An accident between two vehicles can be severe. However, when a vehicle — which can weigh anywhere from 1.5 tons to over 35,000 pounds — strikes an unguarded person, the outcome can be devastating, if not deadly.
Pedestrian accidents happen all the time, especially in New York City. If a pedestrian accident causes serious injuries and upends your life, you may be unsure of how to proceed. What are your rights, if any, under New York vehicle & traffic laws? Can you use your no-fault insurance to cover the cost of your damages? Can you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party?
These are all questions an experienced New York pedestrian accident lawyer can help you answer. If you are like many people however, you may wonder if it is worth hiring a personal injury attorney? In almost all cases the answer is YES. An experienced lawyer understands the law, can advise you of your rights and responsibilities under the law, and can use the law to help you obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible.
However, if you are still unsure, know that you can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our pedestrian accident law firm. At the very least, we can use the consultation to discuss your case and its merits. If you decide to pursue a claim, you do not have to pay any fees for our services unless and until we secure a favorable settlement or verdict on your behalf.
New York Pedestrian Accident Statistics
Pedestrian accidents occur all too frequently in the great state of New York. In fact, because of the frequency with which they occur, former Governor Andrew Cuomo partnered with cities, safety commissioners, and other professionals to develop Vision Zero, a safety initiative based on the belief that pedestrian accidents are 100% preventable and therefore, 100% unacceptable.
The initiative, like several others of its kind, has been hugely successful, reducing the number of fatal accidents involving pedestrians by a third since it became official public policy. That said, the state still sees an alarming number of pedestrian accidents each year. Below are a few statistics that demonstrate just how big of a problem pedestrian accidents remain in the state:
- Pedestrian injuries are among the top 10 causes of hospital admissions for injuries and fatalities across nearly all age groups in New York state.
- Approximately 15,000 pedestrians sustain injuries by motor vehicles each year.
- Another 300 die because of motor vehicles each year.
- New York hospitals admit approximately 3,000 pedestrians each year.
Public policies and initiatives have helped to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents that occur each year. However, until those numbers reach zero, the efforts are not enough. Everyone must do his or her part to keep preventable pedestrian accidents from occurring, including the members of our pedestrian accident law firm. Our pedestrian accident attorneys fight to hold negligent drivers accountable. In doing so, we hope to deter future similar behavior from other drivers and make New York roads safer for all.
Why Pedestrian Accidents Occur
As Vision Zero emphasizes, pedestrian accidents are preventable. While this may seem like a lofty statement, once you analyze the causes of pedestrian accidents, you will realize that there is no way to justify the loss of nearly 300 pedestrians each year. Most pedestrian accidents occur because of traffic violations or inattention, while several are the result of pure negligence or recklessness.
Below are the top reasons cars, trucks, buses, semis, and other motor vehicles hit pedestrians:
- Disobeying road markings and traffic signals or signs
- Running/disregarding red lights
- Speeding through city or residential roads
- Driving too fast through school zones or areas with children playing
- Turning at intersections without first checking for pedestrians in or entering the crosswalk
- Turning out of driveways without first checking for people walking along the sidewalks
- Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Talking or texting while driving
- Driving distractedly
- Failing to drive appropriately for the weather conditions
- Driving while tired or drowsy
Though many pedestrian accidents are the result of driver negligence or inattention, pedestrians are not always innocent. Walkers can contribute to their own accidents and injuries in many of the same ways that drivers can: through inattention, disobeying walking signs, walking distractedly, and walking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If your accident is the result of your own negligence, or if your negligence contributed to your accident, a New York pedestrian accident attorney can help you understand how your level of fault may affect your recovery and also work to minimize that effect.
Risk Factors in Pedestrian Accidents
To understand why pedestrian accidents happen, it also helps to understand who is most at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the most common risk factors in pedestrian accidents:
- Children and Older Adults: Older adults aged 65 and older accounted for 20% of all pedestrian fatalities and an estimated 10% of injured pedestrians in 2017. That same year, one in every five traffic-related child deaths were pedestrians.
- Alcohol Impairment: In nearly half (47%) of all crashes that resulted in a pedestrian death, alcohol was involved. In 33% of fatal pedestrian accidents, the pedestrian had a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08%. In 17% of cases, the driver was the one with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. In several cases, both the pedestrian and driver had alcohol in their systems.
- Other Risk Factors: Speeding through areas with substantial foot traffic increases both the likelihood of a pedestrian accident and the severity of the injury. Many pedestrian accidents occur at non-intersections, in urban areas, and at night.
Identifying the At-Fault Party in Your Pedestrian Accident
In New York, any person who causes or contributes to your pedestrian accident may be financially responsible for your injuries and associated damages. New York pedestrian accident attorneys can help you identify from which individuals and entities you may seek damages, including:
- The driver of a passenger vehicle
- A truck driver
- A bus driver
- A trucking or transit company
- Operator of a moped or electric scooter
- Employer of a negligent third party
- Another pedestrian
- The manufacturer of a defective vehicle component
- A government agency
The most obvious person against whom you will file a claim for damages is the operator of the offending vehicle. However, you may be able to file a claim against several parties. For instance, if a driver’s brakes went out and prevented him or her from stopping in time, you may have a claim against the brake manufacturer or an auto body shop.
Likewise, if another pedestrian shoved you into oncoming traffic and a speeding driver hit you, both the pedestrian and the driver may share liability. A pedestrian accident attorney can review the evidence and circumstances of your case and help you identify all possible at-fault parties.
What Happens if You Are Partially At-Fault?
It is possible that you may assume liability for your pedestrian accident. If you do, you may still be able to recover compensation for your injuries and related damages. This is due to the fact that New York abides by a contributory negligence doctrine.
