Albuquerque Judge Rules Against Panhandling Law

The anti-panhandling ordinance is history, but the danger to Albuquerque pedestrians continues.

A federal district judge invalidated a city ordinance designed to eliminate panhandling, but officials insist the measure was necessary to curb the number of pedestrian fatalities.

In 2017, city officials banned panhandling inside traffic lanes and also forbade close physical contact between solicitors and motorists. The ordinance cited the high pedestrian death rate in the city as the need for the law. But in a 37-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Brack sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, at least in part. He agreed that the City of Albuquerque had a right to pass safety measures to reduce pedestrian deaths. But he concluded that the Pedestrian Safety Ordinance is “an unconstitutional restriction on free speech because it is not narrowly tailored to meet the City’s interest in reducing pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.”

ACLU New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard said the ruling was “a significant victory, not just for free speech, but basic fairness and human compassion.” City officials are mulling their options, which include an appeal and rewriting the ordnance.

Right of Way and Pedestrian Accidents in New Mexico

Most of these incidents occur outside marked crosswalks, where pedestrians do not legally have the right-of-way. Nevertheless, these victims may still be entitled to compensation.

Drivers have the right-of-way in these situations, but they still must adhere to the duty of reasonable care. This duty requires motorists to avoid car crashes whenever possible. So, the right-of-way is not a “get out of jail free card.” In fact, Bernalillo County jurors often side with pedestrians in these cases, mainly due to the serious injuries and legal issues discussed below.

What Causes Pedestrian Accidents?

Speed is usually the root cause of both pedestrian accidents and the serious injuries these victims sustain.

The faster drivers move, the less reaction time they have. At 30mph, most vehicles travel about six car lengths in the time it takes for drivers to see approaching hazards, move their feet from the accelerator to the brake, and safely stop the car. At 60mph, this stopping distance triples to 18 car lengths.

Additionally, there is a direct relationship between tortfeasor (negligent driver) speed and pedestrian injury. At 20mph, the pedestrian death rate is less than 10%. But the fatality rate catapults to 90% at 40mph.

Pedestrians do not wear crash helmets and are not protected by steel cages or multiple restraint layers. So, they are completely exposed to danger in these situations. Therefore, their damages are often substantial. These damages usually include economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Legal Issues in Albuquerque Pedestrian Accidents

To obtain compensation, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence in court. This negligence could be a lack of ordinary care, as outlined above, or the violation of a safety law, like the speed limit law.

Generally, Albuquerque personal injury attorneys must diligently collect evidence in these cases. In many pedestrian accidents, the police accident report is often incomplete or inaccurate. If the victim was killed or seriously injured, as is usually the case, the victim did not give a statement to emergency responders. So, the written report only contains the tortfeasor’s side of the story.

Building a case, by itself, is not enough. A good lawyer should also anticipate insurance company defenses, like the sudden emergency doctrine. This legal loophole excuses negligent conduct if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

Although insurance company lawyers usually raise this defense in this context, it usually does not apply to pedestrian accidents, even if the victim clearly did not have the right-of-way. A jaywalking pedestrian is like a large pothole or a stalled car. These things are not “sudden emergencies” because they are not completely unanticipated situations.

Team Up with a Skilled Lawyer

Regardless of the right-of-way, pedestrian crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Albuquerque, contact the Law Offices of Edward Chavez, Jr. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.