According to the most recent statistics by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the greatest increase in traffic deaths in the United States has been pedestrian fatalities, which have increased by 27 percent over a 10-year period in the most recent study. All other traffic deaths during this same time period decreased by 14 percent. Pedestrian deaths now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in four decades.
Children under the age of 15 are at a particularly high risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident and suffering more significant injuries. To minimize this risk and the significance of resulting injuries, it is important for parents to be educated on how child pedestrian accidents can be avoided and what to do if your child is a victim of a pedestrian accident.
Why Do Child Pedestrian Accidents Occur?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children under the age of 15 (one in five) who are killed in traffic accidents are pedestrians. Children possess a variety of unique characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to pedestrian accidents.
- Small stature. Children are much smaller than adults, which makes them more difficult for drivers to see. This is especially so in areas where children are likely to walk or play, such as:
- Within school zones
- Near parks or playgrounds
- In driveways
- In the streets of residential neighborhoods
- In and around parking lots
When children suddenly dart from behind school busses or parked cars or run out of the driveway into the street to chase balls, drivers may not react as quickly as normal because children are more difficult to see.
Additionally, because of their small stature, when children are subject to pedestrian accidents, they tend to suffer more significant injuries or death.
- Poor judgment. Because of their age and under-developed brain function, children are less likely to recognize a traffic threat such as the speed or distance of an oncoming car. This often causes children to make poor decisions and engage in risky behaviors that lead to more accidents.
- Independence. As children grow up, they slowly become more independent and want to do things on their own. They may begin to walk to and from places like school and friends’ houses. They may begin to walk the family dog in the neighborhood, alone. These activities present a risk of harm to children because of their increased exposure to drivers on the road.
Who May Be Liable for Injuries Resulting from a Child Pedestrian Accident?
Drivers must be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially when driving in areas where children commonly walk or play. When a driver is negligent and causes injuries to a child pedestrian, that driver may be liable for damages. A negligence claim exits when a person causes injuries or death by failing to use the level of care and caution that a reasonably prudent person in the same situation would have used.
An injured person—or the parent of an injured child—must establish the following elements for a negligence claim:
- The motorist owed the child pedestrian a duty of care;
- The motorist breached their duty of care;
- The motorist’s breach of their duty of care caused the accident;
- The accident resulted in actual damages.
All drivers have a duty of care while operating their vehicles that extends to other drivers as well as pedestrians. Many states have laws that require drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians, including a special duty for drivers to avoid pedestrian accidents and to watch for children in the road.
When a driver breaches this duty and strikes a child pedestrian, the child is likely to suffer serious injuries or death because of their small stature. When a child survives the incident, they may suffer permanent physical or cognitive damages. These injuries are often expensive and require long-term, follow-up medical treatment. A negligent driver may be liable for these damages.
What Should I Do If My Child Is Injured in a Pedestrian Accident?
Unfortunately, other than educating your children on how to be safe when walking in school zones or playing near traffic (some recommendations are discussed below), there is little you can do to minimize the risk your child faces at the hands of negligent drivers. However, if your child is involved in a pedestrian accident, there are several things you can do to increase the likelihood that you and your child may recover damages for any resulting injuries.
- Seek medical attention immediately. If your child is involved in a pedestrian accident, the first and most important thing to do is to seek medical attention for your child, even if you think they sustained no injuries. Although your child may look and feel fine, your child may have suffered internal injuries. If not treated immediately, internal injuries could be fatal.
- Instruct your child not to interact with the driver. If your child is struck by a vehicle, do not let them talk to the driver. Drivers may come out of their car and ask your child if they’re okay and try to speak with them. Even if the driver means well, keep your child near you and talking to you. If you are not with your child, be sure they know not to speak to anyone except to request medical attention.
- Document your child’s injuries and healing process. After your child receives medical attention, be sure to document your child’s injuries from the accident through every stage of the healing process. Keep track of the weeks right after the accident to properly document the difficulties and struggles your child may experience.
- Consult with an attorney. A child’s recovery from an injury can be expensive. You could be entitled to compensation that includes payment of medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional damage. While no amount of money can undo the harm that your child has suffered, it can help pay the expenses that caused it. The legal system is both complex and difficult to navigate for someone who is unfamiliar with it. Hiring an attorney will ensure that you and your child’s best interests are fully represented. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, are experienced at dealing with child pedestrian accidents and can assist you in your claim for damages.
- Save all documents. A personal injury claim may take years to complete. Be sure to keep anything you receive from doctors and insurance companies. Even if something seems minor at the time, it may be important. It is critical that your attorney has all the information available to effectively represent your interests and obtain the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
What Can I Do to Help My Child Avoid Pedestrian Accidents?
Of course, no parent wants to see their child go through the trauma of being involved in a pedestrian accident. While you have no power over the actions taken by the people around you, you have full control over your own behavior.
If you are with your child, one thing you can do to help prevent these kinds of accidents is to remain alert while you are with your child in busy areas:
- Limit your distractions. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of your daily routine, it is easy to become distracted. Whether it is the news update that just popped-up on your phone, the inclination to window shop the merchandise of storefronts, the laundry list of things on your mental to-do list, or just the general difficulty of getting to the places you need to be while escorting a child, it is so easy to get preoccupied. You can help avoid a pedestrian accident by limiting such distractions while in public spaces with your child and staying alert of your surroundings.
Additionally, parents can help prevent accidents by educating their children on traffic safety. This includes:
- Use sidewalks. Vehicles do not belong on sidewalks and they typically stay off of them, so this is the first thing children should know about pedestrian safety to assure they are in the safest place. If there is not a sidewalk, teach your child to walk on the left side of the road where they would be meeting the traffic, instead of having traffic approaching from behind them.
- Use the crosswalk. Drivers are more likely to notice a child and stop for them when a crosswalk is in the road. Teach your child to use the crosswalks but to still remain cautious when crossing them.
- Stop and look. Teach your child to stop and look both ways before crossing the street. This simple rule is easy to forget when a child is involved in another activity, such as chasing a ball or a friend. It is important to teach them that this rule applies at all times, even on streets that are not often used by drivers.
- Obey all traffic signals. Teach your child what street signs look like, especially their unique shapes and colors, and what each sign means. Instruct your child to obey all traffic signals at all times.
- Do not play in the street. Especially when in larger groups, children will tend to joke around and participate in horseplay. While this is usually acceptable behavior, doing it around traffic is not safe and can result in serious injury due to the inevitable escalation of the horseplay and distractions it presents.
- Put the phone away. In today’s advanced-technology era, children possess electronic devices at younger and younger ages. And they usually carry them in their hands at all times. It is important to decrease distractions while occupying areas where drivers, who very well also may be distracted by an electronic device, are operating their vehicles.
- Go inside when the weather is bad. Dusk, dawn, fog, and low-visibility situations create a high risk to children due to a driver’s inability to properly navigate the road or clearly and quickly notice children in the area. You should avoid allowing your children to access or play near roadways when these high-risk conditions exist.
Contact Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Today
There are numerous precautions you can take to minimize the risk that your child will be involved in a pedestrian accident. However, if your child has been injured in a pedestrian accident and you have sought out the proper medical attention, contact the experienced attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for your child’s injuries.
There may be a long road to recovery ahead. Your child will rely on you to heal his physical and emotional injuries from the accident. Your focus should be on your child, not on dealing with expensive bills and insurance companies. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, will fight for your family by investigating your case and filing a claim for compensation on your behalf. We will negotiate a proper settlement with the insurance company or litigate your case in court to make sure you and your child receive the compensation you deserve.