Pedestrians walking along a busy road assume a significant risk of being struck by a motor vehicle and suffering a serious injury or death. They also may be charged with a portion of the responsibility for their fate under Washington’s comparative fault law. The recent deaths of two pedestrians on Military Road in Seattle demonstrates how these issues can arise.
According to the Federal Way Police Department, two persons were walking on the east side of Military Road at about 11:55 a.m. when a southbound vehicle crossed the center line and struck both individuals. The two individuals were pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the wrong-way vehicle continued on his path until it hit a barrier that halted its progress. The driver was taken to Harborview Medical Center.
The effect of comparative fault
The driver of the car that struck the pedestrians will probably be assessed a major share of the fault for the accident. However, this share of the fault may be reduced if the jury finds that the two individuals were negligent in walking on the road and where they were walking when they were struck by the wrong-way car.
If the deceased persons were walking too close to the traffic lane (or even in the traffic lane) when they were hit, a jury may find that they were partially at fault for their deaths. Under Washington’s comparative fault statute, the jury is required to allocate a share of fault to all parties who were negligent, including the two pedestrians. The court must then apportion damages according to the jury’s determination of the percentage of fault attributed to each party.
The effect on damage awards
The families of the deceased pedestrians have solid claims for wrongful death for each victim. Unless further investigation turns up material facts that could affect a finding of fault, each family can collect damages for the loss of their loved one. These damages include potential lost income, medical and funeral expenses, and compensation for loss of companionship.