Millions of people living in New York City choose to walk to and from where they go every day for a variety of reasons. In a large urban location like NYC, driving a car to get where you need to go isn’t always the best idea. Traffic is almost always bumper to bumper, and New York drivers are not exactly known for being the most conscientious and relaxed group of people on earth. With so many pedestrians going about their day, it is almost inevitable that some motorists will hit an unsuspecting passerby and seriously injure them. This can lead to financial hardship and a long road to recovery.
If a driver negligently hits and injures you, you may feel that your rights as a pedestrian have been violated, and you should go to court both for financial compensation and to hold the parties responsible for your injuries accountable. Below, we’ll walk you through what you need to know as a pedestrian so that you are not totally blindsided in a lawsuit.
Your Rights as a Pedestrian in NYC
Most people don’t go about their day thinking about what their rights are as a pedestrian, but Queens personal injury lawyers do. Like most East Coasters, the most thought that goes into that question is probably something along the lines of, “Cars aren’t supposed to hit me, and I should cross the street when and where I am supposed to. This is America.” We can’t help it, we’ve got places to be.
If you were hit by a motor vehicle and are seeking to pursue a lawsuit, the rights and duties of pedestrians and drivers will come into much closer scrutiny. New York has laws in place that outline what pedestrians need to do to stay safe. We’ll explain them so that you have some idea of what to expect if you choose to pursue a pedestrian accident lawsuit.
Crosswalks and Right of Way
Everyone knows what a crosswalk is. It is an area of road specially designated for pedestrians to go from one side of the street to another. The rights of pedestrians at crosswalks are outlined in V.A.T. Law § 1151. Essentially, pedestrians have the right to travel through these areas when crossing the street, and drivers must yield to them. However, pedestrians also have a responsibility to not “suddenly” leave the curb and dart across the street, making it so that the driver has an unreasonably short amount of time to react to the pedestrian.
Pedestrians and Roadways
While drivers do need to yield to pedestrians in New York, pedestrians have their own responsibilities, too. For example, under V.A.T. Law § 1156, pedestrians must use sidewalks when they are available. As a pedestrian, it may complicate things if you are not using a sidewalk when a driver hits you. That being said, a multitude of circumstances can make using a sidewalk impracticable, if not impossible. If no sidewalk is present, pedestrians must use the leftmost part of the road and do their best to avoid any vehicles.
Drivers and Sidewalks
Per V.A.T. Law § 1151-a, drivers must yield to pedestrians on a sidewalk when the driver is exiting an alleyway back onto a main road.
Serious Injury Laws in New York Pedestrian Accident Cases
When someone gets hit by a car, they, understandably, would come to the conclusion that they can sue the person who hit them to get damages to cover their injuries. After all, the point of civil lawsuits is to get the plaintiff back to a similar position to where they were prior to getting hurt. However, in New York, there are certain legal thresholds that need to be met in order to file a lawsuit against a motorist who injured you.
New York law requires that a would-be plaintiff’s injuries need to meet a “serious injury” threshold. This is established by I.S.C. Law § 5104. “Serious injuries” are classified, broadly, under I.S.C. Law § 5102(d) as death, disfigurement, fractures, and the loss of the use of a bodily function or organ. While these terms may sound like a particularly high bar to reach, the reality is that a broken arm or leg would meet the serious injury threshold, so an injury does not need to reach the level of severe internal organ damage or permanent facial scarring and disfigurement to be considered “serious.”
New York requires all drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP) as part of their insurance policies. This is important because the PIP that applies to an accident like this is the insurance policy of the driver who hit you. The idea is that PIP is likely to cover most or all of a victim’s cost of recovery in the event of minor injuries. For more serious injuries, PIP may not be enough, so that is when lawsuits kick in.
Traffic Laws Aren’t Enough – Keep Yourself Safe!
In summation, drivers must be on the lookout for pedestrians and be careful, but pedestrians have some things they have to do on their end, too. If you were injured because a driver hit you, the best course of action is to seek legal representation to get a better grip on your situation.