What Happens If A Pedestrian Causes A Car Crash?
When a pedestrian and vehicle collide, the damages are almost always going to be greater for the pedestrian than for the driver. However, just because the walker sustains more harm does not mean the law automatically entitles him or her to compensation. As in any personal injury case, whether a plaintiff can recover damages depends largely on who was at fault for the incident. If the pedestrian caused the accident — either wholly or in part — the law may bar his or her ability to recover compensation. Not only that, but it may hold the pedestrian responsible for the damages the driver incurred. Among others, these include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
That said, several factors will affect the outcome of a pedestrian car accident case. Those include but are not limited to each party’s duty of care to the other, state contributory negligence laws and the extent of damages each party sustained.
How Pedestrians Can Be At Fault for Pedestrian Car Accidents
Pedestrians can assume fault for pedestrian car accidents in several ways. In fact, though stats for pedestrian-caused car accidents are vague, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in nearly one-third of fatal pedestrian-related car crashes, the pedestrian had a BAC of over 0.08%.
Walking while drunk is just one way in which pedestrians can cause their own accidents. Other ways pedestrians contribute to car crashes are as follows:
- Failure To Yield Right of Way: Right of way laws vary from state to state and situation to situation. However, whether you are the driver or pedestrian in your case, know that the adage, “pedestrians always have the right of way,” is not true. Pedestrians must yield to oncoming traffic, just as oncoming traffic must stop for them. Moreover, they have a duty to look both ways before crossing the street and to only begin crossing when they have enough time to fully do so.
- Crossing at a Non-Designated Spot: Crosswalks exist where they do for a reason — because the locations are the safest locations at which to cross any given street. Crossing at a non-designated spot, especially if across multiple lanes of traffic, is never a good idea. On one hand, it may be an inherently unsafe crossing zone. On the other, drivers may not anticipate someone crossing in a non-designated area and be unable to stop in time if they do see someone on foot.
- Playing, Standing or Lying in the Road: Streets are made for driving. If you get hit while using a public roadway inappropriately, there is little chance that a lawyer will take on your case. If you hit someone while he or she is using the road inappropriately, it is unlikely the courts will rule in his or her favor.
- Walking at Night Without Reflective Gear: Regardless of how well-lit a roadway is, pedestrians have a responsibility to make themselves visible at night with reflective gear and flashlights. If a pedestrian sustains an injury because he or she was not wearing appropriate clothing at night, the law is unlikely to be on his or her side.
Duty of Care
A crucial element in any personal injury case is the duty of care. When determining negligence, the insurers or courts will consider how the involved parties should have acted given the circumstances. For example, regardless of whether a person is behind the wheel or on foot, the law expects him or her to obey the rules of the road when using streets, crosswalks, highways or other thoroughfares. If Person X fails to act as any other reasonable person would have, and if he or she ends up causing Person Y harm, the deciding parties may consider Person X to have acted negligently, regardless of whether he or she was on foot or behind the wheel.
Pedestrian’s Duty of Care
Every state has laws that specify precisely how pedestrians must act when using public roadways. However, in general, a pedestrian’s responsibilities encompass the following:
- They must exercise reasonable care for their own safety.
- They may not suddenly leave the curb or another safe area to run or walk in front of an oncoming vehicle that is close enough to cause immediate harm.
- They may not stop without justifiable reason when in either a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
Driver’s Duty of Care
While it is not true that pedestrians always have the right of way, drivers do have a heightened duty of care to individuals walking along or across roadways. As with pedestrians, state laws vary as to driver’s responsibilities. However, they generally encompass the following:
- Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing a roadway at a marked crossing or who are crossing at an unmarked intersection.
- Drivers must use reasonable care when approaching a pedestrian who is crossing at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
- Drivers must slow their speed and take other necessary measures to ensure the safety of pedestrians who are crossing at marked or unmarked crosswalks.
It is important to note that a pedestrian’s failure to use reasonable care when walking in or along a roadway does not relieve a driver from his or her responsibility to use reasonable care when approaching a pedestrian at any location along a roadway.
Shared Fault and Contributory or Comparative Negligence
In pedestrian car accident cases, one party will rarely assume full blame for the accident. When both parties share the blame, the state’s contributory or comparative negligence laws come into play.
Contributory negligence statutes are the strictest of all comparative fault laws. In contributory negligence states, neither party may recover compensation if he or she shared even 1% blame for the incident. Few states still maintain this system.
Pure Comparative Fault
In states that adhere to a pure comparative fault theory, injured parties may recover compensation so long as their share of fault does not reach 100%. However, the deciding parties will split financial liability according to each party’s percentage of fault. For instance, if a pedestrian was 70% at-fault, he or she may only recover 30% of the damages.
Modified Comparative Fault
In states that follow modified comparative fault laws, plaintiffs may only recover so long as their percentage of fault does not exceed 49% or 50%, depending on the state. As in pure comparative fault states, the deciding parties will split financial liability according to each party’s percentage of fault.
The Extent of Damage Either Party Sustained
While each party’s duty of care and comparative fault laws will ultimately dictate whether one party can pursue compensation from the other, the extent of damages will dictate whether he or she should. For example, if a pedestrian sustains considerable damages and lives in a comparative fault state, it may make sense for him or her to file a claim against the driver. Despite the reduction in the award for his or her shared level of fault, the take-home pay may still be substantial.
However, regardless of where one lives, it may make little sense for the driver to file a claim for damages. If the driver shares any fault, his or her percentage can reduce the likely minimal potential settlement or award to next to nothing.
When To Contact an Attorney
If you were involved in a pedestrian-caused car accident as either the driver or pedestrian, it would be in your best interests to consult with an attorney right away. A skilled lawyer can assess the circumstances of your case and advise you on how to either increase your award or reduce the amount you must pay. Either way, it does not hurt to seek advice immediately after an accident that results in injuries or death. If you live in Michigan, or if you sustained your injuries in Michigan, give Mike Morse Law Firm a call today.