Pedestrians May Feel Safe on Sidewalks—But Are They Really?
Pedestrian accidents are a huge problem in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4,375 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2013—which averages to a pedestrian death every two hours. In addition, children have a high risk of dying in these tragic accidents. Sadly, one in five children under 14 years old who died in vehicle crashes in 2013 were pedestrians.
Sidewalks and intersections are designed in part to prevent pedestrian accidents, and people walking on them instead of the road and crossing the street at intersections may feel safe. However, this is a false sense of security. The reality is that pedestrians face dangers even when they do the right thing and use a sidewalk.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Sidewalk Accidents
Pedestrian accidents on sidewalks happen in two main scenarios. The first occurs when a driver drives onto the sidewalk, crashing into the pedestrian. Another way pedestrians are injured is when they slip or trip and fall on the sidewalk—sometimes into oncoming traffic. Common causes of these accidents include:
- Distracted driving. A driver can engage in many unsafe driving practices when he is distracted by eating and drinking, using a cell phone, or looking at a GPS. Sadly, one consequence could be that he drifts onto the sidewalk right into the path of an unsuspecting pedestrian.
- Speeding. Speeding can cause a driver to lose control of his vehicle or be unable to take quick preventative measures to avoid an accident. Walkers injured by a speeding vehicle can suffer even more horrific injuries because the force of the impact will be greater.
- Drunk driving. A driver intoxicated on alcohol and drugs may not even realize that he has veered off the road onto the sidewalk or could lose control of his vehicle and plow into people on the sidewalk—with disastrous consequences for the victims.
- Reckless driving. Reckless driving can involve many unsafe driving practices, such as speeding, driving when intoxicated, tailgating, and engaging in other aggressive driving practices, all that can result in a preventable sidewalk accident.
- Dangerous construction sites. Construction sites can pose tripping hazards if no warning signs are posted, or holes and other dangers are not enclosed. In addition, pedestrians can be hit by heavy construction materials or tools that fall onto them when construction workers are working from heights.
- Large cracks caused by tree roots. Trees are often planted by sidewalks to make them more attractive. When they are not maintained, tree roots can push up out of the ground, creating a tripping hazard for walkers.
- Cracks or uneven concrete. When sidewalks are not maintained and repairs are not done correctly, cracks can develop in the payment or the concrete could become uneven. Unsuspecting pedestrians can trip and have a serious fall—sometimes being flung onto the roadway.
- Wet, icy, or slippery surfaces. When weather conditions make sidewalks slippery, the business or municipality responsible for maintaining them should promptly remove excessive water, ice, or snow, but often negligently fail to do so.
- Spills and puddles of liquid or food. In our fast-paced world, people eat and drink while they walk. When their spills—or spills from deliveries—are not promptly cleaned up or warning signs posted, people walking on the sidewalk could slip and fall.
- Hazards and debris on the sidewalk. Just like retail businesses need to be cleared of boxes, trash, and other debris regularly, sidewalks also need this level of attention due to the high number of people who use the sidewalks on a daily basis. If this is not done, the victim of a slip and fall may have a claim against the negligent party.
- Open manhole covers. Manhole covers that are left open can create a serious danger to pedestrians, who can suffer life-altering injuries if they suddenly fall down one of these holes.
- Negligent sidewalk design or construction. Sometimes it is the negligent engineering or construction of the sidewalk that creates a slip and fall hazard.
- Building code or ordinance violations. If a building code has been violated in the construction or repair of the sidewalk or an ordinance—such as a time limit for the removal of ice—has been violated, this would be powerful evidence of the liable party’s negligence.
Many different parties could be liable if you suffered an injury as a pedestrian on a sidewalk. An experienced attorney can help you determine who you need to sue. Start an online chat today or call us toll free at 877-401-6689 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with David Brauns to learn who could be responsible for compensating you for your injuries.