Since 2003, the percentage of fatal car accident victims who are pedestrians has increased from 11% to 14%, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That alarming trend has been evident in the San Jose area. The San Jose Police Department reports that two dozen pedestrians were killed in San Jose during 2014, the highest number in the last ten years.

Recent pedestrian accidents in Contra Costa County include:

  • A 43-year-old man was struck and killed by the driver of a Toyota Camry while walking on Kirker Pass Road, north of Nortonville Road.
  • A teenager is on life support and in a coma after being struck by a car outside of Archbishop Mitty High School.
  • A 29-year-old man died after being hit by a car while walking across an exit ramp on Highway 101.
  • A suspected drunk driver hit two food vendors on S. White Road in San Jose, killing one.

Across the nation, a pedestrian is killed every two minutes and injured every eight seconds in a collision with a motor vehicle. Passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks) are involved in most of those accidents, although some are caused by drivers of large trucks who fail to observe a pedestrian in the truck’s path as it backs up.

Preventing pedestrian deaths

Given the prevalence of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, we urge drivers and pedestrians alike to use caution in circumstances that create an elevated risk of accidents. The NHTSA statistics reveal that pedestrians are most likely to be injured

  • in urban areas (where they are more likely to be crossing streets),
  • after sunset (when it is difficult for drivers to see pedestrians), and
  • away from intersections (because drivers are more likely to be watching for pedestrians in crosswalks).

More than two-thirds of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents are male. The average age of fatality victims is 46, but 21% are children under the age of 15 and another 19% are 65 or older.

About a third of the pedestrians who were fatally injured in 2013 had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, while 15% of drivers who killed pedestrians were at or above the legal limit. It is difficult to say whether alcohol played a role in the deaths of pedestrians who had been drinking, but it is clear that drivers who were at or above 0.08% were breaking the law when they collided with the pedestrian.

Taken together, the statistics suggest that both pedestrians and drivers should be especially watchful at night. Pedestrians need to take extra care when they cross a road outside of a crosswalk, while drivers should never forget the possibility that they might be sharing a road with joggers and others who are on foot. Parents should watch their children and caretakers should watch elderly pedestrians to prevent them from straying into traffic. Drivers should slow down in school zones and in places where joggers might be present. And of course, drivers should not drink and pedestrians who have been drinking should be mindful of their ability to walk home safely.

Holding negligent drivers accountable for pedestrian accidents

Hit-and-run accidents account for one-in-five pedestrian fatalities, including the recent death of a woman in East San Jose. Unless the police or a private investigator are able to locate a hit-and-run driver, surviving family members may never see justice done. In some cases, a surveillance video or witnesses may lead to the eventual discovery of the driver who caused the accident.

When a negligent driver who strikes a pedestrian can be identified, California’s wrongful death law allows certain family members to seek compensation. Spouses and children can always seek compensation, as can certain domestic partners and other relatives. The California wrongful death lawyers at Bohn & Fletcher, LLP can help you determined which members of a victim’s family are entitled to participate in a wrongful death claim.

The amount of compensation that will be paid for a wrongful death is influenced by a number of factors, including whether the deceased pedestrian’s own negligence contributed to the accident. Even when fault is shared, however, California law permits surviving family members to make a wrongful death claim against a driver whose carelessness contributed to the accident. In almost every pedestrian death, a driver bears some degree of responsibility.

While no amount of money will replace a lost relative, compensation is the way our civil justice system holds negligent drivers accountable for their careless behavior. Compensation that surviving family members can receive includes lost financial support, loss of love and companionship, a child’s loss of guidance, the value of services (such as homemaking or home repairs) that the deceased pedestrian would have furnished, and in the case of a spouse, the loss of sexual enjoyment.