Most people are aware of the dangers of distracted driving, such as texting while driving, but research is growing in the area of distracted walking. We in New York understand how common it is for tourists or visitors to bury their heads in their phones as they walk down a crowded street, oftentimes bumping into others. While this is a minor issue in most cases, it can become a major point of contention in a personal injury case.
What Is Distracted Walking?
Distracted walking is a common behavior among pedestrians who, while walking, jogging, or running, aren’t paying attention to what’s around them and are more likely to be involved in an accident. Distractions can include texting, making a call, talking to someone, searching through a purse or backpack, and even grooming. Essentially, it is any behavior that can pull a pedestrian’s attention away from nearby safety hazards, and includes many of the same actions as those involved in distracted driving accidents.
The National Safety Council (NSC) has raised concerns about distracted walking in recent years, noting that is behavior is particularly dangerous for children and teenagers who have grown up with cell phones. The more people are online and on social media, the more likely they will focus on their phones while walking around.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has also begun to take distracted walking more seriously. In a recent survey of several major cities, New York included, AAOS identified that 26% of adults have admitted to being involved in distracted walking incidents and 40% have witnessed other incidents. 86% of New Yorkers also believe that it is a serious issue, with 39% admitting to being distracted while walking in their daily lives.
Distracted Walking and Personal Injury Claims
When it comes to filing a personal injury claim after you’ve been in a pedestrian accident, distracted walking can heavily impact your case.
If a pedestrian walked out in front of traffic while staring at his phone and was struck by a vehicle, an insurance adjuster would deny his claim based on the pedestrian’s negligence — distracted walking. Pedestrians are responsible for watching out for their own safety and walking defensively, particularly along the busy streets here in New York. However, drivers are also responsible for safely operating their vehicles and respecting the pedestrians’ right-of-way. If a driver ran a red light and struck a pedestrian in a crosswalk, it doesn’t matter if the pedestrian was on the phone: the driver is still liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.
While most safety programs are focused on reducing distracted walking leading to auto accidents, distracted walking can also play a role in premises liability claims. For example, if a shopper was sending a text before slipping on a wet floor, the store owner and their insurance company may argue that the shopper was distracted and should have reasonably noticed the danger. However, this argument is not foolproof, as property owners are still responsible for cleaning up spills and posting signs or roping off areas to protect guests and visitors. The fact that a victim was “walking while distracted” is not an excuse for failing to protect them from injuries, and is not enough to dismiss that victim’s premises liability claim.
If you were injured by a negligent party, you should not immediately discredit your own claim if you were on a cell phone or otherwise distracted. Instead, reach out to a New York personal injury attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. We have more than 50 years of experience fighting for injured New Yorkers and can review what happened to determine if you have a claim. Contact us today at (212) 986-7353 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help you.