Pedestrians are at high risk for injury, particularly in commercial areas of cities. When a pedestrian is injured by a motorist, bicyclist, or other means, the law can provide legal redress for injuries suffered. This redress can include injuries, lost income, and pain and suffering. Below is an overview of injuries that are common and legal remedies that can provide redress for the injured pedestrian.
Injuries Caused By Motorist
Every motorist driving on the road must do so in a safe and reasonable manner. The law refers to this obligation as a “legal duty.” A motorist owes this legal duty to anyone that could foreseeably be injured by unreasonable or careless actions of the motorist. Typical and foreseeable plaintiffs include pedestrians on or near the roadway. When a motorist fails to act safely and reasonably, the motorist has breached his legal duty to nearby pedestrians. If a pedestrian is injured by this breach, she will have a claim for negligence against the driver.
A motorist can also be found to be negligent for violating the law. This is known as a claim for negligence per se. However, not every violation of every law will constitute a valid claim even though it may result in injury to a pedestrian. Instead, the law that was violated must have been enacted to protect from the type of injury suffered and pedestrian must be the type of individual the law was meant to protect. Despite these limitations, most laws that apply to motorists will qualify. For example, Section 8-1567 prohibits driving a vehicle while intoxicated. This law exists to protect other drivers and pedestrians from being injured in accidents caused by a drunk driver. Thus, if a pedestrian is injured by a drunk driver, this can be used to establish liability against the driver: the statute was meant to prevent accidents caused by drunk drivers and those intended to be protected from such accidents includes pedestrians.
One final consideration for accidents caused by motorists is any unreasonable action by the pedestrian. Kansas utilizes a system that punishes a plaintiff for her unreasonable conduct. This is known as comparative fault and is provided for by Section 60-258a. A pedestrian can still recover so long as the plaintiff is 50% at fault or less. However, the pedestrian’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of fault attributed to him. Common examples of how a pedestrian can be partially at fault include walking in the roadway, wearing dark clothing at night, or failing to look before entering a crosswalk. The determination of how much fault these actions warrant will have to be made by the jury, looking at the actions of both the pedestrian and the motorist together.
Injuries Caused By Bicyclists
In Kansas, cities and counties are allowed to determine if bicyclists are permitted to ride on sidewalks. When cyclists ride on the sidewalk, they must operate their bike in a reasonable and safe manner. For example, a bicyclist must operate the bike at a reasonable speed on the sidewalk—a much slower speed than would be reasonable when biking on the road. When a cyclist fails to act reasonably and injures a pedestrian, the pedestrian has a valid claim for negligence against the cyclist. This requirement of reasonable conduct also applies to others on the sidewalk as well, including skateboarders, runners, and dog walkers.
When pedestrians are placed in danger by a bicyclist, they may be forced to act quickly. This may result in injury to the pedestrian even though the bicyclist never actually makes contact with the pedestrian. For example, a cyclist going too fast on a sidewalk may quickly turn a corner just in front of a pedestrian. If the pedestrian chooses to dive off the sidewalk to avoid being hit and suffers injuries from the dive, the cyclist is still responsible for those injuries. The fact that no contact occurs doesn’t prevent liability from attaching. This is because the cyclist’s carelessness caused the injuries; the law doesn’t punish the pedestrian for trying to avoid injury.
Injuries Caused By Others
Pedestrians can be injured by others using or nearby sidewalks. These include other pedestrians, such as joggers or construction workers working on a site next to the sidewalk. Both are obligated to go about their business with reasonable care. Pedestrians must use the sidewalk with reasonable care to ensure that other pedestrians are not injured. Construction workers must make sure they are working in a manner that does not pose an unreasonable risk to pedestrians on the sidewalk. To ensure this safety, the workers may be required to block off a section of the sidewalk or provide scaffolding to cover pedestrians.
Injuries Cause By Defects Or Debris On Sidewalk
Owners of a sidewalk have a responsibility to ensure that the sidewalk, as well as the rest of the property, is free from dangerous defects. This obligation to warn or correct a dangerous condition arises when the condition is known or should be known by the property owner. The defect could be an uneven sidewalk slab, a pothole in the surface, or ice that has formed on the surface. However, the property owner may not be liable if the defect that causes the injury is on specifically on the sidewalk. This is known as the slight defect rule. For the rule to apply, the defect must be slight and must also be the only defect on the sidewalk. Basically, the law is willing to forgive a slight defect because maintaining a sidewalk is considered a difficult task to complete perfectly—a questionable proposition, but the law nonetheless.
Pedestrians can be exposed to great risk from motorists, as well as others on or near the sidewalk. Whether injuries are caused by a careless driver, defect on the property, or inattentive cyclist, legal redress may be available to compensate for those injuries. Because of the danger pedestrian are exposed to, the law provides several avenues for relief when a pedestrian is injured. It is important to contact legal counsel if you have been injured while using the sidewalk, so the correct path to relief can be chosen and pursued.