Pedestrian accidents are a growing problem. Many metropolitan areas lack the safety measures to properly protect pedestrians from careless drivers. When a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, the consequences are often tragic.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a negligent driver, the Ricci Law Firm can help. Our pedestrian accident lawyers in North Carolina will fight to secure the compensation you deserve. 

How Common Are Pedestrian Accidents in North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of the most dangerous states in the nation for pedestrians. More than 3,000 pedestrians are hit by drivers every year. According to a report released by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), pedestrian deaths have increased by 5.2% in the last reporting year. 

In an effort to better understand the dangerous trend, an in-depth study of North Carolina’s famous Triangle was recently conducted. The data shows:

  • More than half of all pedestrian accidents happen near bus stops
  • A third of pedestrian collisions occur in parking lots
  • 25% of pedestrians are hit at intersections and driveways

On average, nearly 160 pedestrians die on North Carolina roadways each year. When a pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle going 40 mph, there is an 85% chance they will die from their injuries. In most pedestrian accidents, the person is catastrophically wounded.

Why Are the Financial Stakes Higher in Pedestrian Accident Claims? 

The financial stakes are higher in pedestrian accident claims due to the severity of the injuries. Pedestrians are unprotected, bearing the full force of the car accident. Unlike motorists, who are protected by safety features like steel cages and airbags, pedestrians are completely exposed. 

Injuries Are More Likely to Be Catastrophic

Pedestrians are more likely to sustain catastrophic injuries. Catastrophic injuries are used to describe profound bodily damage. They are typically associated with permanent and disabling injuries. 

Pedestrians usually experience two impacts:

  1. The blow from being struck by the car
  2. The impact of hitting the ground or pavement 

Speed also plays a significant role in pedestrian accidents. The relationship between the speed of a vehicle and the risk of catastrophic injury or death for a pedestrian has been the subject of multiple studies. According to a recent article by the Foundation for Traffic Safety:

  • At 16 mph, a pedestrian has a 10% chance of severe injury
  • At 23mph, a person’s risk of death is 10%
  • At a speed of 31 mph, a pedestrian has a 50% chance of sustaining significant injuries
  • At 42 mph, there is a 50% risk of death

When a car reaches 58 mph, a pedestrian’s risk of death increases to 90%. The data reflects an average-sized passenger car and a young adult. The risk of death and serious injury increases dramatically if the car is a large SUV or truck. 

Catastrophic Injuries are More Costly

Pedestrians who experience severe or life-altering injuries have astronomical medical costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied the lifetime medical costs of serious, non-fatal injuries. They also estimated the costs of lost income. 

According to the study:

  • The medical costs for pedestrian injuries averages nearly $100,000
  • The estimated wage losses are more than $22,000 on average
  • The quality of life loss costs over $200,000

However, catastrophic injuries total in the millions. For example, traumatic brain injuries can cost upwards of $3 million. Spinal cord injuries that result in paralysis vary between $2 million and $5 million in lifetime costs. Victims need their full compensation to cover life-long medical expenses. 

What Injuries Are Typically Associated with Pedestrian Accidents?

Pedestrians typically experience serious and catastrophic injuries in a motor vehicle collision. Some of the most devastating pedestrian accident injuries include brain damage and crush syndrome. 

Traumatic Brain Injury

The brain is a sensitive and vulnerable organ. When the head is struck with considerable force, it can bruise the brain or tear the sensitive connective tissues that keep the brain suspended. The resulting damage may permanently disrupt how the brain functions, causing:

  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Language difficulties
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Memory loss

Rehabilitation may help improve brain function over time. However, a traumatic brain injury usually has long-lasting implications and medical complications. 

Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is very delicate. Similar to a train route, the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. When there is a disruption, communication can be cut off. Pedestrian accident victims can become paralyzed after a severe spinal cord injury.

Broken and Fractured Bones

When a 4,000-pound passenger car slams into a human being, bones are seriously damaged. Pedestrians often sustain multiple broken bones and fractures. In some cases, fractures can prove to be more dangerous than broken bones. 

Fractures can leave a person at risk for infections and other complications. When a bone fractures into numerous tiny pieces, there is a greater chance of exposure. In addition, fractures require more effort to hold the bone together to heal. Recovery can be painfully long and arduous. 

