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What are the consequences for hitting a pedestrian?

Carl Waring

Carl Waring

|  10th May 2021  |


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Pedestrian accidents i.e., ones involving a collision between a motorist (or another road user) and a pedestrian, are a daily occurrence in the UK. In 2019, there were 470 deaths from pedestrian accidents. This was an increase of 3% on the previous year.  In, all there were a total of 21,770 pedestrian casualties of all severities, reported to the Police.

Who is usually to blame in a pedestrian accident?

As outlined in more detail on the Pedestrian Accident Claims page of our website, the main causes of pedestrian accidents can be summarised as:

  • Driver error – e.g., making a bad driving decision; failing to notice someone starting to cross the road, thinking they have more time to carry out a manoeuvre than they actually have, etc.
  • Driver becoming distracted e.g., by using their mobile phone whilst driving or by turning to talk to one of their passengers.
  • Excessive speed on the part of the driver.
  • Overly aggressive driving.
  • Driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Surely though pedestrians can be at fault too?

Pedestrians are capable of doing dangerous things as well, such as;

  • Walking out into the road whilst distracted by their mobile phone.
  • Trying to cross between parked vehicles.
  • Underestimating the time, they have to cross the road in the face of an oncoming vehicle.
  • Crossing the road when they are drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Pedestrians are to blame for some of these pedestrian accident statistics too, then?

Yes, they are. From a legal point of view though, it’s extremely rare for a pedestrian to be held wholly responsible, in any subsequent pedestrian accident claim they make, as a result of being injured in a car accident.

Almost always, the motorist will bear the greater proportion of the blame for an accident involving a pedestrian.

Unfair? On the face of it perhaps it is, but there are some important factors to take into account before we rush to judgement:

1. The Highway Code has specific rules relating to pedestrians, who it describes as being in the category of vulnerable road users (Rule 204).

The Code goes on to advise of the need for driving more carefully, where there is a risk of encountering pedestrians stepping unexpectedly into the road (especially children).

Rule 205 specifically states:

“You should drive with the safety of children in mind and at a speed suitable for the conditions.

As if to reinforce this, Rule 124 of the code provides:

“You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limits for the road and your vehicle” and Rule 125, adds:

The speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions. Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions is dangerous.”

In other words, even if you are driving at 30  mph and not exceeding the speed limit, it may be too fast a speed for the conditions. If a pedestrian then steps into the road and, as a driver, you collide with them, you will be bear the lions share of the blame for the accident.

Legal Case Study

An example of this can be found in the decision in the legal case of Toropdar v D (where D was a minor, a child of 10) which was brought by the driver of a car, to seek a declaration from the court that he was not responsible for an accident.

T had been driving at a speed which the court accepted was 27.5 mph, when a child of 10 ran out into his path from behind a stationary bus.

It was accepted there was nothing T could have done to avoid hitting the child at the speed he was travelling. However, his speed was too fast (for the road and traffic conditions) and if he had braked before he reached the bus, he would have been able to avoid the collision (because he would have reduced his vehicle to a speed at which, by braking, he could have safely stopped, on seeing the child).

2. “The standard of care required of a driver to prevent harm, is likely to be greater than the standard required of a pedestrian.”

This quote is from one of the judges in the Toropdar case and his reason for saying it, was because ‘a motor car is in one sense a lethal weapon and its propensity to injure human beings in a traffic accident, is obvious.’

The judge in question was perhaps just reinforcing something that we are all guilty of forgetting at times, namely:

The consequences of our actions as drivers can have devastating effects for vulnerable road users and most of all for pedestrians.

For this reason alone, it’s only fair drivers are expected to display a much higher standard of care, than the other types of road user.

To summarise:

  1. All road users make errors.
  2. All road user errors are preventable – that is, all road users can control whether or not they make those errors.
  3. There is a greater responsibility on motorists to control, and thus avoid errors because the consequences of them not doing so are likely to be far greater. They are driving a ‘lethal weapon’ that has the potential ‘to severely injure other human beings in traffic accidents’.
  4. Finally, it’s worth noting that if a pedestrian brings a personal injury claim against a motorist following a road traffic accident, despite what we have said above, it is open to the court to say that the pedestrian contributed to that accident. This is what happened in the case of Toropdar v D.

D ran across the road without giving Mr T any real opportunity to avoid colliding with him. D was said to be guilty of contributory negligence. However, as D was only 10 years of age, the court decided he was only one-third to blame for the accident. Any amount of compensation he recovered from making a personal injury claim would therefore be reduced in amount, by one-third of what it would have been if T had been 100% to blame for the accident.

The finding of contributory negligence only goes to reduce the amount of personal injury compensation a pedestrian accident claimant will receive. It does not lessen the finding of fault against the driver of the motor vehicle.

If you’ve been injured as a result of a pedestrian accident, then call Mooneerams Solicitors on 029 2048 3615 to discuss the possibility of making a claim for personal injury compensation. Mooneerams are experts in all forms of road traffic accident claims, including pedestrian accident compensation claims.

We are usually able to take on pedestrian claims using a No Win, No Fee agreement.

Call us now on 029 2048 3615 or send us the details using the form on this page or on our contact page. We’ll call you straight back.

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