I spent this past week in San Antonio and was surprised when I saw at least one story on the news every morning about a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle overnight. While watching these news stories I began to reflect on what I see out of my office window every day. At least five times a day, I watch pedestrians dodge traffic as they walk, and sometimes run, across Pikes Peak Avenue, not in a crosswalk mind you. And every day I think to myself, I am going to witness someone getting hit by a car one of these days. Which made me start to wonder, if I do witness something so horrific, who ultimately is at fault? Many people believe that the driver is always at fault, but that actually isn’t always the case.
In a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it was estimated that there were approximately 65,000 pedestrians injured by a vehicle in the United States in 2014; 4,884 of which were killed. Sixty-three of those deaths reportedly occurred in Colorado. The report went on to explain that pedestrian fatalities were more likely to happen at non-intersections, in urban areas, and/or when it is dark outside. And alcohol involvement, whether it be the driver, pedestrian or both, was reported in 48% of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities that same year.
In Colorado, drivers are legally required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians when pedestrians are using crosswalks if the pedestrian is in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or when the pedestrian is approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. And if a pedestrian isn’t in a roadway, but rather standing on a sidewalk or parking lot, they shouldn’t have to worry about the right-away because cars should be on roadways and driving lanes.
In September of last year, a woman was cited with careless driving resulting in bodily injury after she struck and dragged a man who was unloading luggage from his parked vehicle at the Denver airport. The investigation was still ongoing, but police said she could face more serious charges if the man’s injuries got worse.
On the other end of the spectrum, in March of this year, a pedestrian was not only found at fault, but also ticketed for jaywalking after being hit by a truck while trying to cross Nevada Avenue. The pedestrian was found at fault because he was not near a crosswalk or stoplight.
While some cases are cut and dry, fault is not always black and white in Colorado. Colorado has a modified comparative fault system, which means is that in some cases, both the driver and the pedestrian can both be found at fault. In a case where both the pedestrian and the driver are found at fault, the plaintiff’s comparative fault will offset the defendant’s fault, meaning if a plaintiff is found to be 25% at fault, then their recovery would be reduced by 25%. If a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, however, they are barred from receiving any sort of recovery at all.
I sincerely hope I never see anyone get hit by a vehicle while looking out of my office window, but if I do, at least now I am aware of who is to blame. If you are the injured due to a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident, contact an attorney who you can trust to get you the help you need.
By: Tatum Tipton