- 1 How Safe Are You as a Pedestrian?
- 2 Understanding the Risk Landscape
- 3 Age and Vulnerability
- 4 Trends Over Time
- 5 When Do Pedestrian Crashes Most Often Occur?
- 6 Age of Pedestrians Hit by a Car
- 7 Steps to Take Immediately After Being Hit
- 8 How to Protect Yourself as a Pedestrian When Out on the Road
- 9 Navigating North Carolina’s Legal System
- 10 Damages You Can Claim
- 11 The Role of a Pedestrian Accident Attorney
- 12 Additional Resources
- 13 Frequently Asked Questions
- 14 Move Forward with Speaks Law Firm – Your Trusted Pedestrian Accident Advocates in Charlotte
Every day, countless North Carolinians embrace the freedom of walking, whether it's along suburban sidewalks or bustling town centers. However, even in familiar territories, unexpected and devastating events can occur.
When a simple stroll transforms into a traumatic incident due to a pedestrian accident, the aftershock can be overwhelming. Beyond the initial dismay, a flurry of pressing questions emerges, the most pressing being, "I was hit by a car in NC while walking; what do I do now?"
In this blog, we delve into your safety as a pedestrian, crucial steps to take post-accident, and what you need to know about filing a claim.
At times like this, you need an advocate on your side. Who speaks for you? We do! Contact Speaks Law Firm at (980) 237-6948 to schedule your FREE case review with our dedicated pedestrian accident attorney team.
How Safe Are You as a Pedestrian?
Walking, as fundamental as it might seem, has become an increasingly perilous activity in today's world — particularly on the roads of North Carolina. Each step brings its own set of challenges, be it a distracted driver or unforeseen hurdles.
Sobering statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association's May 2022 report showed that the U.S. faced the steepest rise in pedestrian fatalities in the last 40 years, with an alarming average of 20 deaths each day. Even more concerning is that pedestrian traffic deaths are surging faster than any other type of traffic fatalities nationwide.
Zooming in on North Carolina, the state continues to rank among the top 10 regarding pedestrian accident deaths. In fact, for 2022, North Carolina ranked 8th, a slight improvement from its 6th position in the previous year. Nonetheless, the situation remains grave, with the death rate witnessing a 7% spike compared to the preceding year.
Understanding the Risk Landscape
As mentioned above, recent studies have placed North Carolina among the states with a worrying rate of pedestrian accidents. But what's driving these numbers?
Not all areas in North Carolina have pedestrian-friendly infrastructures. Places without sidewalks or with poorly maintained crosswalks inherently pose a higher risk.
With the rise of smartphone usage, drivers being distracted by calls, texts, or apps is a growing concern. Despite laws against it, not everyone puts their phone away.
As the state's population grows, so does the number of vehicles on the road. This denser traffic naturally increases the likelihood of accidents.
Low Visibility Conditions
Rain, fog, or the low light of dawn and dusk can severely reduce visibility. For pedestrians wearing non-reflective clothing, this can be particularly dangerous.
However, it's not just the cities. Rural areas, where roads might lack proper lighting or where vehicles travel at higher speeds, can be equally, if not more, dangerous.
Age and Vulnerability
Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Kids, due to their small size and unpredictability, and seniors, because of reduced mobility, can often be at a heightened risk. School zones, parks, or areas near retirement communities should be approached with utmost caution.
Trends Over Time
It's essential to understand that pedestrian safety is a dynamic issue. Over the years, as new laws are implemented and awareness campaigns take off, the number of accidents can fluctuate.
Keeping abreast of these trends can offer insights into when and where you must be most cautious.
When Do Pedestrian Crashes Most Often Occur?
When we delve deeper into the statistics, we notice certain patterns that arise. For instance, pedestrian crashes are most prevalent in specific times and seasons.
As depicted above, pedestrian accidents are more frequent on weekdays and during the fall season. This data provides valuable insight for both pedestrians and drivers to be more vigilant during these peak times, ensuring that safety remains paramount.
