As a parent, the safety and wellbeing of your children is a constant priority. You make every effort to teach your children the lessons that will help them through their lives and day-to-day routines. Unfortunately, accidents can happen anywhere and at any time—even after all possible precautions are taken. No matter how prepared you and your child might be for the unexpected, it is nearly impossible to predict when you will cross paths with a reckless and negligent driver.
Your children face hidden dangers during some of their most treasured childhood pastimes: on a walk to school, on a bike ride with friends, or just simply playing in the neighborhood. Even the quietest suburban streets can become a hazardous area when a dangerous driver travels down your road.
Drivers, in general, owe a duty of care to those around them when they are operating a vehicle. But when a driver travels along an area where children may be present, they must take extra precaution and drive slowly and carefully to help ensure the safety of any child they might encounter.
Why Are Kids Particularly Vulnerable to Being Hit By a Car?
In a recent study of traffic accidents, it is estimated that 1 out of every 5 children under the age of 15 that have lost their lives in a traffic-related accident were pedestrians, not passengers.
When it comes to pedestrian accidents, children over the age of six and under the age of 15 are especially vulnerable to being struck by a vehicle. These ages coincide with the time in which most children will walk to school or engage in outside play with friends.
Unfortunately, younger children are also often victims of pedestrian accidents. Kids under the age of 6 tend to be involved in pedestrian accidents near home—such as a driveway or neighborhood street.
Children are especially susceptible to a pedestrian accident due to:
- Height. For a child, especially under the age of 12, their height can be a great challenge and obstacle for traveling safely along the roadways. The shorter stature of children makes it difficult for drivers to identify them in or near a roadway or behind standing objects. It also makes it difficult for a child to get a good look at their surroundings and oncoming traffic. While the road may appear clear in their immediate vicinity, their height can make it hard to see a vehicle further down the road or around a corner that would be visible to most adults.
- Cognitive function. A study that evaluated the risk factors for kids in pedestrian collisions noted that the act of crossing a street requires various cognitive abilities and can be quite complex. The reality is that most young children lack these skills, and even older children can have difficulty executing the steps required to successfully and safely engage in this challenging task, time and time again. The study identified several skills that can contribute to a child’s risk of involvement in a pedestrian accident. The skills include the ability to focus, reaction times, and evaluation of risk.
- Delayed reaction times. Children and adolescents do not have the same ability to react and act like an adult. Developmentally, the younger a child, the slower their reaction times can be. Even if a child sees a motorist driving erratically or speeding, they may not have the capacity to react and respond to the danger ahead accordingly. They must not only identify the potential danger ahead, but also effectively decide what action they must take.
- Lack of awareness. Focus and attention are vital for an individual to navigate the roads and sidewalks safely. Children are known for their short attention spans and reduced capability to focus for a prolonged period. Crossing a street requires a person to pay attention and watch out for traffic, lights, road signs, obstacles in the road, etc. Just a moment of lost focus can mean the difference between an accident and a non-event.
- Reduced perception of risk. Not only must children identify the surrounding risks, they must decide the safest route or path to take. Often, younger children are accompanied by an adult or older child that will help them make these decisions, but even older children have a difficult time recognizing a dangerous situation or the risks present in a particular area.
How Do Most Pedestrian Accidents With Children Occur?
The vast majority of accidents in which a child is struck are due to the negligence of a driver. Even when an error or small lapse of judgment may have occurred on the part of the child, most drivers will be held responsible for the injuries and accidents they have caused. This is because drivers must exercise greater care when driving a vehicle near children or when children are potentially in the area. Most pedestrian accidents with children could have been avoided if the driver had not acted negligently.
Common causes of child pedestrian accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless driving
- Dangerous maneuvers
- Violation of traffic laws
Where Do Most Child Pedestrian Accidents Happen?
Most people would assume that pedestrian accidents with children occur in high-risk areas and busy intersections. The truth is that the majority of child pedestrian accidents occur in the places where children are likely to feel safest: their schools, driveways, and neighborhoods. Even with safeguards such as speed bumps, posted speed limits, and other safety measures, reckless drivers are still a risk. Anyone who exceeds the speed limit, drives distracted, or fails to yield to crossing guards and posted signs poses a danger to the children within a community.
Examples of the locations where a child is susceptible to being struck by a vehicle include:
- During the walk to or from school
- Travel to and from their bus stop
- The driveway of a home
- Neighborhood streets
- Close to playgrounds or parks
- In parking lots
How Often Are Kids the Victims of Pedestrian Accidents?
