Impairment, a significant factor in many pedestrian accidents, can greatly affect the outcome of an injury or wrongful death claim. This is true regardless of which party was impaired; both drivers’ and pedestrians’ alcohol intoxication can affect liability and the amount of damages injured victims are entitled to. Victims injured in alcohol-related pedestrian accidents can contact Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-642-2335 and schedule a free consult to discuss their legal options.
How often does alcohol play a role in pedestrian accidents?
Alcohol – for the driver and/or the pedestrian – plays a major role in nearly half of all serious pedestrian accidents; it was involved in 49 percent of all pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
And unfortunately, the number of pedestrian fatalities is on the rise in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian fatalities were nearly 12 percent higher for the first half of 2014 in NJ than they were for the first half of 2013. And in PA, pedestrian fatalities rose nearly 40 percent during that same time period.
The GHSA reports that alcohol impairment is “prominent” in pedestrian deaths. The agency’s Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State report indicates:
- Approximately 36 percent of pedestrians age 16 and older involved in fatal crashes in 2013 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of a 0.08 (the legal limit) or higher.
- An estimated 14 percent of drivers that hit and killed pedestrians in 2012 had BACs at or over the legal limit.
- In roughly six percent of fatal pedestrian accidents, both the driver and the pedestrian were intoxicated.
How does impairment affect a pedestrian accident case?
When pedestrians are involved in a serious accident, they (or their loved ones if their injuries were fatal) may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against the driver if the driver was at-fault.
Because being intoxicated can impair judgment and affect your ability to drive or even walk safely, insurers often consider being impaired at the time of the accident a form of negligence. If a drunk driver hits a pedestrian, an investigation will likely find her at fault. Her insurance company will usually be the party that will end up with the responsibility of paying for the victim’s damages.
But what if it was the pedestrian – not the driver – that was drunk? Are pedestrians injured in accidents still entitled to file a claim and collect damages if they were the one that was intoxicated?
The answer is maybe. New Jersey and Pennsylvania both follow the modified comparative negligence rule. This rule provides that you can still file an injury claim even if you were partly at fault for the accident. So long as you were 50 percent or less at fault, you can still recover some of your damages.
An insurer or the court will assign each party involved a percentage of fault for the accident. This percentage will reduce the settlement you receive. Below are two examples.
- Case 1: For instance, in a case where a drunk driver who lost control of her car hit a sober pedestrian on the sidewalk, the courts will likely assign zero percent fault to the pedestrian and 100 percent to the driver. The pedestrian may recover the full amount of her damages.
- Case 2: On the other hand, if the pedestrian was intoxicated and perhaps stumbled onto the side of the road where a distracted driver struck her, the courts will assume that her state of impairment affected her judgment and contributed to the accident. An insurer or the court may assign her 50 percent of the fault, in which case she will receive 50 percent of the value of her damages.
What types of evidence can prove/refute fault in these types of cases?
Proving fault in alcohol-related accidents is one of the critical components to winning your case and receiving a settlement. A lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC can help you collect pertinent evidence to support your case, which includes things like:
- Breathalyzer results
- Medical records (e.g., perhaps a health condition or your medication contributed to poor judgement or stumbling, not intoxication.)
- Eyewitnesses testimonies
- Photos and videos
And keep in mind that there are exceptions to comparative negligence. Even if you were walking under the influence of alcohol and sustained injuries in an accident, the doctrine of comparative negligence does not necessarily automatically apply to you. The court will consider all of the circumstances of the accident, including the negligence of the motorist. The court may not hold you even partially liable, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Say, for instance, you were walking on the sidewalk in an impaired state, and a car drives up onto the curb, hitting you. In such a case, the court is likely to rule that you were not to blame for the accident, even if you were walking in an impaired state. In such a case, the motorist is entirely liable for injuries.
How can I improve my chances of a fair settlement?
If you or your loved one is considering filing a pedestrian accident claim, the best thing you can do to improve the chances of securing a fair settlement is to speak to an attorney. Rest assured, if you were only slightly intoxicated when the accident occurred, the other party’s attorney or the insurance company may try to use that information against you and reduce your payout.
Enlist the help of a local accident attorney to help build your case and refute any defenses the other party tries to use against you. Each case is unique, but your lawyer will do what’s necessary to try to minimize your fault and present your case to the insurer or court.
For a pedestrian accident attorney with an excellent track record of successful cases and sizable settlements in PA and NJ, call Cordisco & Saile LLC today.