Legal Remedies After a North Carolina Pedestrian Accident

North Carolina pedestrian accidents

If you’re hurt as a pedestrian, you’re entitled to recover costs for your injuries

Both pedestrians and motorists are required to follow certain rules of the road. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a North Carolina pedestrian will be helpful if you’re injured in an accident with a motor vehicle.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) reports that approximately 3,000 pedestrians and 850 bicyclists are hit by cars each year. Of these, about 160 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists are killed each year.

Did you know that a person hit by a car traveling 40 miles per hour has an 85% chance of being killed?

Data gathered from the Triangle area of North Carolina (which includes 9 counties in the Raleigh-Durham-Cary region) over a 5-year period showed where pedestrians and bicyclists are hit by cars:

North Carolina pedestrian accidents data

Source: Watch For Me NC

When most pedestrian crashes occur (by season)

North Carolina pedestrian accidents by season

Source: Watch For Me NC

North Carolina contributory negligence and pedestrian injuries

You might recall the old saying that “the pedestrian always has the right of way.”

But that’s not entirely true.

North Carolina follows a contributory negligence system. In a contributory negligence state, a plaintiff can’t recover damages if the court determines that they had any liability or fault for the accident. In other words, if the pedestrian is even 1 percent liable for the accident, they can’t recover compensation from the defendant for their injuries.

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Handbook says:

“Saving a pedestrian’s life is always worth the driver’s lost right of way. The safe driver yields right of way to a pedestrian whether the pedestrian is entitled to it or not.”

This is a sound public policy for maintaining safe streets. But when it comes to recovering costs for your injuries, the court will look at whether the pedestrian actually is entitled to damages.

Proving negligence in a pedestrian accident case

Every personal injury claim in North Carolina hinges on these 4 elements:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Duty is the responsibility a person (or company) has to others. Everyone has duty to someone — even a person they don’t know. For example, every driver has a duty to their passengers, other drivers, and any other person who shares the road.

Breach is when a person is negligent in maintaining their duty. In a pedestrian accident case, a breach might be a driver who was speeding, texting, or otherwise distracted because they weren’t driving safely and carefully.

Causation indicates that the breach is what made the injury happen (caused the accident that led to the injury). A plaintiff must prove that a defendant’s negligence (through action or inaction) is the cause of their injuries.

Damages are the costs that result from the injury. An injury that doesn’t cost money isn’t eligible for a legal claim. The concept of personal injury recovery is that the plaintiff should be compensated in a way that restores them to the financial condition they would be in if the accident hadn’t happened.

Enjuris tip: Causation in negligence cases can be complicated. Learn more here.

What damages can I claim after a North Carolina pedestrian accident?

If you’ve been seriously injured, you can claim economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages relate to the exact costs that you incur as a result of the injury, which might include:

  • Medical treatment, both current and future
  • Adaptive devices, ongoing therapies, medications, and other needs related to your medical care
  • Lost wages for time off from work because of the accident, and lost earning capacity for future time off or disability
  • Funeral expenses if the victim was a family member killed in a pedestrian accident
  • Other expenses like childcare, housekeeping, and other daily needs

Non-economic damages are those costs that don’t have a specific financial amount, but your attorney can use a legal formula to calculate their value:

In some instances, you might be able to recover punitive damages. These are a separate category of damages awarded if the defendant’s behavior was especially egregious or reckless. Punitive damages might be awarded if your injuries are very serious and there’s an aggravating factor like the driver being drunk or speeding. These types of damages are intended to deter the driver from repeating the behavior.

Does a driver’s insurance cover an injured pedestrian?

North Carolina is an at-fault insurance state, which means if a driver collided with you as you were walking and you were hurt, their auto insurance should cover your injuries.

The law requires these minimum liability insurance coverage amounts:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury (1 person)
  • $60,000 for bodily injury (2 or more people)
  • $25,000 property damage

Liability coverage pays for medical bills and other costs for any person injured in an accident, including a pedestrian. If your injuries cost more than the driver’s liability policy maximum, you may file a personal injury lawsuit to cover the remaining amount.

