School zones were established to slow drivers down in areas around schools where children would be likely to walk. Despite these safety precautions, it is estimated that around 100 children are killed every year walking to or from school, and that another 25,000 children sustain injuries as a result of accidents in school zones.
Children are not as well-versed in traffic laws nor should they be held responsible for safe practices like adults. This places them at a higher risk of being the victim of a car accident. A study investigating the effectiveness of school zones reviewed a total of 2,717 motor vehicle versus child pedestrian collisions. The researchers found that the density of collisions, particularly fatal collisions, was highest in school zones and decreased the farther from the school you moved. The highest proportion of collisions, at 37.3 percent, occurred among 10- to 14-year-olds. The researchers found most of the collisions within the school zones occurred at midblock locations as opposed to intersections.
Drivers are required by law to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are legally crossing the street. This includes children who are crossing the street at a properly designated place within a school zone. Even if there is no crosswalk, drivers should still be mindful when driving through a school zone. Though a child may attempt to cross the street “illegally,” you want to ensure you are obeying the speed limit and are aware of your surroundings should you need to stop quickly. It is important to simply assume children are present, thus keeping you alert to the possibility of a child entering the road.
If a driver hits a child in a school zone, especially if the driver was distracted or is driving a school bus, he or she could face a serious personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits are based on proving the negligence of the driver who caused the accident. If a driver is speeding through a school zone, driving with distractions, or simply fails to yield the right-of-way and strikes a child, that driver may be acting negligently and could be responsible for any resulting damages or wrongful death.
Though it is the driver’s responsibility to control his or her vehicle in a school zone, it is also extremely important to educate children on safe road practices. Though children may not fully understand the risks and consequences of their actions, it is still important to teach them safety. Teach your child to always cross in a cross walk, and to look both ways and ensure no vehicles are coming before doing so. As statistics have shown, the majority of school zone accidents do not occur at crosswalks, where it is usually safe to cross the street, but rather happen in mid-road, where children may cross “illegally” and are at a greater risk of getting hit.
Minors and Personal Injury
A personal injury case becomes even more complex when a minor is involved. Although the procedures for collecting compensation for a minor can vary from state to state, a child does have a right to compensation for damages including pain and suffering just as an adult does. In addition, the parent or guardian has a separate right to be compensated for medical bills paid on behalf of a child.
Generally the child’s parent or guardian will act on his or her behalf when negotiating a settlement. Some states require a judge to approve the child’s representative, but is usually a quick and simple process. A personal injury case involving a minor generally follows the same format as that of an adult, though the child’s representative negotiates and agrees to settlements on the child’s behalf. States have laws governing how the settlement will be given to the child, usually involving a trust. The money may be used later for educational purposes or is made available to cover specific things like medical costs.
Seeking the Help of An Attorney
No matter how minor or serious the school zone accident may be, it is usually to your benefit to speak with a personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys have the knowledge and skills to help you determine if your case has merit or if there are other options for you. Even if you only have questions about your legal rights, including compensation for medical expenses as a result of the injury, speak with a personal injury attorney before making any type of settlement.