MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota. According to Business Insider, a new bill proposed by the North Dakota legislature would protect negligent drivers who hit protestors who are blocking a highway or road. Some claim that the bill was designed to target protestors fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Critics of the bill argue that the law would be a direct attack on free speech and the First Amendment. In the realm of personal injury law, this could create a precedent regarding who will and won’t be protected under the law.
Drivers have a legal responsibility to avoid hitting pedestrians, but under the law, pedestrians also have a responsibility to avoid accidents, too. Road safety is a shared responsibility. Yet, when it comes to pedestrian injuries, in many cases, driver error is to blame. Drivers aren’t always looking out for pedestrians. The Law Office of Martin T. Montilino sees cases where pedestrians suffer serious and life-altering injuries when drivers fail to drive defensively and cautiously.
While pedestrians have a duty to protect themselves, this doesn’t excuse drivers who fail to take steps to avoid accidents. If a driver can reasonably stop, he or she should, whether or not a pedestrian is in a crosswalk or is following the law. The reality is that the right to protest is guaranteed by the constitution. If a protest becomes sufficiently large, it may block roadways. Lawmakers who support the law claim that there’s no specific constitutional law that protects individuals who block roadways. The ACLU however, claims that laws like this can damage free speech and dissuade individuals from taking to the streets to express their political views.
North Dakota lawmakers claim that drivers are exercising “their right to the road” and claim that the protestors made a decision to “put themselves in harm’s way.” Lawmakers claim that the law would not protect drivers who intentionally hit protestors, but this places the burden of proof on the injured pedestrian to show that the driver acted with malice. Other critics of the law claim that the law can be extended to anyone who enters the roadway, meaning that any pedestrian on the street would no longer be protected under tort law. Personal injury laws protect individuals and hold drivers accountable to keep themselves and others safe. By eliminating this important protection, some drivers may choose to act more dangerously.
Protestors and lawyers alike have expressed shock at the law, and some are wondering if Minnesota is next. The Minnesota legislature is making plans to crack down on penalties against protestors by imposing stricter penalties on marchers who take to the streets. According to the Star Tribune, law enforcement would have the ability to charge individuals with a misdemeanor for blocking the highway, with penalties including holding protestors financially responsible for the city’s costs.
If you’ve been struck by a driver or have been injured on Minnesota’s roadways, the law offers important protections to victims and their families. Visit https://www.martinmontilino.com/ to learn more about steps you can take if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Minneapolis, Minnesota