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer.”
- RCW 46.61.235(1): Stopping for Pedestrians – Drivers must stop and remain stopped at unmarked intersections or marked crosswalks to allow pedestrians, bicyclists, or “personal delivery device” to cross the road.
- RCW 46.61.235(2): Pedestrians Moving into Traffic – No pedestrian, bicyclists, or “personal delivery device” shall leave the curb or “other place of safety,” and move into traffic without giving the driver a reasonable amount of time to avoid a collision.
- RCW 46.61.240: Yield to Vehicles & Crossing the Road – All pedestrians or “personal delivery device” crossing a roadway without a crosswalk or intersection must “yield the right-of-way to all vehicles” on the roadway.
- RCW 46.61.245: Drivers Exercise Due Care – Every driver must exercise due care to “avoid colliding” with a pedestrian and must give warning by sounding the horn.
- RCW 46.61.250: Pedestrians on Roadways & Highways – Pedestrians must use sidewalks if they are available. If there’s no sidewalk, then pedestrians must walk or move to the left side of the roadways or “its shoulder facing traffic.”
- RCW 46.61.261: Yield to Pedestrians – Drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, bicyclists, and “personal delivery device” on a sidewalk. Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk. Also, personal delivery devices must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian and a bicyclist on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
- RCW 46.61.415(3)(a): Establishing & Altering Speed Limits – Towns and Cities may establish a speed limit of 20mph.
- RCW 46.61.526: Negligent Driving & Pedestrians – A person who commits negligent driving in the second degree or acts in a negligent manner when the driver is likely to endanger any person or property and causes death, bodily harm, or “substantial bodily harm of a vulnerable user of a public way.”
- RCW 46.61.606: Driving on Sidewalk – It is prohibited to drive any vehicle “upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area.”
Below are some Safety Tips for Pedestrian:
- Obey Traffic Laws – Pedestrians must obey traffic laws. They help protect drivers on the road and others from collisions. It is important for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others to not run or walk into oncoming traffic. See RCW 46.61.050
- Walking on Sidewalks – It is important for pedestrians to use sidewalks if they are available. When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians should walk facing traffic on the far-left side of the shoulder. See RCW 46.61.250
- Crossing – Make sure to stop at the curb and look both ways before crossing. Do not leave the curb if a vehicle is approaching or is close enough that you (the pedestrian) is not allowing the driver a reasonable amount of time to stop and avoid an accident.
- Attentive – Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure that you are seen by drivers so they can avoid you and that you see them as well. Do not let children cross the streets alone or play near traffic.
- Walking while under the influence – Drinking and driving is dangerous and so is walking and drinking. Being under the influence of alcohol while walking can impair your judgment.
For more information on how to stay safe in Washington’s road visit the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Washington State laws allow pedestrians to have the right-of-way in traffic. Nevertheless, pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way. A pedestrian has the right-of-way when a traffic control device instructs them to “walk” (See RCW 46.61.060) when they are crossing the street at an intersection (See RCW 46.61.235(1), and when walking on sidewalks or in crosswalks (See RCW 46.61.250). Drivers still have a duty to completely stop and allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the street. Pedestrian-Vehicular accidents can occur by the negligence of the driver or the pedestrian. Most of the pedestrian-vehicular collisions are preventable; however, when they occur, pedestrians can have injuries to their internal organs or experience sensory loss. At the time of the accident, some injuries will be noticeable, so it is vital to seek medical attention for the pedestrian. Injuries after a vehicular collision can progress, and specific injuries may manifest days or weeks after the accident. It is crucial to obtain medical attention as soon as possible.
