Pedestrians, such as daily commuters, runners, hikers, and those traveling by stroller or wheelchair, are among the most vulnerable type of road users in Massachusetts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) classifies these groups of people, along with young drivers, bicyclists, and school bus occupants as “higher risk transportation system users.” These individuals tend to suffer the most significant injuries and damages when they are involved in an accident. The NHTSA’s most recent data indicates that these users accounted for over 50% of the nearly 400 traffic fatalities reported to the state.
The rate of pedestrian fatalities occurs more frequently during colder months (October-February) than warmer ones (March-September). Research suggests that these rates coincide with low visibility, unsafe roadways, and judgment errors. Although motorists have a higher duty to act with reasonable care for others’ safety, pedestrians must also abide by a similar duty of care. Both motorists and pedestrians must take steps to prevent foreseeable danger to themselves and others. When a party fails to adhere to this standard, their right to damages may be reduced or barred.
Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault model. Under this model, an injury victim who is more than 51 percent responsible for their injuries will be ineligible to collect damages. However, if the plaintiff is less than 51 percent responsible, their recovery will be reduced by their share of liability. Massachusetts pedestrian accident victims may face a reduction in their damages in cases where they unsafely enter the roadway, fail to use crosswalks, or otherwise violate traffic rules.