Many motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists act as though they have the right of way at intersections, irrespective of pedestrians. Drivers and bicyclists who act in this way can pose a risk to pedestrians and can cause serious injuries and even death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 4,432 pedestrians across the United States were killed and approximately another 69,000 were injured. In Tennessee, there were 80 fatalities, which accounted for approximately 8.5 percent of the total traffic fatalities in the state.
An overwhelming number of pedestrian accidents occur in urban areas, 73 percent, compared to a rural setting. What is more, more than two-thirds of pedestrian accidents occur at non-intersections that are not marked for pedestrians to cross. Not surprisingly, about 70 percent of pedestrian accidents occur at nighttime when it is more difficult to see pedestrians cross the street.
Pedestrian injuries and fatalities are spread across all are groups, but children under the age of 15 and the elderly over the age of 60 are particularly susceptible.
Tennessee Pedestrian Laws
Tennessee has enacted numerous laws that are supposed to protect pedestrians and to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that involve pedestrians. Under Tennessee law, pedestrians have the right of way at intersections and driveways. Drivers are required under the law to yield the right-of-way by slowing down or stopping. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection is required to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway. Pedestrians have a duty to look both ways and exercise reasonable care.
In addition to pedestrian laws, there are also numerous rules and regulations governing motor vehicles. Most notably, Tennessee law requires that “every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway, and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary.” What is more, drivers are required to use proper precaution when observing any child or confused or incapacitated person. Further, drivers are required to operate vehicles at safe speed, keep a proper lookout, keep a car under proper control, and devote full attention and time to operating a car.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Despite the rules and regulations in place to protect pedestrians from motor vehicle accidents, hundreds of pedestrian accidents occur every year in Tennessee. Notable causes of pedestrian accidents include:
- Failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians;
- Operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol;
- Driving while distracted, such as talking on the phone or looking at one’s phone
- Driving at excessive speeds;
- Failing to pay attention to road signs and signals; and
- Failing to use due caution in inclement driving conditions.
Personal Injury Lawsuit for Pedestrian Accidents
If a pedestrian is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle or bicyclist, the pedestrian may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit allows a person to recover compensation for injuries that were caused by another person’s negligent or reckless conduct. Most notably, a pedestrian injured an accident needs to establish that the other party acted negligently. This means that the other party had a legal duty to the pedestrian to act in a safe manner and to avoid causing the pedestrian injuries, but the other party breached its legal duty, which caused the pedestrian injuries. A classic example is when a driver fails to yield to a pedestrian at a four-way stop and hits the pedestrian. The injured pedestrian may be able to obtain compensation from the driver for the pedestrian’s injuries, including physical and emotional pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of wages.