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What are the Legal Rights and Remedies When a Child Pedestrian Suffers Injuries or Dies When Attempting to Cross a Street?

By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

cal-icons2-201408-232In Tennessee and other States, children are at risk for serious injuries and even death anytime that they cross a street or are playing near a street.  Some children even get hit by a vehicle in a driveway or parking lot.

Recently, in Memphis, a young boy was struck and killed as he crossed the street in front of his home. The young boy lived in a neighborhood right by a school. Although it was a Sunday evening and the school zone was not actively lit, drivers should recognize that many children and families live near schools and children at any time can be crossing the street.

Children are young and not always paying the closest attention to their surroundings. Their youth brings a sense of indestructability because they do not always comprehend the dangers that lurk in the world. With their small stature, it may be difficult to see a child walking across the street or between cars in a parking lot.

School zones are a designated areas to drive extra slow and be on high alert. When the lights in the school zone are active, children will be frequently crossing the street to attend school. The same is true for bus stops. Children congregate at bus stops waiting for their ride to school. While waiting, children often begin playing and can easily become distracted and get too close to the road. By taking an extra time to slow down otherwise be more cautious of the presence of children, accidents and death can be avoided.

Parking lots can be very dangerous for children since they are a place where drivers may not see children children due to their height.  Furthermore, parked cars, turns, and curves can all make it even more diffiult to see children walking or playing on or near parking lots. Drivers are often distracted searching for an empty parking space and not necessarily able to see a small child step out from between two parked cars. Before the driver realizes the child is there, it may be too late.

If a child is struck by a driver, the driver can be held liable for the child’s injuries. For example, if a driver is paying more attention to locating an empty parking space than to any people or children walking through the parking lot and strikes a child, the driver can be held liable for negligence. A civil lawsuit can be filed by the parents of the injured child.  A civil case or insurance claim must be based on the fault of the driver of the vehicle.  Just because a child is injured does not form the entire basis to pursue a civil case or insurance claim.  There are essentially four elements that must be established to prove up a case on behalf of an injured child as follows

  1. Duty;
  2. Breach of Duty;
  3. Causation; and
  4. Damages

There is a duty in every state for drivers to obey the rules of the road, traffic conditions, and to otherwise be alert to other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the area.  Let’s say that a driver is texting while driving through a parking lot at a shopping center.  He does not notice a child walking with his mother through the parking lot with a grocery store shopping cart.  It was broad daylight and the shopping cart itself was bright yellow.   The driver crashed into the child and the child suffered a broken leg as a result of the crash.  Under these general facts, the four elements can be established to pursue a civil case or insurance claim.  Certainly, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances.

A good resource for a parent dealing with the aftermath of an injury caused by the negligence of a driver is the book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park and Aquatic Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

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