Age of Pedestrians Hit by a Car
The statistics below stem from an analysis of police-reported pedestrian and bicycle collisions in North Carolina's Triangle region, spanning five years.
Steps to Take Immediately After Being Hit
Being involved in a pedestrian accident can be overwhelming and traumatic. However, your immediate reactions and decisions can significantly impact your health and any subsequent legal or insurance proceedings. Here’s a step-by-step guide to follow:
1. Prioritize Your Safety First
- Get Out of the Road: If you're able and it's safe to do so, move to the sidewalk or a safe area away from traffic. If you can't move, try to signal someone nearby for help.
- Check for Injuries: Sometimes, the shock of the incident can mask the pain. Assess yourself for any obvious injuries; remember, internal injuries might not be immediately noticeable.
2. Call the Authorities
- Dial 911: Even if you believe you're uninjured, always call the police. They'll file an official accident report, which will be crucial if you pursue a personal injury claim.
- Provide a Statement: Be clear, concise, and stick to the facts when giving your statement. Avoid making speculations or admitting any fault.
3. Post-Accident Checklist: Document Everything
- Accident Scene: Capture an overall view to give context.
- Vehicle Involved: Close-ups of any damages and the license plate.
- Skid Marks: These can indicate the speed and direction of the vehicle.
- Your Injuries: Ensures clarity for medical and legal evaluation.
- Street Signs & Signals: Crucial for understanding the right of way or any potential violations.
Gather Witness Information
- Names: Make a quick note of each witness's name.
- Contact Details: Phone number and email if they're willing to share.
- Accounts of the Event: Brief descriptions or statements on what they saw.
4. Seek Medical Attention
- Visit a Hospital or Doctor: Even if you feel fine, some injuries, like traumatic brain injuries or internal bleeding, can have delayed symptoms. Prompt medical attention ensures you're safe and creates a medical record of your injuries.
- Follow Medical Advice: Adhere to any recommended treatments or follow-ups. This not only aids your recovery but also establishes that you took your injuries seriously.
5. Notify Your Insurance Company
- Report the Incident: Let your insurance company know about the accident. However, be cautious with your words; insurance adjusters are skilled at minimizing payouts.
- Understand Your Policy: Familiarize yourself with your policy's pedestrian accident coverage. It's beneficial to know what's covered and what's not.
6. Consider Legal Counsel
- Consult a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer: Even if you're unsure about filing a claim, a quick consultation with an attorney (often free) can clarify your rights and potential compensation.
- Protect Your Rights: If the driver or their insurance company contacts you, it's wise to have your attorney handle the communication to protect your best interests.
How to Protect Yourself as a Pedestrian When Out on the Road
While you can't control every variable when you're walking along the streets, there are proactive steps you can take to significantly reduce the risk of being involved in an accident. Here's how you can prioritize your safety.
1. Prioritize Visibility
- Wear Reflective Clothing: Reflective clothing can make a world of difference, especially if you're walking in low light conditions. It ensures drivers can spot you from a distance.
- Carry a Flashlight or LED Light: At night, carrying a light source can make you more visible to oncoming traffic.
2. Stick to Designated Areas
- Use Sidewalks: Always walk on sidewalks whenever they're available. If there's no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic on the far left.
- Cross at Marked Crosswalks: It might be tempting to jaywalk, but crosswalks are designed for pedestrian safety. Wait for the walk signal and always check for turning vehicles.
3. Stay Vigilant and Aware
- Avoid Distractions: This means no texting, deep conversations, or getting lost in music while crossing the street.
- Be Cautious of Blind Spots: Before crossing, ensure that no drivers turn right on red or accelerate from a stopped position without seeing you.
4. Understand and Obey Traffic Signals
- Follow Pedestrian Signals: Only cross the street when you see the “Walk” sign. Wait if you see the flashing “Don’t Walk'”sign or the red hand.
- Look Left, Right, and Left Again: Before stepping onto the road, ensure there's no oncoming traffic from any direction.
