News stories of injuries suffered by distracted pedestrians are becoming more frequent. There was the teenager in New York who was texting and fell into an open manhole-falling six feet into raw sewage. While falling into sewage may be funny to some, there was the report of a young Florida man who was killed when he walked into oncoming traffic while texting and, similarly, a college student in North Carolina who was listening to his MP3 player and was killed when he jogged in front of a bus.
Nationally, the number of pedestrian fatalities was trending lower until 2010-2011. According to a study conducted by Professor Jack Nassar, the last number of years have seen an increase in injuries suffered by pedestrians where cellphone use was implicated. In 2009, 135 billion texts monthly were being sent in the U.S.; in 2010, over 1,500 pedestrians were injured while using a cellphone. According to Professor Nassar, those talking on cellphones were twice as likely to walk into oncoming traffic as those who were not on cellphones. The eyes may be open, but the brain may not be engaged.
In another study just released by the Safe Kids Worldwide, researchers observed over 34,000 high school and middle school students in 17 states crossing at intersections. The results revealed that 20 percent of high school students and 12 percent of middle school students crossed the street while engaged with a digital device of some kind-most often texting or using headphones listening to music. Focus groups of students further revealed that the safer a teen feels, such as crossing the street at a traffic light, the more willing they are to take risks
So the question naturally arises: Can a driver be found liable for injuries suffered if a person contributes to his or her own injury or death by being a distracted pedestrian? In some states, contributory negligence states a plaintiff cannot recover damages if he or she is even remotely responsible for his or her own injury. Connecticut, however, follows the rule of comparative negligence. An injured party can only recover if it is determined that his or her fault in causing the injury is less than 51 percent. If a plaintiff's fault is 51 percent or more, he or she recovers nothing. If less, the plaintiff's fault is assessed and the total judgment amount is reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of that plaintiff's fault.
Comparative negligence is an affirmative defense and the advice of an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney is important to evaluate any potential claim for liability.