New York Pedestrian Accidents: A Primer

Most pedestrian accidents occur outside of marked crosswalks. This context is the background for both the serious injuries and insurance company defenses in these claims.

When a 4,000-plus pound car strikes a 200-plus pound pedestrian, the results are often tragic, especially if the vehicle is traveling fast. So, the damages in these claims are often quite high. These damages include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.


Pedestrian Accident Injuries

Pedestrians typically have more severe injuries when they are in accidents with any type of vehicle. The most typical injuries suffered from a pedestrian accident include traumatic brain injuries, broken or fractured bones, internal organ damage, amputations, lacerations, burns, bruising, soft tissue injuries, spinal cord injuries, emotional trauma, or death.

Steps To Take After A Pedestrian Accident

If you were in an accident as either a pedestrian or a motorist, you should follow these steps to ensure that you are legally protected.

  • Call 911

One party should call 911 immediately and request that the police, as well as an ambulance, arrive at the scene of the accident. The police officer will file an official police report which will detail the accident and provide evidence. Make sure to provide the police officer with as much honest detail as possible and then request an official copy of the police report when it is finished.

  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If an ambulance arrives at the scene of the accident, make sure to be evaluated by a medical profession. Otherwise, seek medical attention at an emergency room or with your physician. This will help you establish a solid claim regarding the nature and extent of your injuries for any future claim you may wish to pursue.

  • Create an Evidence File

Make sure to keep all documentation, medical bills, photographs, police reports, diagnostic tests, prescriptions, lost wages or any other evidence related to your case.


Injuries in New York Pedestrian Accidents

Speed always multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In a vehicle-on-vehicle crash, vehicle safety systems minimize this effect. But in vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes, the multiplier effect is much worse.

At 20 mph and slower, the pedestrian death rate is less than 10 percent. But if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is traveling 40 mph or faster, the death rate skyrockets to 50 percent. Some of the serious injuries in these crashes include:

  • Head Injuries: The sudden, jarring motion of a car crash is often enough to cause a head injury because the brain slams against the skull. When there are additional trauma injuries, and there usually are, the damage is even worse.
  • Broken Bones: High-speed impacts usually hurl pedestrians into the air. When they land, their bones are often crushed. As a result, doctors must use metal parts to set the bones and the victims must endure months of painstaking physical therapy.
  • Internal Injuries: The aforementioned external injuries usually occupy emergency responders. So, internal bleeding may continue unchecked. As a result, many victims are on the edge of hypovolemic shock before they even arrive at the hospital.

If the tortfeasor was an Uber driver, taxi driver, truck driver, or another commercial operator, the employer may be liable for damages. Additionally, New York has a rather broad dram shop law which holds many commercial alcohol providers liable for damages in alcohol-related crashes.


Insurance Company Defenses in New York Pedestrian Accidents

To obtain compensation for these injuries, the victim/plaintiff must often overcome some insurance company defenses, such as the sudden emergency doctrine. Many tortfeasors insist that the victim “darted out into traffic” and they could not avoid the collision. This line sets up the sudden emergency defense in court. This doctrine has two elements:

  • Reasonable Reaction: Most tortfeasors react reasonably to pedestrian crashes. They pull over to the side of the road, render aid to victims if possible, and wait for emergency responders to arrive.
  • Unexpected Situation: This prong is much more difficult to establish. In this context, a “sudden emergency” is a tire blow-out, hood fly-up, or other completely unexpected situation. A jaywalking pedestrian, while unusual, is not a completely unexpected situation.

The contributory negligence defense may apply in these claims as well. Distracted driving is a serious problem in New York, and so is distracted walking. If the victim was not paying attention to traffic, the judge may reduce the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

However, the insurance company has the burden of proof on this point. And, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the crash, the victim is still entitled to a proportional share of damages.


Reach Out to a Hard-Hitting Manhattan Attorney

Vehicle-on-pedestrian wrecks are some of the most serious, and most legally complex, types of car crash claims. For a free consultation with a NYC personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. Home and hospital visits are available.