There are many benefits to walking – it’s good for your health, it helps you save money on gas or public transportation, and it gives you a chance to see the scenery in your neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the downside is that a careless motorist could hit you. Lacking the protection people have in cars or even on bikes or motorcycles – seatbelts, airbags, or at least a helmet – pedestrians hit by cars have a higher risk of severe injury or death.
In 2022, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported that pedestrian deaths in the US had reached their highest level in 40 years, with 7,485 pedestrians killed in 2021. The report also noted an increase in pedestrian deaths caused by speeding drivers.
Pedestrian deaths also increased in Illinois, from 70 in 2019 to 78 in 2021. Possible explanations for the increase include an uptick in dangerous driving habits, larger vehicles on the road, and road designs that favor faster-moving traffic.
Even at lower speeds, a car striking a pedestrian can cause significant injuries, including:
- Broken bones. The impact can cause a fracture, or the pedestrian may be flung away from the car and hit another solid object. Depending on your health insurance and the severity of the break, treating a fracture can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Sadly, some pedestrians may have multiple broken bones.
- Back, neck, and spine injuries. Many people develop chronic pain after a back or neck injury, and damage to the spine can lead to permanent paralysis and disability. If you didn’t think you were injured but developed back or neck pain within a few days or weeks of your accident, be sure to see a healthcare provider right away. Sometimes, these injuries don’t present symptoms immediately but can cause serious pain later.
- Head and brain injuries. There’s a reason bicyclists and motorcyclists are encouraged to wear helmets – it protects the head and brain if a car collision causes a blow to the head. When you’re on foot, you don’t have this protection, but you can still get hit by a car and suffer a head injury. Some people recover fully from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but the healing process can take time, and the patient may be unable to work for a while. Other patients may have permanent damage that leads to a disability involving movement, speech, cognition, memory, or other brain functions.
- Face and eye damage. Often, these issues coincide with head and brain injuries. Fractures in the facial bones can be painful and take time to heal. Gravel or other roadside debris can enter the eye, causing damage and, in some cases, permanent vision loss.
- Cuts, lacerations, and road rash. Often, people need stitches after being hit by a car. Contact with the pavement can break the skin, causing bleeding, infection, and scarring. The impact can force gravel or other debris into the wounds, which may require careful cleaning in the emergency room.
- Internal injuries. Most people try to break their fall with their arms – making broken arms, hands, and wrists common – but sometimes, they still suffer an impact on the torso. In some cases, the injured person may have internal bleeding or bruising, and if the injuries are severe, they may need surgery.
How Can an Illinois Pedestrian Accident Attorney Help After an Accident?
We’ve seen many pedestrian accident cases where the injured person was financially devastated by medical bills, related expenses, and lost income. At the same time, they could also struggle with physical pain, emotional distress, permanent disability, and other difficulties from the accident.
If this has happened to you or a loved one, a pedestrian accident attorney can help you recover damages so you can move forward with your life.
Pedestrian Accidents: Who Is At Fault?
This can be a complicated question to answer in some situations. Drivers have a duty to proceed carefully when pedestrians are nearby and take reasonable steps to prevent a collision, but pedestrians are also expected to exercise reasonable care.
Illinois uses modified comparative negligence statutes for personal injury law cases, which means that in a pedestrian accident, it’s possible for both the driver and the pedestrian to have some degree of fault for the collision.
How Does Modified Comparative Negligence Work?
Illinois uses the 51 percent bar rule, which means the party that is at least 51 percent at fault is considered liable for the accident and can’t recover damages from the other party. The lesser responsible party can collect damages, but their own share of fault will be removed from the final award.
For example, if you were found to be 20 percent at fault for the accident, you would lose 20 percent of your damages.
Of course, most people tell us that they had no fault in the accident, and that might be true, but the driver and/or their insurance company are likely to disagree. The driver has a responsibility to report the accident to their own insurance company, and there’s a good chance they will describe the accident in a way that makes them seem blameless.
Even if they don’t, the insurance company will still look for ways to suggest you at least contributed to the accident in some way so they can reduce the damages they owe you, if not avoid paying them altogether.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Right to Seek Compensation After a Pedestrian Accident?
First, call 911 to report the accident and request an ambulance if needed. Next, check yourself for injuries and allow the paramedics to check you out as well.
Pedestrian accidents often happen quickly and can be very frightening, and as a result, many people experience an adrenaline rush that suppresses pain signals. Try to move slowly and be aware of your body, and if you begin to have pain later on, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.
If you hit your head, even if it feels fine, you should see a doctor immediately – some head injuries have few to no symptoms but can cause life-threatening issues.
While waiting for authorities to arrive, speak with the vehicle’s driver and ask for their contact and insurance information. At this point, it’s common for the driver and pedestrian to argue, so try to avoid discussing blame.