5. Adapt to Weather Conditions
- Wear Suitable Footwear: Wear non-slip shoes in rainy or snowy conditions to prevent unnecessary falls.
- Stay Extra Cautious in Bad Weather: Reduced visibility during fog, rain, or snow means you must be even more vigilant.
6. Educate Young and Elderly Family Members
- Teach Road Safety Rules: Ensure children understand the importance of stopping, looking, and listening before crossing the road.
- Accompany the Elderly: If you have elderly family members, consider accompanying them on their walks, especially if they have mobility issues or cognitive impairments.
When you've been injured as a pedestrian in North Carolina, understanding the legal system is pivotal in ensuring your rights are upheld. From knowing the specific laws to understanding damages and insurance dynamics, here's what you need to know to navigate these waters.
Contributory Negligence and Pedestrian Injuries
North Carolina operates under the principle of contributory negligence. Unfortunately, it's a rather stringent rule that can prevent an injured pedestrian from recovering any damages if they're found even slightly at fault for the accident.
Simply put, if you contributed even 1% to the accident's occurrence, you might be ineligible to recover compensation.
This makes gathering evidence and presenting a strong case even more crucial, as any hint of your fault could jeopardize your claim.
For example, evidence such as photographs, testimonies, and expert opinions can significantly strengthen your case.
Proving the other party's negligence is essential, especially given the contributory negligence rule. Key elements to establish negligence include:
- Duty of Care: Establish that the driver owed you a duty of care.
- Breach of Duty: Show that the driver breached this duty by acting (or failing to act) in a certain way.
- Cause in Fact: Link the driver's breach of duty directly to your injuries.
- Proximate Cause: Ensure there weren’t any unforeseeable factors between the driver's breach and your injury.
- Actual Damages: Demonstrate that you suffered actual injuries or losses.
Damages You Can Claim
When you're the victim of a pedestrian accident, there are two main types of damages you might be entitled to:
1. Economic Damages (Tangible Costs)
- Medical Bills:
- Emergency Room Visits
- Hospital Stays
- Surgeries and Procedures
- Physical Therapy Sessions
- Lost Wages:
- Immediate days missed post-accident
- Future earning capacity, if permanently disabled
- Rehabilitation Costs:
- Outpatient treatments
- Ongoing therapies (physical, occupational)
- Mobility aids and devices (e.g., wheelchairs, crutches)
- Property Damage:
- Damaged items during the accident, such as phones or jewelry
- Future Medical Expenses:
- For chronic injuries or long-term effects requiring future medical attention.
2. Non-Economic Damages (Intangible Impacts)
- Pain and Suffering:
- Physical pain endured
- Chronic pain from lasting injuries
- Emotional Distress:
- Trauma from the event
- Anxiety, depression, or PTSD stemming from the accident
- Loss of Enjoyment in Life:
- Inability to partake in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
- Loss of Consortium:
- Strain or loss of relationships, particularly with spouses
- Permanent Disability or Disfigurement:
- Lifelong changes to physical appearance or ability
- Reduced Life Expectancy:
- If injuries result in shortening of the victim's lifespan
Whose Insurance Pays?
North Carolina law mandates drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage. If the driver is at fault, their insurance should cover your damages up to the policy's limit.
However, if the driver's insurance isn't sufficient or if they're uninsured, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage can come into play.
Always report the accident to your insurance company, but be wary: insurance adjusters often aim to minimize payouts. Consulting with a legal expert can help ensure you're treated fairly.
The Role of a Pedestrian Accident Attorney
If you've been involved in a pedestrian accident, it can be overwhelming to deal with medical recovery, insurance claims, and potential legal battles while grappling with trauma and distress.
This is where a pedestrian accident attorney comes into play. But what exactly does such an attorney do? And why is having one by your side so crucial?
Understanding the Legal Terrain
First and foremost, North Carolina’s legal landscape is fraught with nuances, especially regarding pedestrian accidents. The concept of contributory negligence alone can be a maze to navigate.
