What Are Rights Of Pedestrians And Hit-And-Run Victims In Texas?

Latest Fort Worth crash a shocking reminder of danger. 

On Sunday morning several young women who had been celebrating a birthday in the Fort Worth Stockyards were walking back to their car near this iconic scene. But a truck speeding on North Main at 25th Street ran into Amber Underwood and Brooklyn Wammack and almost hit another woman.

The high-speed collision sent the two friends flying into the air, knocked them unconscious, and seriously injured them. The driver fled the scene — of course.

The Fort Worth Police Department has just asked the public to contact them to identity the hit-and-run driver of a 1998-2000 Ford 150 crew cab truck that is black on the top and bottom and tan through the center and has a missing headlight and a paper license tag in the back. There can’t be many trucks like that here. Call 817-392-4891 if you have any information.

Amber Underwood photograph courtesy of WFAA

I hope this criminal is found, sentenced to a lengthy jail term in a criminal court, and a judgment is taken against him or her in a civil court to pay the victims’ damages.

My wishes for a speedy recovery go out to the two young women.

It is ridiculously dangerous to cross a street in America or even be outside of a vehicle. A recent poll showed that Texas was the third worst in the U.S. for pedestrian deaths. Over 5,000 people are killed after being hit by a car or truck each year with 550 Texans among them.

What can you do if  you have been crashed into while you were a pedestrian or the other driver speeds away from a collision? 

Law regulating pedestrian accidents in Texas

The rights of pedestrians or motorists injured by hit-and-run drivers depends on several factors. Where and when the crash happened are the keys.

  1. Did the collision happen in a cross walk or at an intersection with a traffic light? A pedestrian must wait for his or her “walk” signal or green light before walking across a road. He is negligent if he attempts to cross at a different time, e.g. there is a “do not walk,” red light, or even a yellow light. A pedestrian who is in the cross walk has the right of way with the “walk” signal. But he is still required to maintain a proper lookout and should yield to vehicles turning right on red, for example, who may not see him. In a court of law, the jury will be allowed to compare the actions of both the walker and driver, as Texas uses a comparative negligence statute. The jury can consider how far across the pedestrian was at the time of the impact, his position to the right of the crosswalk, his attempts to cross safely, and the driver’s conduct.
  2. Did it happen somewhere else? Again, the pedestrian must exercise safety and may be found to be liable at a trial for failing to yield the right of way to a vehicle. Full disclosure: as I was walking to the courthouse yesterday, I cut across between intersections and would have been held negligent if I had been struck (there were no cars coming, of course).

The laws are set out in the Texas Transportation Code and can be read here.

Alcohol is a major factor in pedestrian and hit-and-run crashes 

You can bet that the driver of the truck who fled the Stockyards early Sunday morning was drunk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety issued a report that showed that a pedestrian is killed in 60 percent of all hit-and-run fatal crashes. Look what happened in Virginia on Saturday when the neo Nazi drove into the crowd of protesters, killed a young woman (a paralegal), then fled.

Drivers know that leaving the crash scene is illegal, so why do they do it? Yes, presumably they panic, but according to the AAA Foundation, “alcohol is a major, major part of the problem.” Drunk drivers make the quick decision to either stick around and be charged with DWI or flee the scene in the hopes they can get away with it. If later on they are arrested, they might think prosecutors will not be able to prove intoxication and a hit-and-run will be treated less harshly than a DWI.

This might have been true in the past, but no longer. The Texas legislature realized that drunk drivers had incentive to flee by giving them shorter sentences than those who stayed to render help. Lawmakers closed this ridiculous loophole. As of September 1, 2013 leaving the scene of an pedestrian collision that resulted in injuries or death now carries the same penalties as a DWI accident.

What should you do if you are injured in a hit-and-run?

Catching the hit-and-run driver can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Not only are video cameras common, but eyewitnesses, private investigators, internet sleuthing, and social media can be used to catch the criminal.

If the driver is caught, Berenson Injury Law can file a civil lawsuit for your damages including your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and punitive damages.

Even if he is not apprehended, we can help you claim on other sources,  including uninsured motorist protection, personal injury protection benefits, and health insurance that are available.

This horrible collision reminded me a terrible crash up the street in front of Billy Bob’s Texas when I successfully represented a grandfather and his granddaughter visiting from out of state who could have been killed several years ago after a speeding car knocked them over. And I just obtained all of the insurance proceeds available from three policies when a mother and her 3-year-old daughter were hit by a woman in Benbrook, and represented a woman standing in front of a building down the street from my office on University Drive, the mother of a young girl crossing a street in North Fort worth, and the parents of another girl crossing in Southwest Fort Worth, and others in similar cases recently.

These crashes anger me, especially since I cycle and walk (and used to run) on our roads in Fort Worth.


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