Never admit fault, even if you think you made a mistake – many people incorrectly believe they were to blame for an accident. However, blaming the other driver could escalate things, and it’s better if everyone stays calm.
When the police arrive, give them honest but brief responses to their questions – don’t add any information they didn’t ask for. We advise you to do this because sometimes people inadvertently say things that the driver’s insurance company will misinterpret and use against them.
The less you say, the less they can twist to fit the narrative that you were at fault.
After getting medical care and giving a statement to the police, please contact a pedestrian accident lawyer right away so they can begin working to protect your rights.
Understanding Crosswalk Safety
In general, pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks, but some limitations exist. You could still be at fault if you cross against the light or if you are near a crosswalk but crossing outside of it.
Frequently, we see cases where the pedestrian and driver have different memories on these points. The driver might claim that they had the light and you should have waited or that you were outside the crosswalk when the collision happened.
At busy intersections like those in Chicago, there are often other cars around when an accident occurs, but not every witness will still be at the scene when police arrive. Sometimes, the witnesses interviewed also have conflicting statements, especially if they had different vantage points on the collision.
In these situations, the police report may be inconclusive, or the officer could decide that the driver’s story makes more sense. The officer’s opinion of what happened is included in a police report, but it’s just that – an opinion, often based on limited or incomplete information.
Your attorney can work to refute any inconsistencies in the police report and gather evidence that you were crossing lawfully at the intersection. For instance, we will search for doorbell or security cameras and may be able to locate video showing the traffic signal when the accident happened or where you were.
We will also canvas for other witnesses who may not have been interviewed and request the “black box” data from the driver’s car to learn more about what happened.
Returning to the idea of modified comparative negligence, crosswalk cases often involve shared fault between the driver and the pedestrian. Although pedestrians are supposed to follow basic rules like waiting for the “Walk” signal and using crosswalks where they’re available, drivers still have a responsibility to yield to pedestrians even when the car has the right of way.
In many of these situations, the pedestrian believes they can’t collect any damages because they made a mistake, but the driver is still more at fault.
For example, in some cases, we may argue that the driver could and should have stopped and, therefore, is more than 51 percent at fault, even if the pedestrian started crossing before the light change.
If you were in a pedestrian accident at a crosswalk and believe you were at fault, please speak with a lawyer before assuming you can’t collect any damages.
Accidents Outside of Crosswalks
Crosswalks and crosswalk accidents are common in cities like Chicago, Springfield, and Aurora. But much of Illinois consists of rural or farmland areas where intersections are less common.
In some areas, you might drive for miles without seeing a marked crosswalk, and intersections may have only a stop sign. When accidents occur in these areas, there are often no other cars around, and unless there are multiple pedestrians or passengers in the car, it may be your word against the driver.
While it can be challenging to find evidence in these cases, your best chance of proving what happened is with the help of a pedestrian accident lawyer and their skilled investigative team. If there’s a way to show the driver was at fault in your accident, we’ll do everything possible to find that evidence.
Rural areas also have more accidents outside of crosswalks or intersections. In the long stretches between intersections, sometimes we see cases where the pedestrian was walking alongside the road when they were hit.
Again, these cases are frequently decided based on who was at least 51 percent at fault because both parties could be negligent in different ways.
Here are some tips for both drivers and walkers to avoid collisions:
- Pedestrians should take care and be aware of their surroundings when walking on or near a roadway.
- Illinois law specifies that if a sidewalk is available, pedestrians should use it instead of the shoulder. If there is no sidewalk, you should only walk on the shoulder if available.
- In situations with no sidewalk or shoulder, pedestrians can walk on the highway, but only on the left side of a two-lane highway. They should walk as near the edge of the road as possible and yield to any vehicles on the road.
- Drivers should always exercise care when they see pedestrians on or near the road. You never know when someone might trip and fall into the roadway or otherwise enter it unexpectedly.
- If someone is walking on the shoulder, proceed around them very slowly. If there’s a safe and legal option to move into the left or passing lane, this is a good way to give the pedestrian a wider berth.
- If you see a pedestrian approaching you, dim your brights if you have them on so the pedestrian can see clearly.
Speak with an Illinois Pedestrian Accident Law Firm About Your Accident Today
When you or a loved one has been hurt in a pedestrian accident, the best thing you can do is speak with an Illinois pedestrian accident attorney as soon as you can. Contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers at (312) 999-9990 for a free consultation about your case.
We’ll review the police report, answer your questions, and explain the options for recovering your damages.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and worked as a legal clerk and litigation associate before establishing The Fakhouri Firm. He has since recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his clients and is always working to help those who have been injured.When he’s not fighting for clients in the courtroom or negotiating with insurance companies, he makes lively posts about legal topics for his many social media followers