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Pedestrian Crashes In Wisconsin & How To Stay Safe

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The term “Pedestrian Crashes” usually refers to any type of automobile accident that also involves a pedestrian walking on foot. While this term may seem misleading because the pedestrian is not in a car, pedestrian “crashes” are very common, especially in places where there is heavy pedestrian traffic (like in urban areas).

According to the National Transportation and Safety Administration, more than 5K pedestrians are killed each year due to motor vehicle crashes.   In 2013 in Wisconsin, there were 1,273 pedestrian crashes amounting to one pedestrian being injured or killed about every 7 hours.  In total, 35 pedestrians were killed last year across Wisconsin.    While new technology and safety precautions have helped bring down the annual number of accidents and deaths statewide, for those who have been injured or lost a loved one, those statistics are of little comfort. 

While pedestrians are liable in some pedestrian crashes, in the vast majority of cases, the tendency is to automatically place liability on the driver.  The rationale for holding the driver accountable in most cases is because drivers have a duty to maintain safe operation of their vehicle at all times.

Not surprisingly, street or road crossings are the most common types of pedestrian crashes. Any street crossing can put a pedestrian in the path of a motor vehicle driver who may not be paying attention or may not have the time to avoid a pedestrian who suddenly steps in front of them.  As one would expect, most pedestrian crashes occur between 3 and 6 p.m., generally the heaviest traffic and pedestrian commuting time. 

It is not uncommon for people to leave the scene of the accident after hitting a pedestrian with their car. But in most cases, even when they assume there were no witnesses or think they are getting away without dealing with the consequences, a criminal warrant for hit-and-run is later issued.  Often a hit and run involves an impaired driver.  In over 50% of fatal pedestrian crashes in Wisconsin, alcohol was a contributing factor. 

Stopping and staying at the scene is always the best course of action, for yourself and those involved. Depending on the facts of the case, the police may not even cite you for a violation if the pedestrian was at fault by stepping in front of your vehicle, failed to use a cross walk or follow posted directions. 

It’s important to note that any police reports, whether involving a violation or not, can be used in the driver's defense in any future lawsuits brought by the pedestrian.

If you’ve been involved in a pedestrian crash, the next concern is civil liability for any injuries to the pedestrian. When the pedestrian completes medical treatment and is released by the doctor or reaches a point of being declared permanent and stationary, which means that no further improvement in the pedestrian's medical condition is anticipated, this is the point when the pedestrian will likely file a lawsuit.

An injury lawsuit is based on negligence on the concept of due care, which is that degree of care that the reasonable person (here the reasonable driver) would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent the injury to the pedestrian. The pedestrian (plaintiff) would have to prove that the driver failed to exercise due care and that breached a duty to the pedestrian that caused them injury.

The pedestrian's claim for monetary damages would be based on the total medical bills, any wage loss due to the injuries, and compensation for pain and suffering. Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount beyond the medical bills. The more serious the injury, the more compensation for pain and suffering they could seek.

For example, fracture, scars, burns, etc. would be more serious injuries than just a sprain and would warrant more compensation. Another factor is whether or not future treatment will be necessary and the estimated cost of that treatment. The medical reports will document the nature and extent of the injuries and will be a factor in determining compensation for pain and suffering.

It is rare, but not unheard of, that a pedestrian is held liable in a pedestrian crash. If a pedestrian acted recklessly or negligently by disobeying traffic laws, they may be liable. Pedestrian accidents can also result in serious injury to the pedestrian, driver, passengers, and bystanders. The main element in most pedestrian accidents is whether the pedestrian was acting within their rights and duties as a pedestrian.

Pedestrian “Dart-out” crashes are those where the pedestrian suddenly runs out onto the street, usually from an unseen area like a driveway or a bush.  This is common for cases involving injuries to children getting off of a school bus, running between parked cars or chasing a ball or pet into the street. 

Similar situations are where a child runs out onto the street to chase a ball, or where an adult runs out onto the street to chase a pet, and other similar incidents. In dart-out lawsuits, it can be difficult to tell which party is liable for the accident or injuries.  When the driver is unable to see the pedestrian in time to stop, it is difficult to hold the driver liable. In most cases, the costs of the losses are offset by insurance.

In some cases, a pedestrian may cause a traffic accident without actually getting injured themselves. For example, if they cross the street while the light is red, they might cause two cars to crash into one another as they attempt to avoid hitting them as they walk.

In such cases, the court will have to determine whether the pedestrian was acting recklessly or negligently in connection with the vehicle crash. If the court finds that the person was violating traffic laws or was otherwise acting negligently, it may be possible for both drivers to hold the pedestrian liable for damage and injuries.

Whether you are the driver or the pedestrian, being involved in pedestrian crash can be a difficult experience to deal with. It’s in your best interests to seek medical attention immediately, and to contact a lawyer for help with legal matters. Know that you may be exposed to both civil and criminal liability, even if there is no visible injury. Your lawyer can determine whether you have any legal recourse available to you.

What to Do (and Not Do) If You Hit a Pedestrian

  1. DO stop your car. If you hit someone, you must stop. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident where there is an injury.

  2. DO get out of your car and check for injuries. If you can do so safely, put your emergency blinkers on and investigate the accident.

  3. DO give the pedestrian aid. Check the pedestrian for injuries. If he or she needs CPR or any other kind of aid that you can give, do so. Call 911.

  4. DO call the police. You should contact the police so that they can take statements from all the parties involved, as well as speak to any witnesses. You should contact the police even if the pedestrian walks off or refuses to exchange information because you do not want to be later accused of engaging in a hit and run.

  5. DON’T leave the scene of the accident. You must wait at the scene until you have exchanged information with the other party or the police or other medical units allow you to leave.

  6. DON’T throw away or hide any evidence. Anything that may be relevant to the accident or injury must be preserved.

  7. DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency responders. Do not get in their way. Doing so can only make matters worse by either aggravating any injuries or by making you look bad.

  8. DO exchange information with everyone involved in the accident. Write down the name, phone number, and address of all people involved. If there is a witness, be sure to get his or her contact information as well in the event that he or she leaves before the police arrive, or the police officer does not include the information in his or her report.

  9. DO take photographs. Take pictures of any damage caused by the accident, as well as any injuries, if possible. Also be sure to take pictures of the surrounding area. Take as many pictures as you can, from as many different angles as you can. Get tips on taking accident scene photos.

  10. DO contact an attorney. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you can. An experienced attorney will help guide you through the process.

  11. DO report the accident to your insurance company. Contact your automobile insurance company as soon as you can. Most insurance policies require you to report any incidents within 30 days.

  12. DON’T discuss the accident with anyone. At the accident scene, be careful what you say. And after the accident, do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone, including the other party’s attorney and any insurance company representative (including your own!). Do not apologize to the other party because this might be construed as evidence of fault. Before you speak with an insurance company representative, either yours or that of the other party, get your attorney’s authorization. If you have an attorney, never speak to the other party’s attorney. Inform the opposing attorney that you have retained counsel and provide his or her information.

  13. DON’T agree to a settlement without having discussed the terms with your attorney. The complete assessment of liability and the scope of injuries will not be known to you immediately. Wait to discuss your case with an attorney who is experienced with personal injury cases.

At Lebell, Dobroski, Morgan & Meylink, we have over 40 years of experience in defending the rights of our clients.  Working directly with our clients on their cases, providing them with our personal cell phone numbers and meeting with them on their schedule, we invest the necessary time and effort to get the results anticipated.