Pedestrian Accidents In Maryland: Do You Have A Good Case?
Maryland pedestrian accident law is based on a fault system.
That is, a striking driver is only “liable” and must pay damages to any pedestrian who was injured only if the driver was at fault.
Those of us who focus on Maryland pedestrian accident law usually describe pedestrian accident claims as having two components which we commonly call “liability” and “damages,” and that is the framework I will use to discuss Maryland pedestrian accidents.
Liability means “Who caused the accident?”
The basic rule is that vehicle operators and pedestrians have the same duty, to exercise ordinary care. The vehicle operator must exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring others, and pedestrian must exercise ordinary care to protect their safety.
Both have a duty to keep a proper lookout and make reasonable observations concerning the traffic and other conditions in order to protect themselves and others. Exactly what observations they should make and what they should do for their own safety and the safety of others depends on the circumstances.
These are some of the traffic rules that are used to determine responsibility for a Maryland pedestrian accident . . .
- Pedestrians must comply with all traffic control devices such as traffic signals. Pedestrians cannot cross a road, for example, if they are facing a solid red signal. In addition, pedestrians cannot begin to cross the street if there is a solid yellow signal.
- Pedestrians must comply with all pedestrian control signals. They must obey the “Walk,” “Don’t Walk” and “Wait” signals.
- Pedestrians have the right-of-way if they are in a crosswalk; however pedestrians cannot suddenly leave safety and walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, even if they are in a crosswalk.
- A pedestrian crossing at any point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk must yield the right-of-way to vehicles. (An “unmarked crosswalk” basically is an imaginary crosswalk which extends between the sidewalks on each side of the intersection.)
- Drivers must use their horn to warn pedestrians of danger.
- Drivers must exercise proper precaution when they see a child or an obviously confused or incapacitated individual.
- Pedestrians cannot walk on roadways if there is a sidewalk they could use.
- If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians can only walk on the left shoulder, if practicable, or on the left side of the roadway, as near as practicable to the edge of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic.
- When entering or leaving an alley, driveway or building, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
With all of these rules, you can see why determining liability for a Maryland pedestrian accident can be difficult.
Of course, if a driver is not paying attention and strikes a pedestrian who is lawfully in a crosswalk, the driver is almost always liable.
And it is also clear that if a pedestrian attempts to cross a street outside an available crosswalk, the pedestrian is almost always responsible.
However, in many cases of Maryland pedestrian accidents, it can be difficult to analyze where liability lies. That is why you should consult with a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer, such as us, as soon as possible after your accident.
Determining where fault lies depends on the facts of your case. To help the evaluation process, you should do these things as soon as possible to preserve the “evidence:”
- Write down the facts. Write down everything you can remember about where the accident happened, when it happened, where you were when you were struck, the weather conditions, anything the driver said at the scene, etc.
- Make pictures of the scene and of the vehicle(s) involved.
- Identify witnesses and, if possible, get statements from them.
- Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Accident Report, if one was written.
If you hire a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer, your lawyer will investigate the facts of your case and gather the necessary proof of liability.
One thing is certain. The driver’s insurance company will immediately investigate the facts of your case, looking for reason to “deny liability” so they can refuse to pay you anything.
Therefore, if you decide to hire a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer to help you, you should do that as soon as possible to give your lawyer time to investigate and thoroughly prepare your case.
Defenses To Liability Claims
The insurance company for the driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong.
Or, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”
The alternative to contributory negligence that exists in most states is called “comparative negligence,” a much better and more fair rule.
Under comparative negligence, which varies slightly among the states that have this rule, the fault of the two drivers is “compared” and the one who is more at fault pays while the one who is less at fault has his or her claim reduced by the percentage of their fault. For example, if Jones is 90% responsible for causing an accident and Smith is 10% at fault, Smith can recover from Jones for her injuries, but Smith can only recover 90% of full compensation.
Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only 4 states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If it exists in your case, contributory negligence defeats your claim.
According to the contributory negligence rule in Maryland, if you contributed in any way to causing your accident, you have no claim against the driver. In theory, if you are only 1% responsible for causing an accident and the striking driver is 99% at fault, under Maryland pedestrian accident law you are not entitled to recover from the striking driver!
