When are Pedestrians at Fault for Car Accidents?
The question of when a pedestrian could be at fault for a car accident may have never crossed your mind because usually it’s assumed that pedestrians always have the right of way. If pedestrians always have the right of way, then wouldn’t a vehicle always be deemed responsible? The answer is no.
There are accident scenarios in which a vehicle driver is clearly at fault for hitting a pedestrian. Running a stoplight, failing to stop at a designated crosswalk, and making a right turn on a red light in front of a crossing pedestrian are just a few common examples. It is expected that individuals behind any wheel should always have all eyes on the road and anything that could be cause for an accident. However, it is generally easier for pedestrians to stop and move out of the way for vehicles than it is for vehicles to serve around pedestrians.
As with most other personal injury claims, the law of negligence determines fault in accidents between vehicles and pedestrians. Every person is expected to exercise a reasonable level of care under a given set of circumstances. For example, drivers and pedestrians are expected to obey traffic laws and the “rules of the road” when using the streets, highways and crosswalks. If Person A fails to act with reasonable care and ends up causing harm to Person B, the law considers Person A negligent, regardless of who was driving and who was walking. Here are a few scenarios under which a pedestrian may be found at least partially at fault for an accident involving a vehicle:
- jaywalking, or crossing in the middle of the street, outside of a crosswalk
- crossing against the traffic signal (i.e. in the crosswalk but against a red “Do Not Walk” command)
- entering a street or highway while intoxicated
- walking along highways, bridges or causeways where pedestrian access is prohibited.
When it is Shared Fault
It is usually law enforcement, the insurance adjuster, or jurors’ responsibility to define who was at fault in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Sometimes the pedestrian will be found at partial fault for the accident. Depending on the state it happens in, there are two legal bases that will be followed: comparative negligence and contributory negligence.
Contributory Negligence – Under contributory negligence, if the defendant can show that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident to any extent, the plaintiff is barred from recovering anything at all from the defendant. The contributory negligence rule is only followed in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Comparative Negligence – Comparative negligence allocates fault between parties. A defendant’s liability may be reduced, but not necessarily eliminated, if the plaintiff is partly at fault for the accident. There are two variations of the comparative negligence system:
- Pure comparative negligence: Liability is split according to the percentage of fault. So, if the pedestrian is deemed 30 percent responsible, the driver is said to be 70 percent responsible, and the pedestrian’s damages total $10,000, the pedestrian will be able to collect $7,000 from the driver.
- Modified comparative negligence: Liability is split according to the percentage of fault — to a certain level. Once a plaintiff meets, or exceeds that level, the plaintiff is barred from recovery. That limit is typically 50%. In other words, if a plaintiff is more than 50% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff is barred from recovering anything at all from the defendant.
After 911, call 411. Our lawyer and medical referral service will connect you with lawyers who are experienced in dealing with pedestrian accidents. If you or someone you know has been involved in a collision and are seeking help, call 1-800-411-PAIN and get the help you need! We will refer you to the attorneys that will fight to get you the compensation you deserve and the medical attention you need. If you have been hurt in an accident, call 1-800-411-PAIN, and we will guide you in finding you the best medical and legal professionals.