What pedestrians in the Beaver State need to know
Oregonians understand the health benefits of walking.
Walking improves cardiac health, reduces the risk of cancer and chronic disease, alleviates depression, and prevents weight gain.
The list goes on.
What’s more, walking is better for the environment and, in a gridlocked city like Portland, you might even get to your destination more quickly.
Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths are on the rise across the country, including Oregon.
Pedestrian accident statistics
Pedestrian accidents have been on the rise across the United States for over a decade. From 2009 to 2018, pedestrian fatalities increased 53%, from 4,109 to 6,283, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
What’s more, pedestrian fatalities surged in 2020 despite a significant drop in the number of vehicles on the road. Drivers struck and killed 6,721 people in 2020, an unprecedented 21% spike in the pedestrian fatality rate.
Pedestrian accidents and fatalities have been on the rise in Oregon as well.
|Oregon pedestrian accidents (2010-2019)|
|Year||Fatal accidents||Injury accidents||Property-damage only accidents||Total accidents|
|Source: Oregon Department of Transportation|
Common causes of pedestrian accidents
The vast majority of pedestrian accidents are caused by the inattentiveness of a motor vehicle driver or a pedestrian.
One of the reasons experts believe pedestrian accidents are on the rise is that more motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians are looking at their smartphones when they should be watching the road.
Oregon Walks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making walking safer, compiled a report looking at pedestrian accidents over a 3-year period in Portland, Oregon. The report found several factors that contributed to pedestrian accidents, including:
- Higher vehicle speeds increased the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car.
- Pedestrians living in poorer areas were disproportionately affected by fatal pedestrian crashes.
- The vast majority of pedestrian accidents occurred in the dark with lighting inadequacies identified at a majority of the locations.
- A lack of traffic calming measures (speed bumps, reduced lanes, etc.) was a factor at a majority of crash locations.
Oregon laws affecting pedestrians
Both pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers have responsibilities when it comes to sharing the road. The vast majority of these responsibilities are outlined in Chapter 814 of the Oregon Revised Statutes.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
- A pedestrian crossing the road at any place other than a crosswalk must yield the right of way to all vehicles.
- A pedestrian must not leave the curb or other place of safety to move into the path of a vehicle in such a way as to create an immediate hazard.
- A pedestrian must obey all bridge and railroad signals and cannot cross through barricades or gates while they’re closed.
- A pedestrian who intentionally obstructs vehicle traffic can be arrested for disorderly conduct in the 2nd degree.
- A pedestrian is not permitted to walk along a highway if there’s a sidewalk or shoulder available.
- Hitchhiking is strictly prohibited in Oregon.
- Drivers must stop at all intersections and marked crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross the road.
- Drivers must stop for a blind pedestrian carrying a white cane or accompanied by a guide dog if the pedestrian is crossing the road, even if the pedestrian is not crossing in a crosswalk.
- Drivers must stop before crossing a sidewalk when exiting an alley, driveway, or building.
- Drivers must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.
- A car cannot be parked within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection unless it’s momentarily picking up or dropping off passengers or the car is disabled.
- A driver commits vehicular assault of a pedestrian if they drive recklessly and hit a pedestrian.
Recovering damages after a pedestrian accident
To recover damages after a pedestrian accident, the pedestrian needs to prove that someone else was at fault for the accident.
In most cases, pedestrians prove fault by establishing the 3 elements of negligence:
- The defendant owed the pedestrian a duty to exercise reasonable care,
- The defendant breached the duty to exercise reasonable care, and
- The defendant’s breach caused the pedestrian’s injury.
Most pedestrian accident lawsuits are filed against motor vehicle drivers. All drivers owe all others on the road a duty to exercise reasonable care. If a pedestrian is able to prove that the motor vehicle driver failed to exercise reasonable care (for example, the driver was intoxicated or texting while driving), the pedestrian may be able to recover damages.