Crush Injuries and Crush Syndrome

Crush injuries and crush syndrome are very common in pedestrian accidents. Crush injuries refer to extreme force being placed on a body, cutting off the supply of oxygen in the blood. Generally, crush injuries affect internal organs and the extremities.

Crush syndrome is especially dangerous, often resulting in death. For example, suppose a car hits a pedestrian and pins them to the ground. If the flow of blood and oxygen is cut off to their arm or leg, the tissue begins to die. 

Dying tissue produces proteins and other necrotic toxins that build up over time. Once blood flow is restored, toxins can rush through the bloodstream and overwhelm the kidneys, liver, and heart. Victims can suffer cardiac arrest, toxic shock, and other conditions when the organs begin to fail.  

Amputation and Loss of Limb

Crush injuries often result in amputation and limb loss. If the flow of blood cannot be restored to the injured part of the body, the muscle and surrounding tissues will die. To prevent the necrotic tissue from affecting other parts of the body, a doctor may have to amputate the impacted limbs. 

What Are the Most Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

Most pedestrian accidents can be traced back to driver error. More and more people are choosing to walk, especially in metropolitan areas. As the sidewalks and streets become more congested, the pressure for drivers to watch for pedestrians steadily increases. 

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has plagued North Carolina roads for years. As technology has evolved, cell phones and GPS navigational units have been added to the list of driver distractions. 

According to the National Safety Council, in the last reporting year, more than 3,000 fatalities were attributed to distracted driving. When a motorist takes their focus off the road for any reason, it is considered distracted driving. Some examples include:

  • Talking or texting on a cell phone
  • Checking texts or other notifications on a mobile phone
  • Adjusting the vehicle controls, including the temperature or radio
  • Using a GPS device 
  • Grooming, including applying makeup, shaving, or brushing your hair
  • Eating and drinking
  • Using social media
  • Engaging in conversation with passengers
  • Zoning out or driver inattention 
  • Handling children or family pets in the back seat

When a driver is distracted, they may not see a pedestrian in the crosswalk and fail to stop or reduce speed. Pedestrians can suffer debilitating and life-threatening injuries. 

Speeding and Reckless Driving

Speeding is one of the leading causes of car accidents. When a motorist chooses to go over the speed limit, they willingly put everyone’s life in danger. Speeding reduces the time a driver has to react, especially if a person suddenly comes into the road. In addition, speeding significantly increases a pedestrian’s risk of death. 

Failing to Yield the Right of Way

Pedestrians have the right-of-way in many different scenarios. For example, a pedestrian has the right of way at a crosswalk. However, many accidents occur at intersections when a car is turning left and fails to yield at a pedestrian crossing the street. 

Left-hand turns tend to be more dangerous. Drivers must look where they are going and account for two lanes of traffic. In many cases, a driver may not see a pedestrian begin to cross before starting left. Additionally, the driver may be looking at other lanes of traffic to make sure they are clear and forget to check the crosswalk.  

Disobeying Traffic Laws

Motorists are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the road. Failing to obey signs and traffic signals can lead to serious and deadly collisions. In fact, according to a recent study, only 20.2% of drivers fully stop at a stop sign. Instead, most drivers merely slow down and look before crossing.

Unfortunately, pedestrians are not easy to see. Motorists are trained to look for other cars when driving. However, drivers must actively watch for pedestrians. When a driver rolls through a stop sign and fails to see the pedestrian crossing the intersection, the results can be devastating. 

Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs Or Alcohol

Impaired driving accidents are easily prevented. Driving drunk is a reckless act that costs thousands of lives every year. Driving under the influence reduces reaction times, impairs vision and judgment, decreases coordination, and jeopardizes the ability of the driver to maintain control of their vehicle. 

Of the 7,000 pedestrians killed in the last reporting year, alcohol was involved in nearly half of the accidents. An estimated 13% of deaths involved a driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. 

Is the Driver Always At Fault in a Pedestrian Accident?

Drivers are not automatically at fault in a pedestrian accident. While more responsibility is placed on a motorist to prevent hitting anyone, pedestrians can bear some responsibility. 

