Pedestrians are the most vulnerable users of our busy roads, especially in London. They represent the second most likely category of road user (after car occupants) to be injured in a road accident.  In Greater London in 2011 there were over 5000 pedestrians suffering injuries and 77 pedestrian fatalities, more than for both cyclists and motorcyclists. Those 77 fatally injured people represented a 33% increase on the previous year.

What makes matters worse is the damage inflicted on pedestrians. In a car you are twice as likely to be injured as a pedestrian but only half as likely to suffer serious injuries. With the protective steel shell of a car around you the injuries are often limited to whiplash symptoms, whereas pedestrians commonly sustain serious head, spinal and orthopaedic injuries from collisions with vehicles. In London in 2011 the figures were 903 serious injuries amongst pedestrians, and only 467 amongst car users and 555 for cyclists.

So we have a serious problem with public safety on our roads and it is not clear what action is being taken to reduce casualty numbers. In our neighbourhood in Camden there has been much publicity over Transport for London’s ‘Naked Streets’ campaign, which involves removing hundreds of safety barriers along the pavements lining the busy six way junction in Camden Town. It may make the area look nicer but what will it do for keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart at a busy interchange?

Osbornes’ interactive road accident map shows all UK accidents reported in 2011. The filters allow you to analyse data for specific locations and accident types, for instance to see the very high number of pedestrian accidents in and around central Camden Town. New accidents can be added to the map and that will allow us to guage whether or not initiatives like the Naked Streets campaign has been successful in this location.

We deal with very many pedestrian accident claims at Osbornes Solicitors, and there are some common scenarios.

Pedestrian crossing the road on a zebra or pelican crossing

Unsurprisingly, a pedestrian knocked down on a zebra crossing or on a pelican crossing when the lights are in their favour will almost always succeed with a claim against the driver of the vehicle that hit them. It is a criminal offence as well as a civil breach of duty to fail to give way to a pedestrian on a zebra crossing.

But the pedestrian also owes a duty of care for their own protection, to look for traffic before crossing and to keep looking as they cross, so it is common for the injured party to lose a percentage of their compensation for ‘contributory negligence’ if it is proved by evidence that they failed to look and for instance stepped out in front of approaching traffic.

 Pedestrian crossing the road elsewhere

Where the pedestrian is not at a crossing the general rule of thumb in deciding liability is to ask whether or not they were ‘there to be seen’ or not. And the answer to this question depends on the circumstances of the accident and the available evidence. 

So the pedestrian running across the road from behind a parked car in the dark is likely to be the author of their own misfortune if they are hit by a passing car. But an elderly person crossing a dual carriageway slowly and in broad daylight who is hit in the second of two lanes should have been visible to oncoming motorists and so the accident will have been the fault of the motorist.

There are many cases of this type where liability is likely to be apportioned between the motorist and the pedestrian. If it can be shown that the motorist should have seen the pedestrian and taken evasive action then the case is likely to succeed, and any contributory negligence on the part of the pedestrian is likely to be less than 50%

Pedestrian under the influence

It is not uncommon for pedestrians in the road to be under the influence of drink or drugs. Of course it is not a crime to have been drinking, but when a road accident follows it is often alleged that the cause of the accident was the pedestrian being drunk and not taking care for their own safety. Whilst it is true that drink or drugs can affect the way liability is apportioned, it does not excuse a motorist’s negligence. A pedestrian may be crossing the road at an unsafe place, or in an unsafe way, perhaps walking slowly or unsteadily and not looking properly for traffic, but if as above they are there to be seen in the road then the driver will still be liable for the accident. The issue will be how much the compensation will be reduced to reflect the pedestrian’s own negligence, and again this will depend on the circumstances of the case.

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident we are happy to discuss the case of you free of charge and to advise you on the prospects of success.

Case studies

We recently acted for Mrs B, a lady in her 50s who suffered from the effect of a stroke some years earlier and was confined to a wheelchair. She was enjoying a day out at the seaside with her husband and they were on the pavement next to the sea wall at Hastings. Suddenly a car left the road, mounted the kerb and crashed into her, crushing both of her lower legs.

1. Mrs B suffered horrific injuries, involving degloving of tissue and muscle and multiple fractures. She underwent a series of operations, including skin grafting, and the rehabilitation process was long and hard. 

We secured an early admission of liability, defendant funded private treatment and rehab and interim payments. Her orthopaedic expert recommended further scans and time for further healing before he could give a final prognosis, and for that reason the future adaptations and care claim were pending.

Sadly Mrs B died within a year of the accident from an unrelated illness. That did not defeat the claim but it greatly reduced its value: the future losses would no longer be incurred and the period of pain and suffering was less than it would otherwise be but there was still the claim for the past losses and the pain and suffering up to the date of death. Mrs B’s husband was the executor of her will and was able to maintain the claim on behalf of her estate. The case settled for over £70,000.

2. Mrs N was crossing the road on a zebra crossing when she was knocked down by a taxi. The taxi driver’s insurers agreed to settle the case on a 100% liability basis: the evidence about how the accident happened did not allow them to argue that it was partly her fault for not looking properly. She suffered several fractures, including to the pelvis, but recovered remarkably well and was left with only very minor symptoms. She had been off work for the initial 8 weeks but her employers paid her salary in full. She relied on friends for care and help with housework for many weeks and we claimed for 80 hours of voluntary care. Adding the loss of a holiday she had paid for the past loss claim was less than £2000. The claim for her injuries was more substantial and after negotiations with the insurers the claim was settled for the total figure of £31,000.

 3. Ms K a Polish national living in London, was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing. 

The evidence suggested that she crossed as the green man light went out, and the crossing was a three lane carriageway, so that by the time she reached the third lane the lights for traffic had changed to green. The defendant was approaching the crossing in the third lane. He slowed down but just before he got there the lights turned to green. There was a stationary bus in the middle lane so that his view of the crossing was obscured. He did not stop and drove over the crossing just as Ms K walked over the third lane and into his path.

The defendant then stopped but drove off without exchanging particulars or reporting the accident to the police. Luckily, witnesses took a note of his car registration number and so the police were able to trace him and he was prosecuted and convicted of the offences of driving without due care and attention.

The motorist’s insurers eventually accepted liability, after county court proceedings were issued. It was open to them to argue that Ms K was partly at fault in crossing when it was unsafe to do so, but their insured’s driving, including the failure to stop after the accident, was so bad that he would probably have taken all the blame had the matter gone to trial in the civil courts.

Ms K was fortunate that she only suffered soft tissue injuries. The defendants funded a private MRI scan and the case settled after expert medical evidence was served for £4000 in compensation.

4. Mr V, a Bulgarian lorry driver, was injured when he was standing on the pavement at a bus stop, near the kerb. He was chatting to a friend and not looking at an approaching bus. The bus pulled in to the bus stop but over steered the manoeuvre so that the nearside front wheel of the bus almost touched the kerb and that corner of the bus and its wing mirror projected over the line of the road into the pavement. The wing mirror struck Mr V on the side of the head and he sustained a cut to the head and concussion. 

The laceration needed three stitches but the resultant scar was covered by his hair and so was not visible. He fully recovered from the head injury symptoms within three months.

The case was settled within nine months for £2300.