According to The Governors Highway Safety Association, 2019 again showed an increase in pedestrian death cases in the United States. The rate of fatal pedestrian accident cases was up 5 percent compared to the year prior. 2018 saw a total of 6,590 pedestrians killed. These are some of the highest rates in the past several decades and a growing concern.
The data seems to suggest that pedestrian deaths are occurring more frequently in certain states. California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida accounted for approximately 47 percent of pedestrian deaths yet these states account for 33 percent of the total population of the United States.
Since 2009, deadly pedestrian accidents have continued to grow each year. The annual death rate has significantly increased from 2009. The increase is more than 50 percent from the prior annual rate about 10 years ago.
The reason for the increase in death rate in regard to pedestrians is unclear though many experts believe that some of the increase can be attributed to the increase use of cell phones while driving.
Though the pedestrian death rate has significantly increased, the overall death rate in regard to motor vehicle crashes has not seen a significant rise. The rise is about 2 percent over the past decade. Some experts believe that the increase in vehicle safety is part of the reason for the lower percentage increase. However, experts would obviously like to see a decrease in fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Pedestrian Accident Statute
N.J.S.A. 39:4-36. is the statute that governs the law in regard to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. According to the statute:
The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except at crosswalks when the movement of traffic is being regulated by police officers or traffic control signals, or where otherwise regulated by municipal, county, or State regulation, and except where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided:
(1)The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a marked crosswalk, when the pedestrian is upon, or within one lane of, the half of the roadway, upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. As used in this paragraph, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes conveying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.
(2)No pedestrian shall leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield or stop.
(3)Whenever any vehicle is stopped to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
(4)Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(5)Nothing contained herein shall relieve a driver from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway. Nothing contained herein shall relieve a pedestrian from using due care for his safety.
As set forth above, the driver of a vehicle has a duty to yield to a pedestrian when the pedestrian is in a crosswalk. Moreover, the driver of a vehicle has a duty to remain stopped and allow the pedestrian to cross the roadway safely.
The statute also contains general language to drivers advising that they must exercise due care for the safety of pedestrians at all times. The statute provides for similar language in regard to a pedestrian entering the roadway.
Though this statute gives general framework in regard to a driver’s duty to yield to pedestrians when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, the statute also provides specific language that states both drivers and pedestrians must exercise due care when entering roadways and crosswalks. This language is important because it specifically advises that both drivers and pedestrians must also act appropriately for the specific circumstances. If they do not act appropriately, they may be liable for any damage that results.
Proving Liability in a Fatal Pedestrian Accident
In any pedestrian accident wrongful death lawsuit, the estate of the person who was killed will need to establish liability for the driver who struck the pedestrian. Depending on the specific facts or circumstances, liability may be established by violation of a specific statute or by the individual facts the circumstances of the accident.
If the driver of the vehicle violated the above statute and there is evidence to establish a violation of that statute, liability will likely be established for the pedestrian accident. Even if the driver of the vehicle is not ticketed or charged with the above statute, liability may be established through other means. Testimonial evidence by eyewitnesses or by the driver themselves may be able to establish liability in a pedestrian accident even if the driver was not charged with a violation of the pedestrian statute. Additionally, an accident reconstruction expert may be able to reconstruct the accident and establish the liability of the driver of the vehicle that struck the pedestrian. Finally, cameras on nearby traffic signals and or establishments may provide video of the accident and therefore establish liability on behalf of the driver who struck the pedestrian.
Damages in a Pedestrian Wrongful Death Accident
Damages in a wrongful death pedestrian accident case may be recoverable under New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act as well as New Jersey common law. The New Jersey Wrongful Death Act establishes specific economic damages that the estate of a deceased person may recover pursuant to a wrongful death action. Those damages include economic losses such as lost wages, loss of services and medical bills. The estate may also be able to recover damages for the pain and suffering of the deceased individual before he or she passed. The specific types of wrongful death damages and the exact amount of said damages will depend upon the very specific facts and circumstances of the specific case.
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