Pedestrians are highly vulnerable. Unlike drivers in cars and trucks, nothing protects them when they’re struck by a vehicle. Serious injuries are common when pedestrian accidents occur, from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and many are fatal.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. are the highest they’ve been in over three decades. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed over 7,000 pedestrians were killed in 2020, and 1 in 6 who died in all types of crashes involving vehicles were pedestrians. In Virginia, the numbers reflect this tragic national trend. In 2021, pedestrian fatalities reached an all-time high, and the number of deaths in 2022 is expected to surpass that record.
Over the years, Virginia has concentrated efforts to better protect pedestrians amidst rising injuries and deaths. A recent change is Virginia’s hands-free legislation. The new law came into effect in 2021, following several years of increased distracted driving accidents locally and nationwide. But even with the hands-free law and other road rules designed to prevent pedestrian accidents, far too many people become victims of these tragedies each year.
When a pedestrian is injured in Virginia, it’s important to know that a pedestrian accident lawsuit to seek damages is possible – when the driver is liable.
Because of the complexity of pedestrian accident cases, it’s best to consult a pedestrian accident attorney when a crash occurs. The legal team at Curcio Law has a deep understanding of Virginia’s road laws and has helped countless injured pedestrians get the compensation they deserve.
Pedestrian Accident Statistics & Trends
The percentage of pedestrian crash fatalities has steadily increased over the past 20 years in the U.S. In 2002, pedestrian accidents accounted for 11% of road fatalities compared to 17% in 2020. In 2021, 125 pedestrians were killed in Virginia, and 87 happened when it was dark.
Also, in 2021, crash fatalities in Virginia hit a 14-year high, with 1,242 pedestrian and vehicle accidents. Of those, 1,186 pedestrians suffered injuries, and 373 were considered serious injuries. And so far, in 2022, pedestrian fatalities and injuries are on pace to be even higher in the state.
Many pedestrian accident injuries and fatalities occur at crossings and intersections with signals. But they also occur when pedestrians cross the road against these signals, making them at least partially liable for the crash.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the majority of pedestrian accidents and fatalities occur at night, not at intersections, and in the state’s large urban areas. This is why pedestrian safety is so important. Pedestrians should do what they can to make themselves visible when it’s dark, use crosswalks and sidewalks when available (and stay on the left on the shoulder when they aren’t), and cross in lighted areas. As a driver, being aware of your surroundings and looking for pedestrians and other vulnerable people on or around the road at all times is crucial to limit the risks of an accident.
Being impaired is another troubling factor in road injuries and fatalities. The CDC noted that almost half (46%) of pedestrian accidents in 2019 involved a driver and/or pedestrian with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08. Studies have shown that a blood alcohol level of 0.08 (the legal limit) can significantly decrease driver reaction times.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Unfortunately, there are many causes of pedestrian accidents in Virginia, most of which are completely preventable. Due to the frequency we use technology like cell phones and the desire to be constantly connected, distracted driving – and distracted walking – are significant road dangers.
Texts, calls, videos, social media, emails, and games all cause drivers and walkers to be distracted, and these distractions cause many pedestrian-involved crashes every year.
There are several other common causes of pedestrian accidents, including:
Impaired driving and walking (under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication)
Speeding and driver impatience
Failure to obey traffic signals and stop signs
Poor weather conditions
Failure to yield the right of way
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 30% of all traffic accident fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers. Drunk driving causes drivers to have a slower reaction time, makes it difficult to concentrate and see, reduces the ability to multitask, and lessens coordination. Simply put, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs creates more dangers on the road and poses serious risks for both drivers and pedestrians.
Road construction is another cause of pedestrian accidents in Virginia. Construction forces people to walk in areas they usually wouldn’t, such as the side of the road, putting them much closer to cars. Drivers expect pedestrians to be in certain areas, so when construction forces them somewhere new and uncommon, there’s a greater risk of road injuries and deaths.
But drivers are not the only cause of pedestrian accidents. There are pedestrian habits that increase risks. Some of the most notable include crossing in an unmarked area when a crosswalk is available close by, playing in the road, running into the street without looking, crossing highways with high speeds, and walking on highways where pedestrians are not allowed to travel.
Pedestrian Accident Injuries
We know that pedestrians have zero protection when struck by a vehicle, and the higher the vehicle speed, the greater the likelihood of catastrophic injuries and death. Without a seatbelt, airbags, or vehicle surrounding them, pedestrians are at risk of being seriously hurt, yet the driver in these accidents rarely suffers any harm. Pedestrian injuries can be life-changing and cause a range of health effects in the short- and long-term.
