Over 20% of All Car Accident Fatalities in Maryland are Pedestrians
Maryland Department of Transportation officials made a disturbing announcement at a news conference on April 26, 2017: Of all fatalities that involved motor vehicles in 2016, pedestrians accounted for approximately 21%. The number of pedestrian deaths during last year also represents an increase over 2015 figures, according to a report in Baltimore’s Capital Gazette, up two fatalities to 523 in 2016. Maryland’s Transportation Secretary expressed concern at these statistics, pointing out that congestion may be one factor, especially in urban areas. He called upon county and municipal governments to develop strategic highway management plans as part of an effort to curtail pedestrian deaths, and pointed out the importance of personal responsibility to reduce all types of traffic-related fatalities.
Officials are hopeful that new strategies will have an effect on pedestrian casualties due to car accidents, but these incidents still occur with alarming frequency. When they do, an injured victim may suffer massive losses. The costs of medical treatment skyrocket, victims may be out of work for an extended period of time, and there are losses related to pain and suffering. If you have sustained injuries as a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle, talk to a Maryland personal injury attorney about your options for recovering compensation.
Rights and Duties of Pedestrians
A person walking, hiking, or running on or near the roadway must still adhere to certain traffic laws, despite not being behind the wheel of a vehicle. As a pedestrian, your obligations include:
- Obeying traffic lights and signals, including “Walk” and “Do Not Walk” signs;
- Staying on the sidewalk, where one exists, and walking along the shoulder in the absence of a sidewalk;
- Acting with appropriate precaution, even when you have right-of-way;
- Using common sense to not put yourself in harm’s way considering your surroundings and the apparent circumstances;
- Maintaining a lookout in a prudent, responsible manner.
Common Causes of Pedestrian-Related Car Accidents
In many cases, the driver of a vehicle is negligent in some way, causing injury to a pedestrian on or near the roadway. When the motorist is responsible for the accident, it may be due to:
- Traveling at a speed in excess of the posted limit;
- Failure to yield to a pedestrian who has right-of-way;
- Drunk driving or driving while under the influence of a controlled substance;
- Distracted driving, such as texting, using a cell phone, eating, drinking, listening to the radio, or applying makeup;
- Failure of vehicle equipment, including brakes, steering, or tires;
- Weather conditions that impact visibility;
- Poorly maintained roadways; and,
- Many other factors.
Still, many car accidents that cause injury to a pedestrian can be traced back to his or her own conduct and a failure to abide by the legal duties mentioned above. Examples include:
- Failure to obey traffic signals;
- Crossing a roadway diagonally or against traffic, otherwise known as jaywalking;
- Not staying within the lines of a crosswalk marking;
- Walking along a high-speed roadway where no sidewalks are installed;
- Failure to walk on the designated sidewalk; and,
- Walking while under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance.
Pedestrian’s Contributory Negligence in Auto Accident Cases
When a pedestrian’s conduct causes his or her own injuries, Maryland follows a legal concept called “contributory” negligence. Under this theory, you may be completely barred from recovery compensation if your actions contributed in any way to the harm you suffered. Many other states apply a comparative negligence standard, where a victim’s own conduct may lead to a reduced monetary award because he or she was at fault in some respect. The contributory negligence rule in Maryland is quite harsh to victims who were only slightly responsible for the injuries they suffer.
The state’s high court has repeatedly upheld the contributory negligence standard. As recently as 2013, the Maryland Supreme Court held that a victim cannot recover financial damages in a case based upon negligence if that person is partly at fault. Therefore, if you did not obey the traffic rules that apply to pedestrians and your own actions contributed to your injuries, you could be prohibited from any compensation you for your losses.
Typical Injuries Pedestrians in Accidents Suffer
Car accidents involving pedestrians are unique because they usually involve a primary and secondary impact. The first occurs when the vehicle strikes a person walking; the second happens when a pedestrian is propelled into the air, striking another object. Injuries typical in pedestrian-related car accidents, both primary and secondary, include:
- Lacerations, bruises, and scrapes to all areas of the body;
- Traumatic brain injuries, concussions, brain bruises, swelling of the brain tissue, and blood clots;
- Soft tissue injuries to the neck and spine, commonly known as whiplash;
- Injuries to the spinal cord, bones of the spine, and connective tissues; and,
- Bone fractures, especially the hands, arms, legs, feet, hips, and pelvis.
Pedestrian vehicle crashes are also unlike other personal injury cases because of the severity of the injuries involved. You do not have the protection offered by the vehicle’s shell, so there is little to bear the brunt of the impact. The rehabilitation period to bring you back to health tends to be much longer; many victims of a pedestrian-related car accident never fully recover. A victim could be out of work for an extended period, during which time his or her medical bills will pile up. If the injuries are such that a victim cannot return to the job he or she once held, future earnings could also be reduced.
Even as Maryland officials strategize on how to decrease the number of pedestrian casualties due to motor vehicle accidents, it is not possible to eliminate these types of incidents entirely. If you are the victim, your losses can be devastating. You may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but personal injury cases are extremely complex. Plus, if your own conduct was a factor in your injuries, you may be denied financial recovery.
For more information on pedestrian-related car accidents in Maryland, please contact the Baltimore, Virginia or Washington D.C. office of Attorney Bob Katz.