Determining Fault in a Pedestrian Accident
Establishing Legal Liability in a Motor Vehicle-Pedestrian Collision
According to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 350 pedestrians visit a hospital emergency room every day after being hit by a car. When you’ve been hurt in a pedestrian accident, you may have the right to seek compensation for your losses, including time off work, unreimbursed medical expenses and pain and suffering. The extent to which you can recover damages depends, however, on the determination of who caused the accident.
In New Jersey, as in other states, the determination of fault in a pedestrian accident is based on the legal principle of negligence. Under that concept, every person in society has a duty to use reasonable care in all their actions, and at all times. Therefore, a motor vehicle operator must exercise reasonable care while behind the wheel. Likewise, a pedestrian must exercise reasonable care when walking along the street or crossing the road.
The law does not specify what types of behavior are considered to be reasonable. That is customarily determined by a jury, on a case-by-case basis. Such decisions, though, are subject to “past precedent,” essentially the way prior juries have defined “reasonable care.”
In a lawsuit arising out of a car-pedestrian accident, the jury will typically look at the actions of both parties. It’s not uncommon for the jury to conclude that each party contributed to the accident in some manner. For example, the pedestrian may have been in the crosswalk against the light, but the motorist may have been speeding. When both parties are assigned some responsibility, the courts in New Jersey will apply the legal principle of comparative negligence to determine the amount of compensation, if any, to be paid to the injured party.
To learn, see our blog post on comparative negligence.
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