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Road Accident
Law

Pedestrians : watch out! Here, you are not a protected species.

By Maud Lepez and Simon Perrein
11/07/2014

 

Whether you are a tourist or you have lived in England for a while, you have probably already had a fright when crossing the road! French and other continental European citizens are not used to looking to their right first, and then to their left… or is it left then right…? Anyway do you often find yourself looking three times both ways before starting to cross? You are right! Highway code rules for pedestrians are not simple; they differ significantly from French rules, but most importantly, if an accident happens, pedestrians benefit from much less protection in terms of compensation in England than in France. They may be considered liable for their own injuries, or even for the damage caused to the car involved in a collision, if the accident happened as a result of their negligence.

Pedestrian crossings and Green Cross Code:

It’s a fact that crossing the road in England is not simple! Rules for pedestrians are contained in no less than 35 paragraphs of the Highway Code: https://www.gov.uk/rules-pedestrians-1-to-35.

Articles 18 to 30 of the Highway Code set out the different kinds of protected pedestrian crossings. There are three sorts of pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic lights (Pelican crossing, Puffin crossing & Toucan crossing). By crossing on those when pedestrian traffic signals are green, pedestrians obviously have priority. Likewise onto Zebra crossings: those do not have traffic signals but are made of large white stripes on the carriage (like the most usual pedestrian crossings in France) plus, at each end, a striped black and white pole topped by a flashing beacon: here as well, when the pedestrian steps off, he’s got priority over vehicles which must stop.

Apart from these protected pedestrian crossings, there are countless zones which appear to outsiders as protected crossings but which are not: for example a dropped kerb and a central island do not create a protected crossing; therefore the pedestrian has no priority! On these zones and generally, in the absence of any features, you have to follow the Green Cross Code, which is set out in paragraphs 7 to 17 of the Highway Code. Most of these rules seem obvious, such as: stop just before you get to the kerb, do not get to close to the traffic; look all around for traffic and listen; if traffic is coming, let it pass; do not run; try to avoid crossing between parked cars; when there is a crossing nearby, use it… However, these rules become more significant when an accident happens in order to determine liability.

Pedestrian’s non protected status

As a French citizen, you probably have in mind that the pedestrian is the king on the road and that, if an accident happens, even due to his own gross recklessness, he will receive damages for his injuries from the insurer of the vehicle involved. The Badinter Law of 5th July 1985 is a compensatory law aimed at providing the most possible compensation to the victims. Basically, if you do not intentionally throw yourself under a car, you will get compensation.

On the contrary, in England there is no such compensatory system, therefore general rules of public liability and tort apply: a pedestrian injured in a road traffic accident would have to prove the Negligence of the driver to be able to claim damages.

Thus, if the pedestrian did not comply with the Green Cross Code, he may be found negligent and therefore liable for the accident. The behaviour of the driver is also considered and if he was negligent as well, liability will be split.

The irony is that pedestrians can be held, in theory, responsible (totally or partially) for the damage caused to the vehicle, which is subject to compulsory insurance, whereas the pedestrian may not necessarily be covered by public liability insurance.

At Pierre Thomas & Partners, we very often act for injured pedestrians (most of them are French but not exclusively!) and the insurer of the vehicle almost systematically (at least initially) disputes liability. Indeed, in our experience if there is an accident, it is likely that some level of negligence can be attributed to a pedestrian because if he had completely paid attention before crossing, he would not have crossed the road at that moment.

What to do in the event of an accident?

In the immediate aftermaths: given the importance of determining exactly the circumstances of the accident in the event of a subsequent dispute, it is essential to call the police so that they prepare a report and to obtain independent witness statements (at the scene, remember to take the details of all possible witnesses; they can be interviewed later).

Then, in England it is highly recommended, if you want to claim damages for personal injury, that you are represented by a specialist solicitor instead of trying to deal directly with the third party’s insurer (which is likely to make a quick and low offer to avoid expenses and sometimes even without any examination by a medical expert). 

The solicitor will provide you with the best advice in terms of determination of liability and chances of success, as well as on the recoverable heads of damages, by instructing appropriate experts and carrying out the necessary calculations of financial losses (in particular loss of earnings and care and assistance).

It is also worth knowing that, in England, most of the solicitors’ fees, disbursements and legal fees are recoverable from the opponent in case of success and that there are different forms of funding available to victims who do not benefit from legal expenses insurance. If your case has any prospects of success, the solicitor will offer you a Conditional Fee Agreement under which, if you lose you will pay nothing* and if you win you will only pay a success fee strictly regulated by law and which in any event cannot exceed 25% of your damages*. (*terms and conditions apply)

At Pierre Thomas and Partners, our team of bilingual French/English solicitors would be happy to help you with your compensation claim. For example, we acted in the following cases:

·         A French young lady who suffered a neck injury when crossing the road in London, had to quit her job as a waitress and return to France; damages of £109,000.

·         A 60 year-old man struck in the back while crossing the road: split of liability 70/30 in his favour; damages agreed in the sum of £20,000.

·         16-year old youth walking on the pavement and knocked down by a taxi; multiple fractures to both legs; claim settled for £120,000 on a 100% basis.

·         Pedestrian hit by a cyclist; ankle injury: damages agreed in the sum of £9,000 on the basis of a 75/25 split of liability.

·         A 13 year-old girl in a language study program who crossed the road behind a bus and had her foot rolled over by a car: toe fractured. Compensation of £6,000 on a 50/50 basis.

For more information or any queries please contact Maud Lepez or Simon Perrein:

MLepez@ptp-law.co.uk

SPerrein@ptp-law.co.uk

020 7602 0305

www.ptp-law.co.uk

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