Collisions are No Accident
No collision is an accident. Every collision between a car and a bike or pedestrian or another car has a human cause. It may be that the car was going too fast for the road or weather conditions, or its driver was texting, talking on the phone or adjusting the radio; maybe the driver went through a red light or turned right across a bike lane without checking his rearview mirror (the “right hook”). It may be that the pedestrian crossed the street without looking both ways (texting or talking on the phone), or maybe the intersection design created blind spots; maybe the traffic signal malfunctioned, or the state failed to prune overgrown brush that obscured a stop sign.
Hardly anyone ever hits a pedestrian with a car intentionally. But “accidents” don’t just happen. People cause them. That’s why we call them “collisions.”
Catastrophic Injury and Wrongful Death
Because pedestrians are among the most vulnerable of all road users, when they are struck by vehicles serious injury, including and leg fractures, pelvic fractures and head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries, often occur. Too often, these collisions cause wrongful death.
Liability Rules and Driver Responsibility
Drivers hit pedestrians in crosswalks, on roadway shoulders, on sidewalks and in the streets. Different rules and statutes apply to and govern each of these crash locations and scenarios. You need to know which rules govern, who had or should have yielded the right of way and how the facts of the collision fit into those rules before discussing the collision with insurance adjusters to ensure that you can hold the driver accountable.
Early Investigation is Key
Early investigation of a pedestrian collision is key to establishing the driver’s fault. Often, the pedestrian has been taken by the ambulance to the hospital (or is deceased) before the investigating officer arrives on the scene and is therefore unable to provide any information. Often too, the roadway or intersection has been cleared and may even be re-opened to traffic. Because the pedestrian and roadway evidence are not readily available, the officer may rely only or primarily on what the driver says happened.
The injured pedestrian needs a trained advocate as soon after the crash as possible. The injured or deceased pedestrian’s family, friends or significant other can help retain legal counsel. Once retained, counsel can identify and interview witnesses and visit the scene to collect critical evidence, such as pieces of clothing, personal effects or a broken flashlight being carried by the injured person when struck, which are not found by the police during their on-scene investigation. Early investigation and collection of evidence can make the difference between a crash where no one can really say what happened and one where the pedestrian can obtain justice and compensation. That’s true because the injured pedestrian, as plaintiff in any legal action, has the burden of proof to show who was at fault.
Full Compensation and Damages Recovery
Several types of insurance benefits are available to pedestrians injured or killed by motor vehicle crashes. For pedestrians who carry automobile coverage there are medical payment and wage loss benefits that are “no fault." In all cases, the pedestrian should look to the driver’s insurance company for compensation for economic and non-economic or pain and suffering damages. The driver’s carrier may also pay for medical expenses and wage loss on a no fault basis under Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.
TCNF Partners on Behalf of Pedestrians
Our firm knows Oregon pedestrian law inside and out, and we work consistently with community organizations to advance pedestrians’ rights. We actively support Oregon Walks (formerly the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition), Families for Safe Streets and the Street Trust (formerly the BTA), in their efforts to make the streets safer for persons on foot.
TCNF’s attorneys identify and make claims against all insurance coverages to ensure that pedestrians are compensated to the full extent allowed by law.