Per New York’s contributory negligence statute, your contributory negligence does not completely bar you from monetary recovery. Rather, the insurers or jurors would merely reduce the award or settlement you stand to recover by the same percentage of fault you assume.
As an example, say the court assigns 25% fault to you but finds your claim to be worth $400,000. You would recover $300,000 ($400,000 less 25%). This same concept would apply regardless of how much fault the court or insurers assign to you, whether 1% or 99%.
If you share partial responsibility for your accident, it is crucial that you consult with a pedestrian accident attorney before you decide to pursue legal action. While given the nature of pedestrian accident injuries, it will likely be worth your while to pursue compensation, you should make sure that your case has considerable value by speaking to an attorney first.
New York’s Mandatory No-Fault Minimums
New York structures its insurance laws to make it as easy as possible for accident victims to recover the compensation they need to heal in comfort and move forward with their lives. It maintains a no-fault system that mandates drivers to carry minimum amounts of various types of coverage. As an injured pedestrian, the following minimums may benefit you:
New York’s basic no-fault coverage includes coverage for lost wages, medical expenses, reimbursement for reasonable and necessary expenses resulting from the auto accident, and a death benefit. The state’s insurance minimums apply to out-of-state drivers as well if their insurance company does business in New York. If a New York pedestrian accident involves a vehicle registered in another state with an insurance company that also operates in New York, the driver’s insurance company must honor the state’s minimums when handling a claim.
New York Law Entitles Pedestrians to First Party Benefits
What this means is that, as a pedestrian involved in an accident with a vehicle, the law entitles you to first-party benefits. In other words, you have the same contractual rights to the benefits of an auto policy as the policyholder himself or herself. Types of benefits you may recover as a first-party claimant are as follows:
- All necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation expenses that are accident-related
- 80% of lost wages from work up to $2,000 per month for up to three years from the date of the accident
- A $2,000 death benefit, in addition to a minimum no-fault limit (for medical bills and lost wages) of $50,000
- Up to $25 a day for up to one year for all necessary and reasonable expenses resulting from the incident (transportation expenses, household help, etc.)
Though the law entitles you to first-party benefits, it does not necessarily mean you will recover them easily. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely go out of its way to either try to deny your benefits or reduce the value of your claim. A pedestrian accident attorney can help you anticipate challenges and strategize ways to overcome them to ensure a swift and full recovery.
What To Do When the Driver Does Not Have Insurance
Fortunately, New York has a low uninsured rate, with just 5.3% of drivers failing to comply with the state’s insurance minimums. Unfortunately, that means there is still a risk that the driver who hit you does not have insurance. If the driver does have insurance, he or she may not have enough to cover the full cost of your damages. In either case, you have a few options.
The first is to file a claim against your own insurance policy. If you have an auto insurance policy of your own, you automatically have uninsured/underinsured coverage if the at fault party is uninsured. You may also be able to file a claim for medical expenses with your health insurance company, though it is important to know that private health insurers have no legal obligation to pay for medical expenses that stem from a vehicle crash.
The second option you have is to file a claim for benefits with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). The purpose of MVAIC is to compensate personal injury victims for the damages that uninsured motorists cause and to close the gaps in the comprehensive motor vehicle insurance reparations act and the motor vehicle financial security act. MVAIC provides no-fault benefits for basic economic losses that stem from accidents with uninsured motorists.
To qualify for MVAIC, you must meet several requirements. Those requirements are as follows:
- Your accident occurred within the state of New York
- At the time of the incident, you were a resident of New York state (some exceptions grant citizens of other states coverage)
- You do not have an auto policy in your name, and another person’s policy does not cover you
- You were not the spouse of the owner of the uninsured vehicle at the time of the incident
- You were not the owner of the uninsured vehicle that hit you
- You reported the incident to a police officer or your local police department within 24 hours of it occurring
- You submitted a Notice of Intention to MVAIC within 90 days of the incident if the motor vehicle or its driver remain unidentified and/or if your incident was a hit and run
- You submitted a Notice of Intention with the MVAIC within 180 days of the incident if you were able to identify the motor vehicle
To recover benefits from MVAIC, you must meet strict and timely requirements. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help.
Filing a Lawsuit for Damages After a Pedestrian Accident in New York
New York’s no-fault insurance system is in place to prevent the frivolous filing of lawsuits for auto-accident-related damages and to ensure all involved parties can recover compensation fairly. As a result, the state only allows auto accident lawsuits in select situations. In fact, per state law, you may only sue outside of the no-fault system if you sustain a “serious injury” in your pedestrian accident.
If you do plan to file a lawsuit, you must do so within the statute of limitations. In New York, that is three years from the date of the incident. However, if the accident resulted in the death of a loved one, you have just two years to bring a wrongful death cause of action.
Contact Our NYC Pedestrian Accident Attorneys
New York attempts to make it easy for pedestrian accident victims to recover compensation for their losses. Despite this fact, you may struggle to obtain a full and fair settlement or award. Moreover, the driver’s insurance company may try to place most of the blame on you, which could significantly reduce your recovery amount.
Our pedestrian accident law firm has the talent and resources necessary to help you build a strong case, overcome obstacles and push for the maximum amount of compensation. It costs you nothing to meet with one of our attorneys. It could mean the difference between a lackluster settlement or a substantial award. Learn more about how we can help you — schedule your free initial consultation today.
Vision Zero: https://www1.nyc.gov/content/visionzero/pages/
New York State Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/pedestrians.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/pedestrian_safety/index.html
The New York State Senate: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVP/1411
New York State Department of Financial Services: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumers/auto_insurance/minimum_auto_insurance_requirements