The usual defense raised by insurance companies in pedestrian accident cases is that the pedestrian was somewhere s/he should not have been when struck, such as crossing outside a crosswalk.
Under Maryland pedestrian accident law, if you can prove that the driver caused your accident and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident, there is ‘liability.’
“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the striking driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”
There are two main categories of damages in Maryland pedestrian accident law, property damage and personal injury damages.
Property damage, or “P.D.” as it is sometimes called, refers to the damage to your property.
If anything you were carrying was damaged or destroyed, the at-fault driver must compensate you for your loss(es).
“Damages” also include injury claims. Some insurance companies call these personal injury claims, or “P.I.” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for the injuries that the striking driver’s carelessness caused.
Under Maryland pedestrian accident law, P.I. (or B.I.) damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.
The economic losses that you can recover include . . .
- all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that resulted from the accident,
- any loss of income, such as employment income, and
- any other economic losses that result from the accident.
If Maryland pedestrian accident law merely required the careless driver to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully and fairly compensated.
The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused.
Because you did nothing to cause these losses, fundamental fairness — and Maryland pedestrian accident law — require the one who caused your injuries to compensate you in money damages for such noneconomic losses as . . .
- physical pain
- mental anguish
- physical impairment
- damage to your marital relationship.
To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life?
If you hire a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.
Defenses To Damage Claims
You must be able to prove that the striking driver’s negligence caused your injuries and damages.
Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their driver’s carelessness caused your damages. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your damages was an earlier accident, a later accident, the normal aging process . . . or anything else they can think of.
Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your pedestrian accident.
How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?
The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, in addition to the amount of your financial losses, that determination will depend on such things as . . .
- how seriously you are injured
- how long you suffer with your injuries and
- whether you recover fully
What you want is a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the careless driver, but it will be for less than the claim you will have if you do not recover quickly or completely.
Fair compensation for your injuries under Maryland pedestrian accident law includes the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your auto accident, the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your auto accident and an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.
The end result could be as little as about 1 ½ times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.
Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the at-fault driver’s insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer on your side protecting your interests.
PIP No-Fault Claim
One final, but important, point about Maryland pedestrian accident law.
Everything that I have told you so far about injury claims concerns your liability claim against the careless driver who caused your accident. (Actually, in almost all cases, although your claim is against the careless driver, you will deal with that driver’s insurance company and that company, not the driver, will pay the claim under the driver’s liability insurance coverage.)
However, there may be another claim you can make after your Maryland pedestrian accident.
I am referring to a claim under a type of insurance coverage called “PIP” — which rhymes with “sip” — and which stands for “personal injury protection.” Actually some insurance companies have other names for it — such as economic loss protection — but everyone in the industry knows this coverage as PIP.
Although Maryland pedestrian accident law is based on fault, PIP is an exception. PIP is a no-fault claim. That means that, after an accident, you can make a PIP claim without proving who caused the accident. You simply have to prove that an accident occurred and that, as a result, you suffered damages that are covered by PIP.
PIP covers your medical bills and (85% of) your lost income, up to the policy limit. The policy limit must be at least $2,500, and some insurance companies will sell you up to $10,000 of PIP coverage.
The driver’s PIP insurance coverage is “primary,” which means that the driver’s insurance company must pay you PIP benefits.
If that driver did not have PIP insurance, YOUR insurance policy provides “secondary” coverage and pays your PIP claim.
The real value of PIP — in fact, the reason that it came into existence — is that it can provide benefits much sooner than your liability claim against the at-fault driver.
As I discuss elsewhere at this website, you should not even present your injury claim until you fully recover from your injuries (or, at least, recover as much as you are going to), but you can submit your PIP claim without delay. Then, if you have additional medical bills or lost wages, you can send a supplement to your PIP claim. In fact, you can keep submitting supplements until your medical bills and lost income stop or until you have received the policy limit of benefits.
Here’s an insurance TIP. I recommend that you purchase as much PIP coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It doesn’t cost much, and it is awfully handy if you are in a serious auto accident that disables you for a lengthy time.
You can safely make a PIP claim under your policy without fear that your insurance rates will increase or that making the claim will affect or limit in any way your liability claim against the careless driver. It won’t.
To learn more about Maryland pedestrian accidents, contact us any time.