The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2017 alone, 5977 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents and another 137,000 were treated in emergency rooms. Pedestrians are much more likely to be killed in an auto accident than anyone in the vehicle. The risk is greatest among the elderly and children.
There are a number of contributors to pedestrian crosswalk accidents. More often than not, there is more than one thing that contributed to the accident. The driver or the pedestrian could be inattentive. This has become a common contributing factor to pedestrian auto accidents due to mobile phones, earbuds and so on. In addition, the driver or pedestrian could be impaired. The driver could be driving negligently or recklessly, speeding, not obeying traffic signals or generally driving like an idiot. The same can be said for pedestrians. There are in fact countless scenarios of how such an accident may occur.
Determining Responsibility and Liability
However the accident occurred, getting to the bottom of what caused the accident is just the first step. The second, related and equally important step is figuring who is responsible for the accident. It may be that that a third party other than the driver or the pedestrian is responsible or at least partly responsible. All parties responsible for the accident will share both the responsibility and the financial liability for whatever injuries are caused to the pedestrian.
Dangerously Located, Constructed or Maintained Crosswalks
In many instances, as can now be seen with Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART), the crosswalks themselves are dangerous. There are many examples around New Mexico of dangerous crosswalks. Most people have encountered at least one. For instance, the dangers may arise from forcing pedestrians to walk into busy intersections with blind spots for both the drivers and the pedestrians. This in in fact not too uncommon. Other crosswalks may be improperly constructed. Others may be located in a place where a crosswalk simply does not belong due to traffic dangers. Still others may force pedestrians across busy streets into the middle of the road to catch their bus. That’s ART again. Finally, the crosswalk may be negligently maintained. For instance, lights, warnings, signs may be down or otherwise non-functioning causing risk to pedestrians.
Maintenance and Construction
Negligence in the construction and maintenance of crosswalks (sidewalks, roads bridges…) is proper grounds for suing a government entity. Design on the other hand is not. In the case of poorly constructed or maintained crosswalks into which all of the above would fall , it is necessary to figure out who is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the crosswalk. In the case of ART, the culprit is in the name. Other times, it can be more difficult. Liability will depend upon who has authority and control over the crosswalk. This may be the city, the county, the state or even a private owner. It could even be the contractor who constructed the crosswalk if the construction is defective.
No Claims for Design Flaws
Unlike claims against private entities or individuals, governmental entities under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act are protected from lawsuits related to the design of roads and sidewalks which would include crosswalks. The line between design and construction can become a little blurry. Location of a crosswalk in a dangerous area is not design. It is just plain ole bone headed planning and is subject to lawsuit. The design of the crosswalk might include artistic or architectural design. Getting back to ART, there is a little bit of both bone headed design and bone headed placement of crosswalks. For instance, putting a bus stop in the middle of a busy road, forcing pedestrians to cross that road in a crosswalk in order to get to the bus stop is certainly construction, while the unnecessary artistic flare for the otherwise dangerous crosswalk is design.
Its Fact Specific
As in all personal injury cases including pedestrian/auto accidents, these cases are highly fact specific. It is necessary to investigate the crosswalk itself thoroughly to determine what if anything was done wrong in the location, construction or maintenance of the crosswalk. Then again, it must be determined who all is responsible for the crosswalk’s dangerous conditions.
It’s not rocket science, but the assistance of an experienced auto accident attorney is advisable. This is because the investigation and determination of responsibility is really the easy part. The hard part comes later dealing with the city, county, state, owner of property, driver and all of their respective insurance companies and lawyers. That again is not rocket science, but it is somewhat complicated and can be exceedingly frustrating for anyone trying to do this on their own.