When Can A Pedestrian Be Held Liable For An Automobile Accident?

Posted on: 14 February 2017

It's no secret that pedestrians are especially vulnerable in any accident involving a motor vehicle. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4,735 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic crashes and another 150,000 faced emergency treatment for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2013.

In any accident involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, conventional wisdom dictates that the automobile driver is fully responsible for the accident. However, the driver may not always be at fault for an accident involving a pedestrian. The following talks about the rare instances where pedestrians can be held liable for a motor vehicle accident.

Understanding a Pedestrian's Rights and Duties

Nearly every state has guidelines within its motor vehicle and traffic safety codes that outline the rights and duties that pedestrians have when walking along streets and thoroughfares. It's generally accepted that pedestrians always have the right-of-way when crossing the street in a designated crosswalk and when they travel on public and private sidewalks.

In addition to these rights, pedestrians also have the duty to exercise common sense and follow the laws pertaining to pedestrian safety. For instance, pedestrians are always subject to traffic lights, pedestrian signals, and other safety devices. Pedestrians are also restricted to the sidewalk unless there is no sidewalk, at which point the pedestrian must travel along the shoulder in a direction that faces traffic. Pedestrians must also be aware of their own surroundings and exercise care when crossing the road at designated points.

Meanwhile, drivers must exercise duty of care when it comes to pedestrians traveling along the roadway. This makes sense considering the amount of damage a vehicle weighing in at over two tons can do to the human body, even at relatively low speeds.

Moments When Pedestrians Can Be Held At Fault

Although drivers are usually held at fault for the majority of accidents involving pedestrians, there are times when pedestrians can be held at fault. For example, a pedestrian who decides to jaywalk and is subsequently hit by a motorist may end up being at fault for the resulting accident. The same also applies for pedestrians who cross against pedestrian signals.

A pedestrian who decides to walk along areas that prohibit pedestrian access may also find him or herself liable for any accidents that occur. These instances include hitchhiking along a busy stretch of interstate highway and crossing a bridge without a sidewalk or other provisions for pedestrian access. Intoxicated pedestrians may also find themselves at fault if they're struck by a passing vehicle.

Who Really Gets the Blame?

Even when a pedestrian is fully responsible for causing an accident, it's usually unlikely that they will be held 100-percent at fault. Under most circumstances, the insurance companies and law enforcement may hold both the driver and pedestrian at fault for the accident -- the pedestrian for creating the circumstances leading up to the accident and the driver for exercising his or her own negligence. For example, the driver may have been speeding or not paying enough attention to the road to stop in time to avoid hitting a jaywalking pedestrian.

The resulting split in liability usually has a significant impact on how car accident cases involving pedestrians are settled. In a state with comparative negligence, for example, a driver who is 25 percent at fault for an accident may receive 75 percent of their damages award, while the pedestrian assigned 75 percent of the blame may only recover 25 percent of their damages.

While pedestrians have a clear responsibility to keep themselves safe and out of harm's way when walking along busy roadways, drivers must also exercise due care to avoid injuring pedestrians, even when said pedestrians fail to exercise their own due care.

If you find yourself involved in an accident with a pedestrian, contact a law firm such as Clearfield & Kofsky to understand who is at fault and how that can affect a personal injury case.