During the colder months in Massachusetts, drivers face many wintertime perils that pose a serious risk to pedestrians. Early sunsets make it more difficult to see pedestrians during the afternoon commute. Snow piles may get in the way of a driver seeing someone walking on the sidewalk where he needs to pull in. Black ice can create a serious danger if a car approaches an intersection when skidding and is unable to stop for a pedestrian in a cross walk.
These are just a few common threats to people on foot, but perhaps no place is more dangerous for a pedestrian than a parking lot.
Statistics bear out that parking lots are a potential danger zone for drivers. According to the California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and the Automobile Club of Southern California, "backing up accounts for 25 percent of car crashes but just 1 percent of driving time." According to a statement from Bloomberg News, "distractions from passengers, phones, the radio or intense parking-spot searches contribute to high crash rates in lots." California officials "recommend that drivers check surroundings before entering their cars, look every direction when pulling in or out of a parking space, stay off the gas pedal while backing up and watch for pedestrians moving between vehicles."
Drivers' Duties in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, all drivers have a duty to use reasonable care. In general, when controlling a motor vehicle a person must use that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would use under the circumstances. Reasonable care, it can be said, should be enough care for a driver to avoid accidents such as hitting a pedestrian who himself is following traffic laws. So, a driver must do those things a reasonably prudent person would do and would not do those things a reasonably prudent person would not do.
Should a driver veer from the prudent, take an unnecessary risk, or make a bad decision when dangers are obvious, he may be liable for expenses related to the injury should his actions cause harm to someone else.
How Drivers Can Avoid Striking Pedestrians
In winter, it is important to consider the weather and road conditions in order to drive prudently. If there is a reasonable chance it is icy or reasonable drivers would have surmised roads were icy - slow down. If you skid on ice and hit someone in a crosswalk, you will be liable. When backing from a parking space use extra caution to be sure no one is behind you or beside you getting into a car. Use caution that is reasonable in the circumstance. Don't merely give a quick glance to your side mirror - take your time and look around. Children can be particularly hard to see because they are shorter than adults and may not be easily visible as you look through the back window of your car. If you back up and hit someone you should have seen, you will be liable for the harm to them and may be out of quite a lot of money.
What sort of damages might a driver owe to a pedestrian he injures in an accident? In Massachusetts the driver who caused the injury owes the hurt party "fair and reasonable" compensation. Usually the driver who injured someone will be ordered to pay medical expenses incurred by the accident victim because of the accident including lost earnings and various out-of-pocket expenses such as those for prescription medicines or medical equipment. The driver may have to pay the injured person for pain and suffering, psychological or psychiatric treatment that the injured party sought because of the accident at issue. A driver might even have to pay an injured person for loss of earning capacity if they are disabled as a result of the accident, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium. If the injured party had a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the accident, the driver may be ordered to pay for the costs associated with the worsened condition as well.
All in all, a winter's night errand can end in disaster if care is not used by a driver the entire time he is behind the wheel.
Winter brings unique hazards when it comes to safe driving. All drivers should use extra caution during this time of year. In particular, a driver must be aware of circumstances especially in areas where pedestrians might be walking. Taking an extra moment to scan for pedestrians or driving a little slower on a street with foot traffic can be crucial.
If you or a loved one is injured in a pedestrian accident, arrange a consultation with an experienced attorney. Call the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone today to find out how we can help.