A seasoned attorney understands these nuances, ensuring you don't unknowingly jeopardize your case.
Gathering Robust Evidence
It's not just about stating your case; it's about proving it. A pedestrian accident lawyer will help you compile compelling evidence, from accident scene photos and witness testimonies to medical records and expert evaluations.
This rigorous collection and presentation of evidence can be the difference between a successful claim and a dismissed one.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Insurance adjusters, while professional, are trained to minimize payouts and protect their company's interests. Going head-to-head with them without legal representation will usually not end in your favor.
An experienced attorney knows the tactics these adjusters use and will advocate fiercely on your behalf, ensuring you get a fair settlement.
Pursuing Litigation if Necessary
While many claims are settled outside of court, sometimes litigation becomes necessary. If your case goes to trial, you'll want an experienced attorney who can confidently represent your interests, argue your case persuasively, and navigate the court's procedures and formalities.
Emotional Support and Guidance
Beyond the legalities, pedestrian accidents are emotionally draining events. A skilled attorney offers not just legal experience but also emotional support.
Your attorney can guide you through the aftermath, provide updates on your case, and ensure you're connected with the right resources, from medical professionals to counselors.
Fee Structures: No Win, No Fee
Most pedestrian accident attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay nothing upfront. They only get paid if you win your case or secure a settlement.
This structure ensures that your attorney is motivated to win and provides financial peace of mind during an already stressful time.
Remember, choosing the right pedestrian accident attorney isn't just about legal representation; it's about finding a partner who will stand by you, champion your rights, and guide you toward the best possible outcome. This decision can make all the difference in your recovery journey.
- Walkability Checklist, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Watch for Me NC, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)
- USDOT Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Page, (NCDOT)
- NHTSA Pedestrian Safety Page, (NCDOT)
- NC Vision Zero, (NCDOT)
- NCDOT Curriculum To Teach Safe Walking Practices to Children
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, (NCDOT)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What if I wasn't in a marked crosswalk when the accident happened?
A: Even if you weren't in a marked crosswalk, you might still have a valid claim. However, North Carolina's contributory negligence law can complicate matters, so consulting with a pedestrian accident attorney is essential.
Q: Are there specific time limits for filing a pedestrian accident claim in NC?
A: Yes, in North Carolina, you generally have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Q: What if my child was the injured pedestrian?
A: If a minor is injured, a parent or guardian typically has the right to pursue a claim on their behalf. The specifics can vary, so seeking legal counsel is advised.
Q: Does wearing headphones or being distracted affect my claim?
A: It could. If it's determined that your distraction contributed to the accident, it might reduce or even negate your ability to recover damages due to North Carolina's contributory negligence law.
Q: Should I give a statement to the at-fault driver's insurance company?
A: Before giving any statements, it's wise to consult with a personal injury attorney to ensure you don't inadvertently harm your claim.
Move Forward with Speaks Law Firm – Your Trusted Pedestrian Accident Advocates in Charlotte
The moments, days, and weeks after a pedestrian accident can feel like an endless whirlwind of confusion and stress. Questions abound, and the way forward might seem unclear. But with Speaks Law Firm by your side, you're never alone in this journey.
We pride ourselves on being more than just attorneys. We're your advocates and champions in ensuring that your rights as an injured pedestrian are upheld. Our North Carolina personal injury lawyers have extensive experience with North Carolina's pedestrian accident laws which means we understand the unique challenges you face and can adeptly navigate the intricacies of your case.
Why tackle the complex world of insurance claims, legal statutes, and potential court battles on your own when you can have the seasoned experts at Speaks Law Firm guiding you? We're here to shoulder the legal burden, allowing you to focus on what truly matters – your recovery and well-being.
Ready to let Speaks Law Firm advocate for you? Contact us today at (980) 237-6948 or fill out our online form to book your complimentary case evaluation. Whenever you ask, "Who will speak for me?" Remember, the answer is clear – Speaks Law Firm!