June 23 2017

Distracted Walking – A Modern Day Hazard

The distracted pedestrian is a common sight these days. You know the ones, walking with their eyes glued to their cell phones, frequently listening to music on headphones, or feverishly texting, oblivious to their surroundings. We have all had a laugh at videos of people falling into swimming pools and walking into poles while walking and texting. But more tragic are the increasing incidents of distracted pedestrians injured or killed in intersections, at railway crossings, and by light rapid transit. On May 16, 2017, for example, a 60-year-old woman was killed when she walked into the path of a C-Train at the Calgary Whitehorn station, spell-bound by her cell phone, and in February 2017 a 30-year-old man was killed at the same station, absorbed in his headphones and cell phone.

These distracted pedestrians have paid with their lives, and many others have been injured through distracted walking. Legislation is already in place to sanction distracted drivers, and similar measures have been contemplated for distracted walkers. While common sense says pedestrians should follow basic safety practices and be aware of their surroundings at all times, is there any blame attached to those who strike a distracted pedestrian?

Why Distracted Walking Matters if you are the Injured (Distracted) Pedestrian

If you are a pedestrian who has been injured by a motor vehicle but the facts show that you were distracted at the time of the accident, you are still entitled to Section B Accident Benefits but the amount of a compensation award resulting from a lawsuit for tort damages may end up being reduced.

Canadian cases have not yet dealt extensively with distracted walking, but we can look to the Australian courts for guidance. A leading Australian case suggests a path that our Canadian courts might take. It places some responsibility on the other party who can see that the pedestrian is distracted by, for example, being absorbed in their cell phone, to alert the pedestrian to the danger and snap them out of their distraction.

In a recent case from Perth, for example, a pedestrian was absorbed in loading boxes from his employer’s truck into his truck. To do so, he walked adjacent to the traffic lane. He was so absorbed that he stepped off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus. The distracted pedestrian was found to be 2/3rds responsible for his injuries, and the bus driver 1/3rd responsible for failing to honk his horn to alert the pedestrian and for failing to move over. The pedestrian’s damages were reduced by 2/3 for his portion of responsibility for the accident.

Depending on the circumstances, the distracted pedestrian may shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for their injuries as a result of distracted walking, however, the striking vehicle may have some responsibility as well, leading to some measure of compensation for the pedestrian. And if the distracted pedestrian causes injuries to another person, that injured person may have a good claim for compensation.

If You Have Been Injured and Distraction is a Factor

If you are a pedestrian and have been injured, your level of distraction is only one factor to consider. If you would like some legal advice on your situation, please CONTACT US for a free consultation. We will review the facts in your case and talk to you about your options.