The term “pedestrian” includes people who are walking, and that may be children, adults, or the elderly. In other words, there is a point when everyone is a pedestrian. However, people have different preferences on how they would like to get around. Walking, jogging, running, and any activity that would promote a persons’ health and decrease pollutants in the air is becoming increasingly common. Individuals are becoming aware of their health and are taking action by walking or jogging to destinations or public transportations. In reality, a simple walk can turn into a pedestrian-vehicular accident. Some groups of pedestrians are at a higher risk of catastrophic injuries and fatality than others.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and the elderly are at higher risks of pedestrian-vehicular accidents. First, children are small, less visible, have unpredictable behavior, and are at higher risk of suffering catastrophic injuries because of their fragile bones. That is why it is crucial that pedestrians are attentive and do not let children cross the street alone. Furthermore, drivers must exercise reasonable care while on the road and in areas densely populated by pedestrians (See RCW 46.61.245 and RCW 46.61.261). Secondly, the elderly are also at a high risk of catastrophic injuries and death in a pedestrian-vehicular collision because of their weak bones and declining health. Older adult pedestrians have limitations such as impaired vision, loss of hearing, and other physical and mental conditions that limit their ability to make sound and quick decisions. See The California Journal of Emergency Medicine Vol. 8(1)
Unfortunately, pedestrians can be victims of hit-and-run accidents due to a driver’s negligence. The accident could have occurred because of a collision between two cars and the pedestrian sustained injuries. Another occurrence is a negligent driver striking a pedestrian and leaving the scene of the accident. Both circumstances are extremely horrendous and against Washington State law (See RCW 46.52.020). Claiming compensation can be difficult because the at-fault driver is unknown. However, if the pedestrian has UM/UIM or PIP coverage in their auto insurance policy, they may be able to recover damages. It is prudent that you consult with a skilled attorney regarding the details of your case. Many times, plaintiffs are unaware of the options and opportunities available to them. Nevertheless, these options have procedures; obtaining the legal expertise of an attorney can better inform the victim.
Most victims in pedestrian-vehicular crashes focus on the driver being at fault. Occasionally, the driver may not be at fault. Third parties, like manufacturers or distributors, can be held responsible. Generally, if a vehicle had a design or manufacturing defect, and the company (manufacturer, retailer, marketers, etc.) was aware and did not follow the proper procedures to alert the owner, they can be held responsible.
Common Causes & Injuries in Pedestrian-Vehicular Collisions
The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that in 2016 there were a total of 5,987 pedestrian fatalities in traffic collisions. For many individuals walking or jogging is a routine. However, a simple walk, jog, or run can turn into a life-altering decision if you are struck by a motor vehicle. Drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians, and negligent driving is a breach of duty. See RCW 46.61.526
There are multiple causes in a pedestrian-vehicular collision. What makes this type of accident extremely heart-aching is that they are avoidable. Below are a few common causes of pedestrian-vehicular collisions:
- Distracted Driver – When a driver is texting, eating, talking on their phone, or engaging in any action that would distract him/her from having their eyes and minds on the roads. Furthermore, the driver is not exercising reasonable care that it owes to others on the road.
- Distracted Pedestrian – It is crucial that pedestrians look both ways before crossing the road and follow traffic signals. Using electronic devices while walking, jogging, or doing any activity that can cause a distraction while crossing or maneuvering traffic can be fatal (See RCW 46.61.060 and RCW 61.050).
- Driving Under the Influence (alcohol or drugs) – It is illegal to drive while intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana (See RCW 46.61.502). When a driver is intoxicated their reaction time, reasoning, and motor skills are impaired.
- Faulty/Defective Motor Vehicle Parts – If the accident was caused because of a defective vehicle or a defective part. Manufacturers, marketers, retailers, and others have a responsibility to provide safe, effective, and suitable products. For instance, if a tire blowout or the brakes failed. See RCW 7.72.030
- Speeding – Reckless driving endangers the lives of the occupants in the vehicle, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Also, speeding is a violation of Washington State traffic laws (See RCW 46.61.400).
- Violating Washington State traffic laws
- Driver’s failure to yield the right-of-way to pedestrian (See RCW 46.61.261)
- Driver’s failure to come to a complete stop at marked or unmarked crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross the road (See RCW 46.61.235)
- Driver’s failure to exercise due care (See RCW 46.61.245)
- Driver’s failure to obey traffic signals and road signs (See RCW 46.61.050)
- Walking Under the Influence – Walking while under the influence of cannabis or alcohol can impair a pedestrian’s ability to make safe decisions. This can cause a pedestrian to cross the street and move into oncoming traffic. (See RCW 46.61.235(2))
- Weather Conditions – Drivers must adjust their driving to the weather condition. It is important that drivers are alerts, especially at night when it might be snowing, raining, etc. because it diminishes his/her vision. Furthermore, drivers can be held liable for the accidents they cause during bad weather. See RCW 46.61.445
In a pedestrian-vehicular collision, there are primary and secondary injuries. Primary injuries occur when the pedestrian is struck by the vehicle; this is the first point of impact. In children, primary injuries can be extremely traumatic because the point of contact can be the head. For adults, the initial collision can include injuries to the lower body. After the initial impact, the injuries sustained by the pedestrian are caused by the second impact. Secondary injuries happen after the initial collision. In this stage, the pedestrians may be hit by the hood of the vehicle, run over, dragged by the vehicle, or thrown against the concrete. The force of the impact can cause a head injury and other catastrophic injuries.