North Carolina is a comparative negligence state, meaning drivers and pedestrians can share fault. In terms of a pedestrian accident claim, a settlement may be reduced to reflect their share of the responsibility.

What is Comparative Negligence? 

The legal doctrine of comparative negligence examines the details of an accident and determines if both parties contributed to the outcome. Then, blame is allocated as a percentage.

For example, suppose a driver was speeding and hit a jaywalking pedestrian. The driver is liable for speeding and hitting the pedestrian. The pedestrian is liable for failing to use the crosswalk. Under comparative negligence, the driver may be found to be 80% at fault for the collision, and the pedestrian found to be 20% at fault.

The injured pedestrian is still entitled to recover damages. However, their compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. In this scenario, if a judge awards the pedestrian a $100,000 settlement, it will be reduced by 20%. The injured pedestrian is entitled to $80,000 of their settlement. 

When Can a Pedestrian Share Liability for Their Injuries?

Pedestrians may be found partially to blame in some instances. For example, a pedestrian may be liable if they:

  • Fail to use the crosswalk
  • Fail to yield the right-of-way 
  • Enter a crosswalk against the lights
  • Walk in the road when there is an available sidewalk

If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, it is imperative fault is allocated fairly. An attorney can investigate and gather critical evidence to support your claim.

When is a Driver Liable in a Pedestrian Accident? 

Most pedestrian accidents are caused by driver error. Pedestrians bear a disproportionate amount of bodily damage in a collision compared to drivers. Therefore, motorists are held to a higher standard. Drivers should always look out for pedestrians, regardless if they use a crosswalk appropriately. 

Drivers are typically liable in a pedestrian accident when:

  • Failing to yield the right-of-way at an intersection
  • Running a red light or a stop sign
  • Veering off the road

To ensure fault is allocated fairly, have an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer evaluate the details of your case. 

What Types of Compensation Can Our Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Recover? 

Our pedestrian accident lawyers will work tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve. While every accident is unique, we will examine the details of your case and determine all the damages you are entitled to recover. 

Compensation For Medical Expenses 

When a pedestrian suffers major injuries, they often need extensive medical help. Pedestrian accident victims may need to stay several days or weeks in a hospital. In addition, they may need multiple surgeries and ongoing treatment. An injury attorney can help you secure a settlement that will cover your medical expenses. 

Lost Wages If You Are Unable To Work

During recovery, many accident victims find themselves unable to work for an extended period of time. Without any income, hurt pedestrians may be depending on their settlement to catch up on bills. Accident victims may be entitled to recover any wages missed while healing from their injuries. 

Loss Of Future Earned Income Potential

When a pedestrian’s injuries are debilitating, they may not be able to return to the workforce at the same capacity as they were before the accident. For example, suppose a pedestrian suffered a severe spinal cord injury that results in paralysis. The victim may not be able to perform the same daily tasks as they did before. The loss of future earned income potential seeks to replace the income a person would have earned had they not been injured. 

Pain and Suffering Damages

Serious injuries, treatments, and recovery is often a long and painful process. Pain and suffering damages seek to quantify that pain. The monetary value is based on the physical pain experienced at the time of the accident and the additional suffering thereafter. 

Emotional Distress Damages

Emotional distress damages refer to the mental anguish suffered by the accident victim. When a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, it may be the most traumatic experience in their life. It is common for accident victims to experience increased anxiety and sleeplessness. 

However, emotional distress damages are only awarded when there is a specific diagnosis of mental anguish. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common ailments. Injury victims are also diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorders frequently after a serious pedestrian accident. 

Possible Punitive Damages

Punitive damages seek to punish a grossly negligent driver. Unlike the above damages, punitive damages are not based on the injuries suffered by the victim. Instead, punitive damages are derived from the extent of wrongdoing by the negligent party. 

Schedule a Consultation with a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in North Carolina Today

Pedestrian accidents are seldom straightforward. If you or a loved one have been hit by a negligent driver, the esteemed attorneys of the Ricci Law Firm can help. We have extensive experience recovering the full compensation our clients deserve.

Call to schedule a free consultation with a North Carolina pedestrian accident lawyer today. We will discuss the details of your case and determine the best course of action for the results you need.