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How to prevent pedestrian accidents, and how MI law works when they occur

March 23, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Tips on how Michigan’s No Fault law can protect you if you’re hit by a car as a pedestrian, and safety advice to prevent pedestrian-car accidents

pedestrian accidents, image

The weather is finally warming up, and Michiganders are emerging from winter to go outside for walks and to get some much-needed vitamin D. With people going outside again, I thought a quick legal review of how our law works when a pedestrian is hit by a car would be timely.  I’ll also be including a review of how Michigan’s No Fault law works when a person is hit by a car as a pedestrian and some safety tips to avoid these accidents from hopefully ever occurring.

Pedestrian injuries from automobiles on the rise

Unfortunately, the number of people being struck by cars is rising. In Michigan, there were 148 pedestrians killed in 2014, according to recent data from the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Facts. Between 2010 and 2014, pedestrian fatalities in southeast Michigan were 50% higher than the statewide average. As a result, Detroit has been named one of the Federal Highway Administration’s pedestrian safety focus cities.

Here are some additional Michigan Pedestrian Traffic Crash Facts:

  • There were 2,406 pedestrians involved in 2,280 motor vehicle crashes in 2014.
  • Of the 148 pedestrians killed, 44 (29.7%) of the deaths were the result of an alcohol-involved crash and 35 of those pedestrians had been drinking.
  • While only 1% of traffic crashes involve pedestrians, nearly 25% of traffic-related deaths are pedestrians.
  • 80% of pedestrian deaths happen in the dark.

And nationally:

  • The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that the number of pedestrian fatalities jumped by 10% last year, a year-to-year increase that comes after a 19% increase from 2009 to 2014.
  • For the first time in 25 years, pedestrian deaths in 2015 are projected to account for 15% of all traffic fatalities.

Safety tip: When you’re on foot… being seen is being safe

The primary reasons more people on foot are dying, according to an article on the Washington Post, “As roads become safer for drivers and passengers, pedestrian deaths still rise,” is that cheaper gas in a stable economy means more people are driving, and nearly a million more people are walking or biking to work.

These sobering statistics are being offered not to scare you, but to help people understand how dangerous and deadly pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents are.

But there are a few simple tips that we can all embrace to prevent people from being hit by cars and trucks.

Here are some safety tips to protect yourself and your family, with help from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments:

  • Be seen: Wear bright or reflective clothing when walking, bicycling or waiting for the bus.
  • Be extra alert at night: Especially when it’s dark and in bad weather.
  • Don’t assume drivers can see you.
  • Use a flashlight: If you are walking after dark.
  • If traveling in the road: Walk against traffic and bike with traffic.
  • Avoid distractions: Such as cell phones and loud music via headphones.
  • Use crosswalks.
  • Obey traffic signals.
  • Always make eye contact with drivers before entering the street: Never assume a driver has seen you.
  • Drink responsibly: Alcohol impairs walking (and biking), similar to driving.

And when you’re behind the wheel… See what is there to be seen

People often don’t expect to see a pedestrian when they’re driving  a car. Often, these drivers don’t see what is there, right in front of them, to be seen. In this respect, pedestrian accidents are very similar to motorcycle or bicycle accidents. Our attorneys often are told by drivers they never saw the pedestrian (or motorcycle or bicycle), even when they were plainly visible.  There is some science behind this, as our brains fail to process and register this information because we’re not expecting to see it.

The simple answer is to pay attention. Or, as we’re all taught on the first day of driving school: “Stop.  Look.  Listen.”  The way to be cognizant of pedestrians when you’re in the driver’s seat is to look for pedestrians:

  • Expect to see pedestrians: And bicyclists on the road, and yield to them.
  • Don’t drive distracted.
  • Never text and drive.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Don’t drive drowsy. Be aware of  drowsiness signs, such as crossing rumble strips or roadway lines.
  • Avoid aggressive driving and speeding: By planning ahead and allowing extra travel time.
  • Watch out for people on foot and bike: Just because you don’t see headlights or tail lights doesn’t mean there aren’t other people on the road.

Who pays No Fault PIP benefits for pedestrians when they’re struck by a car: How the law works in Michigan

Unfortunately, as an automobile accident attorney, the cases I see are the ones AFTER people are hit by drivers who often are not paying attention to what is in front of them.

This is how the Michigan No Fault law can protect you if you were hit and injured by a car while on foot. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in Michigan and you were a pedestrian, or a bicyclist, or otherwise “not an occupant of a motor vehicle” at the time of the crash, then the following “priority” rules under Michigan No Fault will help you determine the car insurance company that’s going to pay for your auto No Fault PIP benefits:

  1. If you have a No Fault insurance policy, then you should file your claim for No-Fault PIP (personal injury protection) benefits with your car insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))
  2. If you don’t have No Fault insurance, but your spouse has a No Fault policy, then you should file your claim for benefits with your spouse’s car insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))
  3. If you or your spouse do not have No Fault, but a relative (of yours or your spouse’s) who lives with you has a No Fault insurance policy, then you should file your claim for benefits with your relative’s No-Fault insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))
  4. If you, your spouse or your live-in relatives do not have No Fault, then you should file your claim for benefits with the No Fault insurance company for the owners or registrants of the motor vehicles involved in the crash. (MCL 500.3115(1)(a); Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Company v. Titan Insurance Company, et al., Michigan Court of Appeals, 2002)
  5. If none of those apply, then you should file your claim for No Fault benefits with the car insurance company for the operators, i.e., drivers, of the motor vehicles involved in the accident. (MCL 500.3115(1)(b))
  6. If there is no No-Fault insurance available through any of the above sources, then you should file your claim for No Fault benefits with the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility. (MCL 500.3172(1))

For more info, take a look at my blog post on who pays No Fault benefits for pedestrians (and bicyclists).


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