Some of the catastrophic injuries’ pedestrians sustain in a car collision are below:
- Broken Bones
- Fractured Bones
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Wrongful Death
Compensation in Pedestrian-Vehicular Collisions
Similar to the compensation in a car accident, victims of pedestrian-vehicular collisions may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, disability damages, medical expenses, and loss of income. Furthermore, in wrongful death cases, specific family members may be able to recover damages for the loss of their loved ones.
The victims experience a traumatic event the moment of the collision, and the legal and medical implications afterward can make it extremely difficult to recover. It is imperative to consult with a skilled attorney. Although seeking compensation will not fully recover your life to the way it once was, it can help you keep up with your current and future medical expenses and help accommodate you to your new lifestyle. If you are a family member and your loved one died because of a pedestrian-vehicular accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your pain and suffering. Losing a loved one is heart-aching. Having to manage a funeral, expenses, and medical bills while attempting to sustain some normalcy can be overwhelming. However, certain family members are entitled to recover damages, including loss of financial support.
Many times, drivers have liability insurance. Therefore, the compensation for the injuries the pedestrian sustained, and the death can be obtained through the driver’s car insurance policy. At times insurance companies do not take into consideration the extent of the harm the pedestrian sustained. Therefore, victims contemplate settling because the compensation might only reflect a fraction of the damages. It is important that you obtain the help of an experienced attorney who can guide and represent you. Washington has minimum insurance requirements for drivers depending on the vehicle the persons would be operating (See RCW 46.29.090 and House Bill 1014). Nevertheless, there are drivers on the road with either no insurance or who have the minimum insurance requirements. Unfortunately, Washington’s minimum insurance requirements may not be enough to cover the damages the pedestrian endured.
Uninsured or Underinsured Driver
In the situation that the at-fault driver is uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM), the pedestrian may be able to recover compensation through their UM/UIM policy. The uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is available when the value of the claim exceeds the driver’s liability insurance policy or when the driver does not have a liability policy. Also, there are specific procedures and regulations about filing a UM/UIM claim. It is crucial to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney.
Pedestrian Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Similar to an auto accident, a pedestrian-vehicular accident triggers personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in an auto insurance policy. That is to say, PIP coverage can help pedestrians financially (e.g., covering medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) while they recover from their injuries. In Washington, personal injury protection (PIP) is applied differently in a pedestrian-vehicular accident. The pedestrian is entitled to the PIP benefits of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. If you were injured because you were struck by a motor vehicle (car, motorcycle, etc.), retaining an attorney can help you recover for the damages you have sustained. Pedestrians are highly vulnerable to the elements of the road, and drivers have a responsibility to be attentive to others while on the road.
Also, if the at-fault driver does not have PIP coverage or their coverage has been exhausted, the pedestrian’s PIP coverage from their auto insurance policy will be triggered. If the personal injury protection coverage has been used from the at-fault driver and the pedestrian’s auto insurance policy, the last coverage available for medical expenses is the pedestrian’s health insurance.
Non-Vehicular Pedestrian Accidents
There are various types of pedestrian accidents, and being struck by a motor vehicle while walking, jogging, or running, is not the only type of pedestrian accident that you may encounter. Pedestrians can recover damages for injuries sustained by a property defect. Although pedestrians are responsible for their own safety, private owners also have a responsibility to maintain their property from dangerous conditions. Furthermore, government agencies also have a responsibility to keep public sidewalks safe. Non-vehicular pedestrian accidents are extremely common; however, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, they are known as product liability or premises liability.
City governments and private property owners have a duty to maintain their property and warn others of any hazards on their premises. It is important to understand that public property depends on what government or city agency is responsible for maintaining that property. Furthermore, in order for the plaintiff to make a claim against the city or municipality, there are time-sensitive legal procedures that must be followed. See RCW 4.96.020
In Washington, property owners and occupiers are liable for dangerous conditions on their property. A property owners’ duty to others is to make sure that there are no hazardous conditions on their premises, or at least to warn people about the danger on their premises. The duty owed depends on who is on the property. If you are involved in a non-vehicular pedestrian accident, consult an experienced attorney. A skilled attorney can help you determine liability and file the proper claim on the facts of your case.
Below are some common causes and injuries of non-vehicular pedestrian accidents:
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- Unsafe Swimming Pools
- Dangerous Property (Not Warning or Labeling of hazardous conditions)
- Defective Stairs
- Dog Bites
- Icy Sidewalks
- Broken Bones
- Knee Injury (including sprained and torn ligaments)
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Sprains or strains of ankles, wrists
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Common Compensation in Non-Vehicular Pedestrian Accidents
- Loss of Income – This can include the loss of income since the accident and after the accident. Furthermore, loss wages include any bonus, commission, or promotions you may have lost due to your injuries.
- Medical Expenses – Surgical bills, medications, rehabilitation, therapy, and any treatment for your injuries. Injured victims should keep account of out-of-pocket medical expenses, which includes travel expenses to receive care.
- Pain and Suffering – The physical trauma and emotional strain the victim has endured.
In pedestrian-related accidents, there are five possible liable parties; a driver, a governmental entity, a manufacturer, a homeowner or business owner, or the pedestrian.
- Driver – The person operating the motor vehicle, can be held liable if he/she did not yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian or violated any of Washington States’ Rules of the Road.
- Government Entity – A pedestrian can sustain injuries because of unsafe roads, poorly designed intersection, poorly lit roadway, etc. The state or government agency in charge of maintaining the roadways can be held liable if they knew of the unsafe conditions and no action was taken to remedy the situation. See RCW 4.92
- Product Liability (Manufacturer) – A design or manufacturing defect with the vehicle or a part of the vehicle such as brakes not working can increase the risk of a driver being in an accident. If the pedestrian’s injuries were caused because of a design or manufacturer defect, the agencies that make or assist in the production of the vehicle can be held liable. See RCW 7.72.030
- Premises Liability (Homeowner or Business Owner) – When a person is on someone else’s property as an “invitee” or “licensee” and suffers an injury the property owner can be held accountable. Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their premises.
- Pedestrian – Pedestrians are also responsible for their own safety. Washington State is a pure comparative negligence state; therefore, more than one party can share the blame for an accident. If a pedestrian was not following Washington State’s Pedestrian Laws, was negligent, or under the influence of cannabis or alcohol when he/she was struck by a driver who was speeding or texting, then both parties are held liable and share a percentage of the responsibility. See RCW 4.22.005
Feet First – Promoting Walkable Communities – The organization advocates for walkable routes that can connect people and places. Also, there is a Walkable Washington Program that helps support communities and cities towards “more walkable and vibrant communities.” Walkable Washington Program offers the involved individuals an opportunity to collaborate with other professionals and support each other to find solutions and more walkable places for their communities. In addition, the organization offers a variety of services to help Safe Routes to School initiatives. In short, the website is a great resource for walkers or pedestrians whose primary form of transportation is walking. It offers resources for routes, building a walkable community, safety tips when walking, maps, events, and opportunities to get involved.
Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians – The Traffic Safety Facts are provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The sheet defines pedestrian and overall fatalities by state and cities in 2016. The report also considers other factors such as environment (urban and rural areas), time of day, age, gender, and if drivers were under the influence of alcohol.
Target Zero – The purpose of the Traffic Zero initiative is to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries in Washington’s roadways by 2030. Follow the link to learn about updates for the year 2019. In addition, the site contains the “2018 Annual Report & Recommendations,” with statistical information of Washington State traffic injuries and fatalities. Furthermore, the annual report depicts how the Target Zero safety plan can be achieved, and new initiatives that can be taken to help promote traffic safety and decline fatalities.
Attorney for Pedestrian Accidents in Whatcom County, WA
Drivers have a responsibility to other drivers and pedestrians when they are on the road. Although some drivers are careful, not everyone is, and accidents happen. Unfortunately, when a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, the injuries caused by the accident are catastrophic. At times, the victims die because of their injuries, and families are suffering from the wrongful death of a loved one. At PNW Trial Lawyers, we understand that a serious injury or death in the family is one of the most difficult times in anyone’s life. You can trust us to handle your case while you devote your energy to the recovery process. We prepare every case with the assumption it will be tried to verdict. This preparation helps us achieve the best possible result in a settlement or trial. Our team of experienced pedestrian accident attorneys has the passion, drive, and understanding to provide you and your case with the type of legal service it requires.
Contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. Our firm serves clients in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Everett, and in the surrounding areas of Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County.