In the U.S., motor vehicle-related accidents are the leading causes of death among children younger than 15. In a given year, over 5,000 children will lose their lives in a traffic-related accident. While this number includes all accidents related to motor vehicles, up to 25% of the child and adolescent deaths are related to a collision with a vehicle as a pedestrian or while bicycling. In addition to the fatalities in child pedestrian accidents, thousands more each year suffer injuries and lifelong impacts from being struck by a car.
What Are Some of the Most Common Injuries When a Child is Hit by a Vehicle?
An individual struck by a vehicle can suffer a range of devastating injuries which necessitate extensive recovery time. When the victim of a pedestrian accident is a child, the injuries can be exacerbated and have a significant impact on the child’s current way of life as well as their future.
Children and adolescents are in a constant state of growth and development. Injuries during these vital life stages can have far-reaching consequences on the rest of their lives. Treatment of these injuries requires specialized care and consideration for the future growth of the child and any special needs or complications that could arise in their future.
Many factors can contribute to the impact on a child in a collision with a vehicle. These factors often can have great weight on the severity of the injuries suffered in a pedestrian accident. The speed of the vehicle, the overall size and height of the vehicle, the angle at which a child is hit, and the time and proximity in which a child receives emergency medical care will all influence the survivability and extent of the injuries sustained.
Another important factor that can put a child at risk of greater injury is also their height. The height of an individual can mean the difference between being primarily struck in the legs, torso, or head. The location of impact on the body can make all the difference between life and death in these often tragic accidents.
Some common injuries of children involved in pedestrian accidents include:
- Brain, head, and neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Fractures and broken bones
- Injuries to tendons, ligaments, and muscles
The Lifelong Impacts of Pedestrian Accident Injuries on Children
An accident in which a child survives being struck by a vehicle will have obvious immediate implications such as missed school, extensive medical treatment and care, and sacrifices by the family for medical expenses as well as care and companionship of the child that is injured.
However, the accident will also have consequences on a child’s life that may not be immediately apparent. From developmental delays to social impacts and learning disabilities or physical disabilities, it is not possible to understand the degree of influence these injuries will have on a child’s life in the days and weeks after an accident.
Who Is Potentially Liable When a Child is Hit by a Car?
In many cases, the liability of a pedestrian accident will fall on the driver of the vehicle involved. There is a great burden of care placed on a party when the victim of a pedestrian accident is a child. The courts will look at several elements to determine whether the actions of the driver constituted negligence and ultimately caused the accident resulting in the death or injuries of the child victim.
To establish negligence in a child pedestrian accident, you must show:
- The driver owed the child a duty of care.
- The duty of care was breached due to the actions or inaction of the driver.
- The actions of the driver resulted in the accident.
- The child suffered injuries directly related to the accident caused by the driver.
What Damages Can You Seek in a Child Pedestrian Accident Case?
If a child is injured in a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation on their behalf for the losses suffered. Although a minor may not suffer the same financial impacts and consequences as an adult, their parent(s) may be entitled to seek compensation for the impact the accident has on their lives.
Due to the unique nature of a parent or guardian and child relationship, it is expected that a parent will ultimately endure much of the financial burden as they seek medical care for their child.
Damages in a pedestrian accident involving a child will allow you to seek recovery for certain losses against the parties responsible for your injuries.
Damages in a children’s pedestrian accident can include:
- Medical expenses for treatment, therapy, and rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering for the injuries sustained by the child as well as any emotional impacts of the accident
- Impact on the child’s ability to earn an income as an adult
- Loss of enjoyment or quality of life due to injuries
- Lost wages of parents due to the need to care for an injured child
- Future medical expenses for ongoing injuries or disabilities
What Action Should You Take if Your Child Is in a Pedestrian Accident?
Your first and only priority after your child has been struck by a vehicle is the wellbeing of your child. Once your child is stable and under medical treatment for their injuries, you should take immediate action. Contact a pedestrian accident attorney to protect their rights and interests and get help starting an accident injury claim.
When it comes to injuries of children there can be many unexpected consequences and impacts that you may be unaware of. It is in your best interest to get legal help to protect your child now and in the future. A pedestrian accident attorney can discuss your legal options and estimate the recovery that you may pursue. Don’t miss out on the compensation you and your family need!
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.