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The Liability of Drivers for Pedestrian Injuries in Pennsylvania

Two recent accidents in Pennsylvania highlight the often-tragic results of what happens when car meets pedestrian. Near North Belle Vernon, police are investigating an accident when a man was killed while walking along Interstate 70. Unfortunately, this tragedy was compounded when two other vehicles crashed while trying to avoid the pedestrian accident.

In a separate accident, a Baden man, who was driving without insurance and with a suspended license, struck a pedestrian in Ambridge, knocking him unconscious. As the man lay unconscious, the driver drove away from the accident scene. Because of the accident, the pedestrian suffered hip and leg fractures. Police later located the driver and charged him with two felonies after surveillance video from a nearby store identified the car.

Pedestrian accidents are a major cause of injuries and fatalities on our nation's roadways. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2010 alone, 4,280 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 70,000 were injured in car accidents nationwide. During this time, a pedestrian was killed about every two hours and injured about every eight minutes.

Liability of Driver for Pedestrian Accidents

In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, in addition to facing criminal charges, a driver may be held civilly liable for injuries to pedestrians if the accident is found to be caused by the driver's negligence. In general, drivers of automobiles have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. In other words, the driver must operate the vehicle with all of the care and attention that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. If the driver fails to do this, he or she is considered to be negligent.

Whether the driver's role in a particular accident constitutes negligence depends heavily on the facts surrounding the accident. There may be evidence of negligence if, in the events leading up to the accident, the driver:

  • Drove the vehicle while distracted (e.g. using a cellphone or texting)
  • Failed to observe posted speed limits
  • Disobeyed traffic signs or signals
  • Failed to drive reasonably given the weather or traffic conditions
  • Drove while intoxicated
  • Operated the vehicle in an unreasonable manner in school zones or other areas where children are commonly known to play
  • Failed to yield the right of way

If a court determines that a driver is negligent, he or she may be held liable for expenses incurred by the pedestrian, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. On the other hand, if the court finds that the pedestrian acted unreasonably and contributed to the accident, it may limit or eliminate the pedestrian's right of recovery.

Consult an Attorney

The law surrounding negligence is complex and full of exceptions. As this is the case, if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an inattentive driver, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the cause of the accident, explain how the law will likely treat your particular situation and work on your behalf to recover all compensation due to you.