Depending on the circumstances, pedestrians can be thrown when hit by a vehicle. Due to where a pedestrian is struck (the car’s bumper and sometimes the hood or windshield depending on the speed), it’s common to suffer head, pelvis, and leg injuries.
But there are many types of pedestrian accident injuries, including:
Traumatic brain injuries
Dislocations and sprains
Spinal cord injuries
Cuts and contusions
In addition to the physical injuries a pedestrian may suffer after a car accident, there can be significant harm to their mental and emotional health. This serious trauma often causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), difficulty sleeping, and other symptoms.
Some pedestrian car accident injuries are permanent, and victims may need several surgeries, lengthening recovery time and worsening the trauma. They may require specialized treatments and medication for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.
The costs associated with recovering from an accident can be devastating – and unaffordable for many. When someone is injured or a loved one is killed in a pedestrian accident in Virginia, consult with an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney to assess your case. A personal injury lawyer can help determine your legal options and, ultimately, help you get the compensation you deserve through a thorough investigation of your personal injury claim.
Virginia Pedestrian Laws
Efforts to make roads safer include a range of pedestrian laws in Virginia. In 2020, legislation was amended so that vehicles must stop for pedestrians at marked and unmarked crossings.
Drivers must now fully stop, not just yield, for pedestrians in all crosswalks in Virginia, or they could face a $500 fine.
Another new pedestrian road rule was enacted in 2020, allowing prosecutors to file a greater and more deserved charge against a driver in an accident. Distracted and careless drivers can now be charged with a Class I misdemeanor, with up to 12 months in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine. Before this legislation, the most a prosecutor could do was issue a “failure to yield” charge, even if the driver severely injured or killed the pedestrian.
At the start of 2021, Virginia introduced a hands-free law to try to reduce distracted driving – something that causes many accidents with pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, and others on the road. We know that cell phones dangerously take a person’s attention away from what matters, creating preventable accident risks for everyone. Thankfully, Virginia’s hands-free law makes it illegal to use a cell phone while driving. If this law is broken and the driver caused a crash, a pedestrian accident lawsuit may seek to recover damages.
Drivers aren’t the only ones that have to follow road laws. Pedestrians must obey signals at crosswalks and always use sidewalks and crosswalks when they’re available. Walking and crossing in designated areas increase safety.
Pedestrians are also not allowed to step on a highway where they can’t be seen by drivers and cannot enter or cross an intersection in “disregard of approaching traffic.” Essentially, pedestrians must wait until there’s a clear break in traffic and ensure nothing is obscuring a driver’s vision/ability to see them. While Virginia laws give pedestrians the right of way, they have a duty to be safe and aware of traffic and crossings and act accordingly to the law.
Legal Options for Virginia Pedestrian Accident Injuries & Fatalities
In 2020, a pedestrian was killed every 75 minutes in the United States, and an estimated 104,000 people went to emergency rooms for non-fatal pedestrian accident injuries. In Virginia, pedestrian road fatalities in 2022 are expected to surpass the record high reached in 2021.
A driver’s negligence, from being distracted or impaired to speeding or failing to obey Virginia’s road laws, can be catastrophic. The long-term impact of a pedestrian accident may hinder your quality of life, prevent you from working, and cause emotional and physical injuries. And they can be quite costly due to medical care, treatments, and lost wages.
Virginia has clear pedestrian laws aimed at reducing accidents and road dangers. However, the law limits injured pedestrians because they cannot seek damages if they are at fault, even if they had a minor role in causing the accident. This means the injured party must prove they were not negligent or liable in any way and that the driver was responsible for the crash to pursue a legal claim for compensation.
If you’re injured when walking, running, or crossing a road, contact Curcio Law after seeking medical treatment. An investigation is needed to collect the necessary evidence to prove your case. This is especially important because of Virginia’s no-fault law.
Our dedication and deep understanding of Virginia’s road laws can help get you the compensation you deserve through a pedestrian accident lawsuit to alleviate some of the burdens your injuries have caused on you and your family. If the worst happens and a loved one is killed, a lawsuit can provide the financial support needed from the loss and any emotional damages suffered. Contact Curcio Law online or text or call 1-703-836-3366 for a free consultation.
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Curcio Law is an Alexandria Virginia based firm focused on representing people who have been seriously injured or killed in car, pedestrian, bicycle, and truck crashes, and by dangerous dogs, unsafe products, and premises. As a team, the firm works tirelessly to obtain the compensation their clients are legally entitled to so each may rebuild their lives with dignity.
Curcio Law has earned the trust of their clients and the respect of their peers by representing each client with the values which have shaped Tom Curcio’s life and guide the firm: