How much can a pedestrian sue when hit by a car?
While you will need to speak with a personal injury lawyer for an answer specific to your situation, the general rule of thumb for Riverside County and San Bernardino County is based on three major factors with the goal of “making the injured person whole again” – while this might sound like the children’s story of Humpty Dumpty falling from his wall, the following is an outline of the major compensation factors:
- Will you be out of work? If so, how much income loss will you experience as a result of the accident (since the accident and in the future). Will you have to retrain or look for a different career?
- Will you have medical expenses? If so, future expenses will need to be evaluated as well.
- Will you have long term limitations? Often described as loss of enjoyment of life but can also include pain and suffering.
Damages are meant to compensate the injured person for all harm that was suffered – both past, present and future. It is often difficult to understand how a financial payment can help someone heal from such a devastating accident, but this is how the legal system works. It is important to work with professionals in evaluating the extent of injuries as initial pain and discomfort often mask long-term issues. If not included in the original claim, it may be difficult to revisit should a future issue arise that was unforeseen.
Can the pedestrian be at fault?
In most cases, the driver of a vehicle will be at fault. However, there are situations where the pedestrian caused the accident to become eminent. Should the pedestrian be found at fault for the accident, they will not be able to sue the driver nor the driver’s insurance company. In most cases for a pedestrian to be at fault, there must be significant evidence showing negligence of the pedestrian, such as:
- Entering traffic on foot without using proper areas such as cross walks
- Using a cross walk when it is not the designated turn for the pedestrian
- Using a street or highway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Using where pedestrian access is prohibited (posted on all freeways in California)
Shared Fault – What is that?
Sometimes it is clear that both the pedestrian and the driver have contributed to the accident. In this situation, it is referred to as a shared fault. Examples of this may be someone jaywalking but being hit by a driver that was speeding or distracted with their mobile phone and unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.
Comparative Negligence – Where both people share fault
California, like the majority of states, follows the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. In this system, the injured pedestrian can still sue the driver when both parties are at fault. However, the pedestrian may only sue for a percentage of the amount for which they were not responsible for the fault of the accident.
Determining the percentage of fault of any accident has serious implications and a personal injury lawyer provides guidance through the entire process. An example of comparative negligence that is often cited is when a distracted driver struck an intoxicated pedestrian in a crosswalk while the ‘do not walk’ light was illuminated. The accident caused significant injuries of the pedestrian.
In this hypothetical situation, the driver was texting, but otherwise was driving the speed limit and stopped to assist immediately at the scene. The pedestrian, intoxicated, was using the cross walk, but during a time which the “do not walk” light was illuminated. In this situation, the driver should not have been on the road, but the pedestrian also should have not been on the crosswalk, and also could have prevented the accident by not walking into the vehicle’s path.
A jury may determine the fault to be 2/3 driver and 1/3 pedestrian citing that the pedestrian should have seen the driver and avoided the situation all together, but that ultimately it was the driver that failed to.
Assuming the total damages awarded was $1 million, the pedestrian would be able to sue for 2/3 of the amount, approximately $667,000.
Keep in mind this is all hypothetical and your case will be different. A personal injury lawyer will have the experience and empathy to understand the nuances of your situation and recovery. Contact attorney Harshbarger Law to answer your questions with a free consultation.