In our last blog post, we discussed our excitement of the upcoming Spring season and how pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can safely coexist when enjoying the weather and roadways.
Unfortunately, as many tips as we provide, sometimes accidents still happen. And if they do, you should know your legal rights so that you have the best chance possible to recover from an accident.
Criminal vs. Civil Prosecution
Of course, if you are involved in an accident as a pedestrian, runner or cyclist, you will want to work with local law enforcement to determine if any criminal activity resulted in your injury and prosecute the person at fault in a criminal case.
But if there’s no criminal case to pursue, you may decide to file a lawsuit in civil court. A lawsuit can help you recover money necessary to pay for medical bills, living expenses, recover lost wages or burial expenses for a loved one if the accident was fatal.
However, it’s not always an automatic win for a victim, even if the victim was running, walking or cycling when the accident occurred.
The case may not be as clear-cut as you wish.
Determining Fault For A Pedestrian Or Cycling Accident
Before you can recover any damages from a lawsuit, the case must determine how much each person was at fault for the accident.
There is no hard and fast rule to determine who is at fault for an accident. Each situation is different, and the determination of fault will determine how much you can be awarded in damages.
In Tennessee, courts follow a guideline known as “modified comparative fault,” which means the amount of money you could be awarded in a lawsuit is determined by how much or how little you are found to be at fault.
In the example of a runner hit by a car, the runner might sue the car driver to recover damages for injuries that resulted in medical bills, lost wages, etc. But perhaps the driver thinks that the runner was partially to blame for the accident.
In this situation, it is up to the judge or jury (depending on the situation) to determine how much each person was at fault for the accident. The car driver must have a majority of the fault or share equally with the runner (50% or more), if the runner is to receive any damages at all.
If the runner is mostly (anything over 50%) at fault for the accident, then he gets nothing. If he is 0% at fault, then he can collect all of the money awarded to him in the lawsuit. However, if the runner has even a little bit of fault (1-50%), then it will affect how much can be awarded in damages.
Every Case Is Unique
Understanding how each person involved in a motor vehicle accident contributes to the accident can help a victim decide whether or not to pursue legal action, and how many factors influence the outcome of a civil lawsuit.