Other parties who may be sued in a pedestrian accident include:
- Bicyclists. Just like motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists have a duty to obey all traffic laws and exercise reasonable care when navigating Oregon’s roads. A bicyclist might be at fault for a pedestrian accident if they hit a pedestrian as a result of violating a traffic law or failing to exercise reasonable care.
- Property owners. Under Oregon’s premises liability laws, property owners have a duty to keep their properties in a safe condition. A property owner (often a local municipality) might be at fault for a pedestrian accident if they fail to keep their property in a safe condition by, for example, failing to clean up road debris or shovel snow from their sidewalk in a timely manner.
- Manufacturer. A manufacturer can be liable for a pedestrian accident if they manufacture a defective component (such as a vehicle’s brake system) that causes a pedestrian crash.
Will my own insurance policy cover my damages in a pedestrian accident?
In addition to filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you may be able to file an insurance claim under your own health and disability insurance policies. If the accident occurred while you were on the job, your injuries may be covered under a workers’ compensation policy.
Oregon’s contributory negligence rule
Sometimes, the pedestrian bears some responsibility for the pedestrian accident.
Under Oregon’s contributory negligence rule, damages are reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff. What’s more, if the percentage of fault exceeds 50%, the plaintiff is barred from recovering ANY damages.
Let’s look at an example:
Just as Sally looks at her phone, Ike decides to cross Newport Avenue. There’s no crosswalk nearby, but he assumes Sally will see him crossing the road and stop.
Sally collides with Ike.
Ike suffers a back injury and sues Sally for $100,000.
A Deschutes County jury finds Sally 70% at fault for the accident because she was texting while driving. The jury finds Ike 30% at fault for the accident because he failed to yield the right of way.
Under Oregon’s contributory negligence rule, Ike is only able to recover $70,000 (i.e., his total damages, minus his percentage of fault).
Available damages for injuries caused by a pedestrian accident
The average car is just under 15 feet long and weighs 4,156 pounds. Even a slow-moving car can do a lot of damage if it collides with a person.
Common pedestrian accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Musculoskeletal injuries (particularly to upper and lower legs)
- Chest injuries
- Abdominal injuries
Pedestrian accidents often lead to long-term disabilities, which may require extensive physical and cognitive therapy.
Fortunately, Oregon allows motorcycle accident survivors to recover 3 types of damages without any limitations:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident (pain and suffering, loss of consortium)
- Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and are typically only available if the defendant acted “with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm.”
Time limits for filing a lawsuit based on a pedestrian accident
Oregon limits the amount of time plaintiffs have to file a lawsuit. This time limit is called the statute of limitations.
For most pedestrian accident claims in Oregon, the statute of limitations is 2 years. This means you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit or your lawsuit will be forever barred.
Safety tips for pedestrians
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has published the following tips for pedestrians and drivers who want to safely share the road:
|Safety tips for pedestrians||Safety tips for drivers|
5 steps to take following a pedestrian accident
Although your health should be your first concern following a pedestrian accident, it’s never too early to start thinking about a potential lawsuit. With that in mind, here are 5 steps that could benefit you following a pedestrian accident:
- Step 1: Get medical treatment. Seeing a doctor after a pedestrian accident is important for your own health, but it also creates a record that can be used to support a lawsuit down the road. Insurance companies and jurors are skeptical of plaintiffs who wait a long time to visit a doctor following an accident.
- Step 2: Call the police. The police can conduct a brief investigation and draft a police report that may help support your legal claim.
- Step 3: Collect contact information. Collect the contact information for anyone involved in the accident. If a driver was involved in the accident, be sure to get their insurance information.
- Step 4: Gather evidence. Collect the contact information for any witnesses at the scene. It’s also a good idea to take photographs or videos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any property damage.
- Step 5: Talk to an attorney. Even if you don’t think you have a valuable case, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney. Most initial consultations are free and the attorney will be able to tell you honestly whether your case is worth pursuing.
If you’re ready to talk to an attorney about your pedestrian accident claim, you can find an experienced Oregon attorney near you using our free online directory.