Not always. There can be many different parties whose actions led to your injury, and each could share liability for the crash. It’s important to understand that the success of your claim rests on proving not just who is at fault but how much they were at fault—in other words, their percentage of fault. If liability is not demonstrated effectively in your case, the amount of your damages may be significantly reduced.
Who Is at Fault When a Pedestrian Is Hit by a Car?
The most common defendant in a car-pedestrian crash case is the at-fault driver, and the claim is made against the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. However, other defendants might include:
- The manufacturer of a defective vehicle involved in the crash
- A repair shop that recently serviced a defective vehicle involved in the crash
- The employer of the at-fault driver (such as a truck, bus, or taxi company) if the crash involved a company vehicle
- The local municipality responsible for road maintenance and pedestrian safety
- An adult who failed to ensure the safety of a child when crossing a street
- A property owner who allowed a dangerous condition to put pedestrians at risk (such as broken lighting in a store parking lot)
The Duty of Care in a Pedestrian Crash Case
In all injury cases, courts require injured parties to prove the negligence of the person at fault. There are four elements of negligence that must be established:
- A duty of care existed. The first step is to establish that the person who hurt you had a responsibility to ensure your safety. Vehicle manufacturers have a duty of care to customers and can be liable if a defective part causes injury. Similarly, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws and do everything possible to avoid collisions.
- The duty of care was breached. The next step is to show that the at-fault party fell short of their duty of care. For example, if you were struck by a driver who wasn’t using their headlights at night, this could constitute a breach of their duty to look out for pedestrians.
- The breach was the cause of your injuries. Even if the at-fault party did something wrong, you will still have to prove that the wrongdoing was the direct cause of your injury. For instance, the manufacturer that installed defective brakes on the at-fault driver’s car could be liable for your injuries if the inability to stop caused the crash.
- You suffered financial losses. The damages awarded in a personal injury case are meant to restore you to a pre-injury state, removing the financial burden of your injury and its future effects. You will have to provide proof of your monetary losses, including medical bills, lost income, and out-of-pocket costs.
What If I Share Some Fault for the Crash?
You still may be able to recover damages even if you are partly responsible for your injuries. Washington DC has recently changed its laws regarding pedestrian collision cases, adopting the much more forgiving model of comparative negligence. (The laws are different in Virginia and Maryland, and are much harsher. Under a legal doctrine of contributory negligence, a victim cannot recover in those states if they are found even partially responsible for their injuries.)
Payment for partial negligence is allowed as long as:
- You share fault with someone else. There must be someone else involved whose actions contributed to the collision.
- You are less than 50% responsible for the crash. Comparative negligence acknowledges that one person is rarely 100% at fault in a crash. However, if you are more than 50% responsible, you will not be owed any damages at all.
- Your damages are reduced by your percentage of fault. The court may rule in your favor, but you will only receive the portion of your damages left after deducting your percentage of fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 and are 10% at fault, you would receive $90,000.
Since your damages are completely dependent on your portion of blame, it is extremely important to have an attorney by your side who can defend against accusations that you were negligent. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a pedestrian crash, contact me today. I will fight against an insurer’s attempts to pin the blame on you and work to get you everything you are owed in your claim.