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Who is at fault when a car hits a public street worker?

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Who is at fault when a car hits a public street worker?

People working on public streets often face unique dangers that most motorists and pedestrians do not encounter. Whether it’s construction crews conducting roadwork or police officers directing traffic, these individuals are at risk of severe injury or even death due to collisions with drivers who fail to exercise due care.

Driver’s Duty of Care Toward Street Laborers

While performing their job-related tasks on public streets, street laborers are entitled to a reasonable expectation of safety. They should be able to assume that motor vehicle operators will maintain reasonable control of their vehicles when approaching them. It is the legal duty of drivers to be aware of street laborers and take all necessary precautions to avoid contact or accidents with them.

Exemption from the Duty to Look for Oncoming Traffic

Whether a worker is exempt from the ordinary pedestrian duty of looking out for oncoming traffic depends on whether their job inherently places them in a position of danger on the highway. Street laborers, such as roadwork crews and traffic-directing police officers, can often not exercise the same level of caution as someone merely standing on a busy street. As a result, courts have recognized specific categories of workers exempt from the duty to look for traffic. These include:

  • Telephone Repair Company Employees: When engaged in their duties, workers in this category are often focused on technical tasks and are exempt from the duty to look for oncoming traffic.
  • Streetcar Track Workers: Those responsible for maintaining streetcar tracks also fall under this exemption, as their work demands attention and leaves little room for traffic observation.
  • Construction Workers: Construction sites on busy streets require the undivided attention of workers, making them exempt from the ordinary pedestrian duty to watch for traffic.
  • Law Enforcement Officers: Police officers directing traffic or performing their duties on public streets are included in this group, as their focus must remain on maintaining order and safety.

Workers Not Exempt from the Duty to Look for Traffic

Conversely, there are situations where the exemption from the duty to look for oncoming traffic does not apply. Workers who occasionally use the street for tasks and do so by choice rather than necessity fall into this category. Courts have determined that the duty to look for traffic applies to workers in the following scenarios:

  • Photographers: Those who work in or near busy streets are considered to have voluntarily placed themselves in danger and are not exempt from the duty to look for traffic.
  • Plumbers: Plumbers carrying out their tasks on streets or roads are expected to exercise the same caution as ordinary pedestrians.
  • Newspapermen: Workers distributing newspapers on streets by choice are not exempt from the duty to watch for oncoming traffic.
  • Garbage Collectors: Individuals involved in garbage collection, especially those moving in and out of streets frequently, are subject to the pedestrian duty of looking for traffic.

Understanding these distinctions is essential for street laborers and motorists, as it helps establish clear guidelines for safety and responsibility in various work-related situations on public streets.