Today we are going to talk about pedestrian accidents. Do pedestrians always have the right of way? My guest is attorney David Daggett and he is going to answer some common questions. So David thanks for being here.
David: Thank you for having me.
Cindy: Absolutely. So David do pedestrians always have the right of way?
David: Well they don’t, yes pedestrians always have the right of way but that doesn’t mean the motorist is always at fault. Motorists are required to watch out for pedestrians all the time but pedestrians are required to follow the law also. So pedestrians have the right of way in an intersection. If it’s an uncontrolled intersection, just stop signs, the pedestrian has the right to the crosswalk and motorists have to stop for them. If there are traffic signals, the walk sign, the do not walk sign, pedestrians are required to follow those laws too. So pedestrians, there are lots of rules and laws regarding pedestrians. To me – I am a runner, runners are pedestrians too. So runners have to follow the law also. The laws in North Carolina require pedestrians to use a sidewalk if available. If it’s not available they have to be at the far left side of the road facing traffic. The pedestrians are required to follow any sort of traffic guidelines for pedestrians. If there is a crosswalk, they should use the crosswalk. If there are signals there, follow the crosswalks. Interestingly in national statistics, and statistics regarding pedestrians aren’t as good as statistics regarding motor vehicle accidents, but statistics regarding pedestrians show that most pedestrian accidents occur with a pedestrian getting hit from behind when they are walking on the wrong side of the road.
So simply following the rules is safety and of course at night pedestrians need to watch out for themselves, reflective gear or lights – you know the helmet light, the headlights are now pretty popular. They even have a knuckle light and there is all sorts of reflective gear that’s available.
Cindy: Okay what about if a pedestrian is hit when they are breaking the law they are walking against traffic or crossing at the wrong place?
David: Well, then they don’t have a claim for the damages that come from that. So if the pedestrian isn’t following the laws – remember on a previous show we talked about the topic in North Carolina has contributory negligence – if the pedestrian is not following the law then they are contributorily negligent and they don’t have a claim for damages if an unfortunate thing happens. Now pedestrians do have rights in crosswalks. A lot of times there are accidents in those situations. Unfortunately a pedestrian is completely unprotected, so those damages could be pretty severe. Having good legal representation on your side can be very helpful. The other thing that we see is pedestrian incidents regarding children. There is a higher standard of care for a motorist to be on the lookout for children, and of course we also have some special laws like children around school buses. We have had a couple of unfortunate incidents where cars have passed a stopped school bus and hit a child, so those are very, very terrible and unfortunate circumstances. So motorists have to be aware of pedestrians, have to be aware in areas where there is a lot of children. That’s why you have school zones. That’s why you have signs up when there is play grounds or recreation areas, those sort of things. And of course school busses with their arms in the sides and the flashing lights and those sorts of things.
That’s to put motorists on notice and to help motorists. Well motorists have to accept that help and obey those laws and restrictions and be more aware when they are around play grounds, that sort of thing. I went running this morning on a green way trail and there were all sorts of warnings for the pedestrians when they are approaching a road and there were also signs on the road to watch out for pedestrians, so if everybody is watching out for each other bad things don’t happen.
Cindy: Right but what about if the child is hit and they are not following the signs. Are there accommodations or do they come under that contributory negligence?
David: Well it depends on the age of the child and the experience and background of the child and those sort of things. Those are more complicated cases, those are cases where you need to have experienced legal representation to look at it. It also depends – is there something to put motorists on notice? So an example, this is a real life one that we’ve had, is there is an ice cream truck in a neighborhood with the bell going. Well, kids run to the ice cream truck. Well a motorist needs to be aware they have a heightened responsibility and duty if they see and hear the ice cream truck because they know kids are going to be coming. They can’t just blaze away in that situation.
David: And an experienced lawyer will know that and can differentiate between the different circumstances as to whether there is fault and liability and circumstance.