Second to car-to-car collisions, innocent people crossing streets are being struck every day by careless drivers, causing severe and life-threatening injuries. Too often, these accident victims are innocent children or the elderly.
Often, for some reason, the official police report blames the pedestrian for the collision between the person and vehicle. The good news is that in states like New Jersey, the official police report is not admissible as proof of negligence because it is merely the opinion of the investigating officer and is considered hearsay.
New Jersey Pedestrian Accident Statistics
According to the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), there were 176 pedestrian deaths in 2019 and 179 fatalities in 2020. However, the number of pedestrian deaths jumped significantly in 2021 to 220 fatalities. That’s a roughly 23 percent increase in a single year.
This increase in pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey reflects a growing problem across the United States. Early data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projects that pedestrian deaths nationwide rose from 6,412 in 2019 to over 6,700 fatalities in 2020. This is an increase of almost five percent, despite fewer drivers on the road in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the Time, It Was Not the Pedestrian’s Fault….It Was the Driver’s Inattention!
Driver inattention to observing and yielding to pedestrians is the number one reason most pedestrian injury cases win settlements or jury verdicts. Unfortunately, these cases are on the rise.
So far, researchers have not found a specific cause for the increase in pedestrian injuries or fatalities. However, they have suggested outright negligence may be to blame, mainly due to the pandemic, including the following:
- Speeding — Drivers who speed have a harder time seeing pedestrians in their path and stopping in time to avoid them. The force of a crash is more devastating the faster the vehicle in question is traveling. Without the protection of a car, pedestrians are especially at risk in a traffic accident.
- Reckless driving — There seems to have been a surge in reckless driving behavior across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. One survey of driver behavior during the pandemic found that drivers were over seven percent more likely to speed or drive while impaired, significantly increasing the odds of causing an accident.
- Fewer police stops — The COVID-19 pandemic has strained many institutions, including law enforcement agencies. Police may be making fewer stops due to a lack of resources or prioritizing other activities
How Is It That Police Reports Often Blame the Pedestrian?
There are several reasons. The law clearly states that pedestrians crossing a crosswalk have the right of way; all vehicles, including trucks, cars, busses, and even police cars and ambulances, must yield the right of way to pedestrians.
But, in most other circumstances, the police blamed the pedestrian. People crossing in the middle of a street still have a right to sue a negligent driver and win a settlement for their injuries. Personal injury lawyers call these cases “mid-block crossing” cases. In a mid-block crossing case, a skilled personal injury lawyer understands that they must show that the driver was negligent in failing to observe the pedestrian.
The police often report the facts wrong. For example, pedestrian accident victims too are often unconscious or too injured to give a statement. In addition, many accident victims do not speak English and are not understood by the police officer. The police allow EMTs to attend to the crash victim while they interview the driver, who often blames the pedestrian as “coming out of nowhere” or either running into the side of the car or wearing dark clothing. Often these frivolous defenses are bogus and offered by the negligent driver who can not accept that they struck a pedestrian.
Unfortunately, sometimes pedestrians are caused to lose their lives and are unavailable to testify as to the facts and circumstances leading to their death. As a result, injury lawyers experienced in handling wrongful death cases often hire the services of accident reconstruction experts. Although county prosecutors immediately dispatch their county fatal accident investigation teams to the crash scene, their function is to determine whether criminal charges are appropriate. As a result, their official report normally takes many months to complete and is usually not released without a court order pending a potential indictment of the negligent driver.
Starting the investigation early is key to preserving valuable evidence. Experienced injury lawyers, especially firms with attorneys certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, have the experience, skill, and resources to hire and dispatch their accident reconstruction investigators to the accident scene, which will serve as expert witnesses putting the blame where it belongs….on the negligent driver.
Recent Increase in Pedestrian Accident Fatalities in New Jersey
The number of fatal pedestrian accidents in New Jersey soared in 2021. Unfortunately, safety advocates are worried about the trend. Drivers and others must do more to keep pedestrians safe in New Jersey.
What Injuries are Suffered by Pedestrians?
Unfortunately, pedestrians have very little protection when a car, truck, or bus strikes. Tons of metal against soft tissue and bone usually cause lacerations, fractures, road rash, and neck, back, and spinal injuries. In addition, pedestrians struck directly by a front bumper may suffer a closed head injury as they are thrown into the vehicle’s windshield. Other severe injuries to pedestrians include paralysis, quadriplegia, amputation, and death.
Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. Partner – Victim of a Pedestrian Accident
One such pedestrian accident victim is Steven Benvenisti, a partner in New Jersey’s injury law firm Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, PC, who, as a college student during spring break, was struck by a drunk driver. Benvenisti was in a coma for ten days, with bilateral open leg fractures and a traumatic brain injury.
Lucky for him, he fully recovered from his injuries and went to law school, studying injury law and becoming an advocate for personal injury victims. His advocacy led him to become co-chairman of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and president of the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey. He also wrote an inspirational book entitled “Spring Break,” which recounts his life story and road to recovery.
What Is Being Done to Protect New Jersey Pedestrians?
State officials and other safety advocates are trying several solutions to help keep pedestrians safe. GHSA’s Senior Director of External Engagement, Pam Fischer, said one way to prevent pedestrian deaths is to build new infrastructure that better separates pedestrians from vehicle traffic. However, these infrastructure projects take time to complete and may not be an immediate solution.
Regarding existing options, Fischer said another way to protect pedestrians is to increase enforcement of speeding violations with traffic cameras. Fischer also suggested lowering speed limits in urban areas and residential neighborhoods because these areas tend to have more pedestrians.
Check out our infographic about 3 technologies used to reduce drunk drivers.
Contact a New Jersey Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today
Were you struck by a motor vehicle? You may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, disfigurement, missed time at work, and emotional distress. But filing a personal injury claim on your own can be difficult, especially when you should be recovering from your injuries. The best legal advice for accident victims is to hire an experienced and skilled personal injury lawyer as early as possible. They will only get paid if they win.
Injury Steven Benvenisti’s book, Spring Break, and his law partner, injury lawyer Garry Salomon’s book, The Consumer’s Guide to New Jersey Personal Injury Claims, are available for free to accident victims by calling 1-800-LAW-2000. Both Benvenisti and Salomon are certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as civil trial attorneys. Both are available for recommendations and advice throughout the US.
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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.