Why Pedestrian Deaths Have Soared

There are far too many people getting hit crossing the street in Texas.

It has become dangerous to be outside of a vehicle. Pedestrian collisions are more common — and deadlier — all the time.

550 Texans tragically died and thousands were injured last year. And almost 6,000 pedestrians died in the United States in 2016, the highest number in 20 years.

The failure to yield right-of-way to walkers can be catastrophic. You can ironically end your life trying to stay healthy.

What causes these crashes?

There are many reasons but in the last few years we see more caused by distracted driving and SUV’s/pickups.

1. Cell phones: trips to emergency rooms blamed on distracted driving have jumped a whopping 83 percent to almost 18,000 since the iPhone was introduced in 2007.  It seems like everyone is driving while talking on the phone or texting.

Government statistics show that about about 2/3 million drivers are using their cellular devices while driving at any given moment. The head of the National Traffic Safety Administration called this a deadly epidemic. I’m sure this number is a lot higher because people don’t want to admit that they they do this.

Distracted driving is an accident just waiting to happen to someone crossing the street or walking through a parking lot.

2. SUV’s: There should be fewer pedestrian collisions these days with all the new safety improvements. Back-up cameras, motion-alert sensors, and automatic braking are now required or widely used. The numbers should have decreased dramatically.

But a recent report showed that Sports Utility Vehicles are the main reason for the sharp increase in pedestrian deaths. They are so much bigger, more powerful, and have a blunter front end than passenger cars that they inflict much worse injuries.

The fact that they are now the best selling vehicles in America (sales were up 40% last year) and we have so many trucks on the road here accounts for the spiraling death toll.

Who pays for damages?

The ultimate issue in Texas pedestrian accidents is who is going to compensate the injured person or his family if he has passed away.

There are these sources of recovery that can be pursued:

  1. The at-fault driver will hopefully have sufficient liability insurance coverage to pay for damages. But in a wrongful death situation, this cannot happen, especially if the standard policy limit of $30,000 per person for bodily injury damages was purchased by the driver.
  2. The family for the decedent or an injured person can recover money from underinsured motorists benefits coverage he purchased, file on health insurance, claim personal injury protection, medical payments benefits, and other coverage.
  3. If the driver hit and ran, uninsured motorist and the Texas Crime Victims Fund can make restitution.
  4. The commercial truck’s owner can be involved because it is responsible for its driver’s negligence, hiring practices, training, supervision, and maintenance of the vehicle. A much larger insurance policy can be pursued.
  5. The financial resources of responsible businesses and high net worth individuals can sometimes be part of a financial recovery.

A lawsuit is often required for personal injuries and always should be considered if a wrongful death is involved.

If someone has unfortunately died, the family can learn more about how to proceed here.

Also, several hundred posts about wrongful death are here.

What is the Texas law on right-of-way?

The Texas Transportation Code in Section 522 describes the responsibilities of the pedestrian and driver but the statutes are sometimes conflicting.

Pedestrians are required to use common sense rules like these:

  • Cross only with the traffic light.
  • Yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Stay on the right side.
  • Use sidewalks.
  • Take caution for their own safety.

But drivers must also exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian.

How can a pedestrian win his case?

Proving that the pedestrian had the right of way is essential. Further Texas uses the modified comparative negligence standard that allocates the fault of all involved parties.

In order to prevail in court, the plaintiff must be held to be less than 50% at fault and hopefully 0%. If he is found to be 50% or less to blame, this reduces his damages by that amount. So if the pedestrian’s damages are found to be $100,000 and he 30% at fault, he recover $70,000.

He needs supporting eyewitnesses. The police will usually arrive at the scene 15 to 30 minutes later. They will not have seen the impact and much of what they write down in their police report is hearsay.

Victory depends on immediate investigation. Necessary evidence includes the following:

  • Photographs or videotape of the crossing sign, traffic control device, and scene
  • Cell phone records
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Skid marks
  • Vehicle damage

Are these open and shut cases?

Just the opposite. The defense often accuses the pedestrian of being negligent. Questions arise:

— What if there was not a crosswalk? Texas law holds that there is an implied crosswalk, even if the stripes are not visible.

— What about any obstructions to vision like sunrise, the sunset, or heavy rainfall? Is a sign required?– Texas law requires vehicles to stop and yield the right of way if the walker is in the driver’s half of the road or so close as to be a hazard, a vague standard.

–When there is a traffic light, the walker has to wait for the green light and any Walk signal. And if there is a green turn arrow or a yellow light, he must wait for the solid green one.

— The pedestrian must yield to the driver but it can be difficult for him to cross a busy road without a signal.

— The driver is required to exercise “due care” which is not defined. And he must sound his horn, but is not required to brake.

— Many cities have their own “jay walking” ordinances that contradict Texas law.

— The law is always changing. The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a decision arising out of the death of a woman crossing the street in downtown Fort Worth when she was struck by a city bus that we analyzed here.

Does your law firm handle pedestrian cases?

We have successfully handled cases for many people including the following:

  • Girl who was hit crossing the street in Galveston,
  • Grandfather and granddaughter struck in broad daylight in the crosswalk leaving Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth,
  • Man leaving a restaurant in San Antonio,
  • Woman standing on the curb in downtown Fort Worth,
  • Woman crossing the street in Arlington,
  • Woman in front of a Fort Worth restaurant hit as she was helping her daughter sell Girl Scout Cookies,
  • Man walking on the shoulder of a road in Fort Worth,
  • Man hit by pickup truck as he was jogging in Arlington on the shoulder,
  • Girl hit by pickup as she was crossing the road to get on her school bus in Azle,
  • Woman knocked down in a parking lot in Fort Worth,
  • Man in wheelchair in a Weatherford crosswalk,
  • Mother and daughter crossing the road in a Fort Worth crosswalk,
  • Man walking across a WalMart parking lot in Burleson,
  • Man crossing the road in Fort Worth,
  • Woman in wheelchair in Fort Worth crosswalk,
  • Man crossing the street in Arlington,
  • Girl crossing the street in Fort Worth,
  • Woman on sidewalk crossing a private drive exit in Fort Worth,
  • Young woman run over in a parking lot in Dallas,
  • Girl standing with her bicycle on a traffic island in Fort Worth, and
  • Teen aged male crossing the road in Fort Worth

Recent case

Just a few weeks ago we successfully finalized the claim of a young man who was hit by a woman driving a Jeep in Fort Worth last year. He was walking home on the service road of Interstate 20 when he crossed an intersection of a side street. There was no crosswalk and right-of-way was disputed.

We are always delighted when our clients are pleased with their results. He wrote this generous review on Google:

***** I came to Mr. Berenson’s firm after a woman hit me with her car and ran my foot over while not paying attention to the road. He took a very frustrating and painful situation and walked me through the process step by step. He got me the medical attention I needed, took very good care of me while we negotiated with the insurance company, and got me the best settlement I could have gotten. He went above and beyond for me in ways that, truly, went far beyond his job responsibilities. If you need an injury attorney, don’t waste your time, call Mr. Berenson first. Not to mention, some of the kindest, and most helpful staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing business with. Five stars from me for the attorney and his staff, will recommend all of my friends and family to them in the future.

My law firm can help 

I work even harder on these cases because I bicycle on our roads and used to run on them trying to stay fit as I get older. So I am all too aware how dangerous it is out there for anyone walking, running or cycling.

What may seem like a case of clear-cut negligence and damages is often contested by the driver’s insurance company.

That is why someone who is injured in a motor vehicle accident should contact a good personal injury attorney.

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