North Carolina pedestrian laws

North Carolina law sets forth requirements for both pedestrians and drivers for sharing the road.

Intersection controlled by ordinary traffic signals Pedestrians must obey the same signals as drivers traveling in the same direction.

  • Pedestrians shouldn’t cross during a red or yellow light.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way at a green light, even when a car intends to turn across the pedestrian’s path.
  • Drivers must allow pedestrians to finish crossing if the light changes to yellow or red while the pedestrian is in the street.
Intersection without a traffic signal Pedestrians have the right of way in a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk.

  • If there isn’t a crosswalk, there’s an “imaginary” marking that extends from sidewalk to sidewalk across the street.
At mid-block crosswalks with no traffic signal A driver must yield the right of way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
At an intersection with a Walk/Don’t Walk signal Pedestrians must obey the signals.

  • A pedestrian has the right of way just like they do with a green light.
  • If a pedestrian begins to cross against the red light, an approaching motorist may give a warning by honking their horn.
  • The law requires a driver to use the horn as a warning if a pedestrian would be affected by a turn, stop, or start from a parked position. The driver must stop if the pedestrian doesn’t.

How to share the road safely

The best way to avoid an accident is to follow some simple rules:

As a driver: As a pedestrian:
✔ Yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

✔ Be sure there are no pedestrians in your path before you turn.

✔ Look behind the vehicle before backing up.

✔ Be extra aware at night.
✔ Before crossing the street, look in all directions to make sure there are no cars nearby.

✔ Obey pedestrian traffic signals.

✔ Carry a flashlight, walk in well-lit areas, and wear reflective clothing if walking at night.

✔ Watch for cars backing up in parking lots.

✔ Cross the street where there’s the best view of traffic.

✔ Cross behind the bus or at a crosswalk.

✔ Always walk on the sidewalk where available. If there’s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far to the left as you can.

What to do if you’re hit by a car in North Carolina

If you’re an injured pedestrian, take these steps to protect yourself and your legal claim:

  1. Seek medical assistance immediately. That might mean calling 911 if your injury is severe. If it’s not a medical emergency, visit your primary physician or an urgent care center as soon as possible. It’s important that you get the medical treatment necessary to recover.
  2. Document your injuries. When you visit a doctor or emergency department, let them know how the injuries happened. Be sure to mention that you were a pedestrian who was hit by a car. Their documentation of your physical condition will be crucial evidence in a legal claim.

    Damages/Expenses Worksheet
    Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
    Download in PDF format

  3. Call the police. Regardless of how severe your injuries are, a police report is essential. The driver might feel terrible about the collision and be apologetic. Calling the police doesn’t necessarily mean the driver will get a ticket or be charged with an offense. Don’t ever feel bad about calling the police, even if the driver appears upset or remorseful. A police report simply documents the accident and provides an objective piece of evidence that might be important later on.
  4. Don’t make any statements regarding fault or liability. Even if you think you made a mistake by stepping off a sidewalk too soon or crossing without enough time before the light changed, that’s something to share with your lawyer — not the driver or the police. Declining to discuss fault isn’t lying, and it is your right.

    By the same token, you don’t need to talk with the driver’s insurance company. If they contact you, you can provide basic information such as your name, address, contact information, and your lawyer’s contact information if you have it. But you shouldn’t sign any documents or accept a settlement until you’ve been advised by a lawyer.
  5. Contact your insurance company if you have one. If you have an auto insurance policy, you can call the insurance company to make a claim against the driver’s policy.
  6. Contact a personal injury lawyer. If your injuries are severe and require ongoing or future medical treatment, or if you require additional time off from work, then an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer is the best person to advise you of how to move forward. The insurance company will try to settle your claim by offering the lowest amount possible and that might not cover your full costs.

If you were seriously injured in a pedestrian collision or the insurance company says you can’t recover because the driver claims you were at fault, hiring an attorney is your best recourse. Our free Enjuris lawyer directory is a great source to locate a top-rated North Carolina personal injury lawyer who’s experienced and ready to take your case.

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