Pedestrian deaths surged by more than 10% in 2015. In the first six months of the year, 2,368 pedestrians died in accidents. The rate of pedestrian fatalities have risen steadily since 2005 to the point where they now account for more than 15% of total traffic fatalities.
Potential for Permanent or Life-Threatening Injuries
The potential for permanent, even life-threatening injuries to pedestrians struck by a vehicle is very real. Even at low speeds, the weight and velocity of even a light vehicle is enough to shatter bones and do considerable damage to organs and tissue. These injuries can occur to any part of the body and include:
Head Injuries – Common head injuries include concussions, contusions, and Traumatic Brain Injury. These injuries can lead to loss of cognitive function, memory, and mobility. It is estimated that up to 40% of pedestrians involved in automobile accidents experience some form of head trauma.
Thoracic/Abdominal Injuries – Broken or cracked ribs, shattered sternums, and collapsed diaphragms occur in up to 10% of pedestrian collisions. These can be caused by the impact of the vehicle or when the pedestrian’s body makes contact with the ground or other hard surfaces that arrest their motion.
Spinal Injuries – Up to 5% of pedestrians will experience damage to their cervical, thoracic, or lumbar vertebrae. At a minimum, damage to these can cause considerable discomfort and pain. It can also lead to permanent loss of sensation, paralysis, or diminished function.
Arm/Leg Injuries – Bones in the arms, legs, hands, and feet can be easily fractured, broken, or amputated in pedestrian collisions. Speed exacerbates the extent of these injuries and the complexity of repairing the damage.
Hips/Pelvis – Up to 50% of injured pedestrians suffer injuries to their lower extremities including hips, thighs, and knees. These injuries can significantly reduce an injured victim’s mobility and may lead to permanent loss of limb function.
Factors That Increase Accident Risk
There are many factors that can increase the potential for a pedestrian accident and the personal injuries they cause. These factors include:
Time of Day – Nearly 75% of pedestrian accidents occurs at dusk or after dark. Low-light conditions make it difficult for both motorists and pedestrians to avoid a collision. Factors such as malfunctioning street lights or the failure to use headlights can increase the potential for a fatal accident.
Alcohol – Toxicology reports show that an average of one-third of pedestrians who are killed in automobile collisions had consumed alcohol prior to the accident. Further, 15% of motorists who cause pedestrian fatalities have BAC levels that exceed the legal limit.
Speed – Even low-speed collisions occurring at less than 10mph can cause serious injuries including broken bones, crushing injuries, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc. The faster a vehicle is traveling, the greater the potential for serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. At 30mph, it is estimated that up to 45% of victims will succumb to their injuries.
Vehicle Maintenance – Malfunctioning brakes, worn tires, and other malfunctioning equipment can reduce a driver’s ability to stop their vehicle in time to prevent an accident. A personal injury lawyer can hold the driver liable for failing to maintain their vehicle in proper working condition.
“No Clear Path” – Obstructions such as parked cars within bike lanes, debris piled on sidewalks, or obstructions within parking lots can force pedestrians to take routes that place them in the path of traffic. In such cases, the individual or entity responsible for creating the danger can be held liable for creating the conditions or failing to rectify the obstruction that contributed to the accident.
Driver Behavior – Failure to yield, failure to signal, and distracted driving are common driver behaviors that cause pedestrian accidents. When a driver engages in these behaviors, they breach their duty of care and be held liable for their negligence.
It is important for injured pedestrians to seek prompt medical treatment following an accident. This creates a record of the immediate effect of the accident. In addition to this evidence, it is important to gather photos and video of the accident scene as well as contact information and statements from any eyewitness present at the time of the accident.
It is also crucial to keep records and journals regarding medical treatments, lost wages, and the effect on quality of life the accident has created. This information and any records or receipts related to medical treatment or psychological counseling should be securely stored by the injured party and their personal injury lawyer.
Comparative Negligence in Illinois
Illinois is a comparative negligence state which means that both the driver, pedestrian, or third-party can be found liable for a share of the responsibility for causing an accident. Under the modified comparative negligence rules in the state, the injured party may pursue damages if they are less than 50% responsible for causing the accident.