Fatal Pedestrian Accidents in California

art piece

One of the tasks assigned to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is keeping track of traffic-related fatalities. For the most recent year available, 2018, after adjusting the rates based on population, California ranked 11th in the nation for pedestrian fatalities (893). The news gets worse - in the first half of 2019, pedestrian traffic deaths jumped by 12% in our state.

These statistics represent an unacceptable number of families that have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one due to a pedestrian versus vehicle collision. When a pedestrian tragedy strikes, a skilled California wrongful death attorney can help the grieving family members seek justice and monetary compensation for their loss.

In this post, our Northern California pedestrian lawyers look at several issues surrounding these heartbreaking accidents. Topics include:

Watch the YouTube video.  In the clip below, the Wall Street Journal looks at why pedestrian deaths have increased in recent years while other traffic fatalities have decreased.

Why Are So Many Pedestrians Killed in California?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most pedestrian fatalities happen in urban areas, at night, in non-intersection locations. Pedestrians have no protection if they are struck by a vehicle. Therefore when such a collision occurs, the injuries sustained by the person on foot are almost always severe and often fatal. 

The most frequent causes of fatal pedestrian accidents overlap with common causes of all types of motor vehicle accidents, including:

  • Motorists that are impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Driving at an unsafe speed
  • Driving while distracted - texting is a big problem
  • Drowsy driving
  • Reckless or aggressive driver behavior
  • Failure to obey traffic signals and signs
  • Failure of a motorist to yield the right-of-way
  • Failure to stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk on a right turn when the light turns green
  • Parking lot collisions

While pedestrians do have a responsibility for following the road rules, vehicle drivers have a greater duty of care to look out for pedestrians. Even if the person on foot contributed in some way to the cause of the accident, likely, there is still fault on the part of the motorist. An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer can help an injured person or a decedent's surviving family investigate liability and recover compensation.  

Pedestrian Wrongful Death Lawsuit - Determining Fault

To receive monetary compensation in a wrongful death legal matter, certain elements of liability (legal fault) must be met, such as:

  • Establish that the driver had a duty of care. A vehicle operator has a duty of care to pedestrians to follow traffic laws and safely drive the car to avoid causing injuries to others.
  • Prove that there was a breach of the duty of care. If the driver committed a negligent act while operating the vehicle - such as looking away from the road to answer a text - that constitutes a breach of his or her duty of care.
  • Prove that the breach of duty of care caused the pedestrian's death. A successful wrongful death case must include evidence that the driver’s breach of duty of care (such as texting in the above example) caused the accident, which resulted in fatal injuries.
  • Provide evidence of the damages. There must be proof that financial loss resulted from the death - such as the future income that the lost loved one would have contributed to the family budget.
Pedestrian Wrongful Death Lawsuit - Potential Damages

Not everyone can sue for the wrongful death of a loved one. In most cases, it will be the spouse and/or children of the deceased. In instances where the deceased was unmarried and without children, the parents or siblings of the decedent may sue for damages. Some of the losses for which there may be compensation include:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • The loss of lifetime income the deceased would have earned
  • Loss of household services, including care of children, domestic chores, and other familial contributions
  • Loss of love, companionship, support, affection, parental guidance, and other non-economic losses

There is an art to capturing and recovering the full economic value of a wrongful death claim. A good attorney will have access to valuable resources, including financial experts who will maximize a grieving family’s financial recovery.  While money will never bring back the beloved member of the family, it can help alleviate the stress caused by the economic impact of the death.  

Retaining the Right Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

Wrongful death cases are often more complex and complicated than other types of personal injury matters. In a pedestrian accident case, the motorist may allege that the pedestrian was partially at fault for the incident by failing to keep a proper lookout. If the motorist successfully argues that the pedestrian bore some responsibility, the compensation to which the surviving family is entitled could be significantly reduced.

A pedestrian wrongful death attorney with a depth of experience will be able to thoroughly investigate the incident and gather crucial evidence. In some cases, proving negligence or fault could be difficult or complicated. A good attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to determine fault. Some of the steps a pedestrian accident attorney may take when investigating a crash may include:

  • Review and analyze any evidence from the scene of the accident. 
  • Investigate whether any video cameras caught the events surrounding the incident and seek preservation and production of that evidence.
  • Obtain and analyze police reports or other types of accident reports.
  • Interview any eyewitnesses to the subject incident.
  • Work in conjunction with experts such as accident reconstructionists and biomechanical consultants to determine the cause of the accident and the mechanism of injury.
  • Obtain and analyze any medical records, autopsy, and/or coroner reports that were generated related to the death.
Northern California Pedestrian Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith. I have been an advocate on behalf of injured Northern Californians and their families for nearly four decades. As an experienced pedestrian accident attorney, I have handled several pedestrian wrongful death matters. My goal is always to protect the rights of the grieving family, maximize their financial recovery, and help them navigate the entire legal process with compassion and understanding. These matters are always emotionally difficult for families, but they can be made slightly easier by retaining a caring legal advocate.  

If your family is grieving the loss of a loved one involved in a fatal pedestrian accident, reach out to one of our injury lawyers as soon as you can. Preservation of evidence and protection of the statute of limitations is crucial, time-sensitive elements of a wrongful death lawsuit.

It may be helpful to hear from others who have retained our firm. Many of our prior clients have reviewed our legal services on Yelp, Avvo, and Google.

Our phone numbers are (916) 921-6400 and (800) 404-5400. You may also send your inquiry online.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

mm [cs 1170] cha

Client Reviews
"Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!" Alex & Dinah M.
"Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation." Beverly
"Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything." Annie T.
"Very professional. Great team, staff and service all around. Mr Smith was very honest, straight forward with his advice. He gives the word "attorney" an honest reputation. I will seek his council anytime, and would recommend him at the drop of a dime." Jeremy M.
"I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone." Shannon D.
"Edward Smith law offices provide competent, thorough, and personable help for victims of personal injury. When you first meet the staff you know you contacted the right office. This law office treats clients like people. I recommend this office to anyone seeking representation regarding personal injury." David M.