Statistically, pedestrians account for only a minuscule amount of the traffic on New York streets. However, pedestrians account for a significant number of serious injury victims, and an even more significant proportion of wrongful death victims. Primarily, that’s because pedestrians quite literally only have the clothes on their backs to protect them in these situations. And, today’s cars and trucks are bigger and faster than ever, which means they strike pedestrians with more force than ever before.
As soon as victims reach out to us, the diligent New York pedestrian accident lawyers at the Pianko Law Group begin collecting evidence which supports an injury claim. Then, we apply this evidence to a legal theory which fits the facts. Then, once the case goes to court, we never stop fighting for you. This simple and straightforward approach usually produces results that exceed our clients’ expectations.
Contrary to popular myth, even if a victim crosses against the light, compensation is still available, mostly because of New York’s victim-friendly comparative fault rules.
Maximum compensation is usually available if a vehicle hit a pedestrian who was in a crosswalk and walking with the light. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
If the accident was fatal, survivors are usually entitled to compensation for pecuniary losses, such as funeral and burial expenses, lost future financial support, the decedent’s final medical expenses, and lost future emotional support. Survivors might also be entitled to compensation for their own grief and suffering, under a theory like negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Many crosswalk accidents happen when the victim started crossing on green, but wasn’t able to get to the other side before the light changed. These wrecks are especially common in older parts of town where the traffic lights don’t include countdown timers. Making matters worse, most New York streets have multiple, wide lanes and short red lights, in order to move vehicle traffic as quickly as possible. As a result, anyone with any significant mobility impairment often has a hard time crossing the street safely.
Virtual crosswalks involve similar issues. At a virtual crosswalk, a pedestrian pushes a button which activates a flashing yellow light. This yellow light commands vehicles approaching in either direction to stop.
The comparative fault defense often affects the amount of available compensation in yellow light pedestrian accidents. Basically, insurance company lawyers argue that the victim was partially at fault for the wreck, either because s/he did not cross the street quickly enough or s/he did not stop and look both ways before entering the street.
In these situations, jurors must divide fault on a percentage basis between the victim and tortfeasor (negligent driver). New York is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the wreck, according to the jury, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportionate share of damages.
This same principle applies if the victim tried to cross the street against the light. The duty of care requires motorists to avoid accidents if possible, no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do. Therefore, these victims are usually entitled to fair compensation for their serious injuries.
Most pedestrian accidents happen outside marked crosswalks and in non-intersections. Therefore, the at-fault motorist is usually driving at or near top speed at the moment of the wreck.
Speed is the leading factor in fatal pedestrian accident claims. At impact speeds under 25mph, the pedestrian death rate is below 10 percent. At impact speeds above 50mph, the pedestrian death rate catapults to over 90 percent. So, there is a good chance that a pedestrian will survive an intersection collision. But the chances of surviving a non-intersection accident are somewhat remote.
Because of the aforementioned duty of care, liability is rather clear in these accidents, at least on a preliminary basis. However, unless a New York pedestrian accident lawyer is ready to deal with the sudden emergency defense, maximum compensation probably is unavailable in these cases. This defense excuses negligence if the tortfeasor:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency
Most drivers react reasonably when they strike pedestrians. They pull over, render aid if possible, and wait for emergency responders to arrive. So, the first prong of this defense is usually present in pedestrian accident claims.
The second prong is a much different story. In this context, a “sudden emergency” usually includes lightning strikes, hood fly-ups, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations. A jaywalking pedestrian is more like a stalled car or a large pothole. Drivers should anticipate these everyday hazards and be prepared to avoid them.
A few pedestrian accident claims settle almost immediately. However, insurance companies often use comparative fault, sudden emergency, and other legal loopholes as an excuse to drag their feet when it comes to settlement.
So, to pressure the insurance company, and also to preserve the victim/plaintiff’s legal rights, most attorneys file legal paperwork.
The bad news is that this necessary filing usually delays the settlement process. The good news is that this filing also triggers a discovery requirement. Both sides must put all their cards on the table, in terms of their claims and defenses. So, a New York pedestrian accident lawyer often obtains additional evidence which strengthens the claim and increases the amount of compensation.
Furthermore, most judges refer contested cases to mediation. A third-party mediator works with both sides and tries to engineer a settlement. If both parties negotiate in good faith, and they have a legal duty to do so, mediation is usually successful. So, mediation avoids risky trials and concludes cases faster.