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:
Source: Watch For Me NC
Source: Watch For Me NC
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.
Every personal injury claim in North Carolina hinges on these 4 elements:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
|Intersection without a traffic signal||Pedestrians have the right of way in a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk.
|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.
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.
If you’re an injured pedestrian, take these steps to protect yourself and your legal claim:
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.