Are You Always At Fault If You Hit A Pedestrian?

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 76,000 pedestrians were injured and 4,743 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2012. It's commonly believed that pedestrians have the right of way at all times. If there is a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, many people automatically assume the person driving the car is at fault. However, this is not always the case. While drivers do have a greater burden of responsibility while on the road, there are times when pedestrians can be found liable for causing a vehicle accident.

Pedestrian Responsibility

Like drivers, pedestrians have a duty to use sidewalks and roadways in a safe and responsible manner. This includes:

  • Obeying all traffic laws
  • Walking against traffic; if there is no sidewalk, pedestrians are required to walk on the side of the road that allows them to face oncoming traffic
  • Crossing in a safe manner by either using a designated crosswalk or looking both ways before crossing the street
  • Yielding to oncoming traffic
  • Remaining visible to drivers, especially when walking in low-light conditions (e.g. wearing bright clothing at night)
  • Refraining from bolting suddenly into traffic

Failure to follow the rules of the road can lead to a collision with a vehicle that may result in death or injury. Depending on the circumstances, you may have a valid personal injury case against the pedestrian that will let you collect compensation from the person for damages you sustained in the incident.

Determining Who's at Fault

When it comes to determining who was at fault in an auto-pedestrian accident, the courts typically use the law of negligence. As noted previously, drivers and pedestrians have a duty to exercise reasonable care when using the roadways. Whoever the court deems failed to take reasonable steps to perform that duty based on the facts will be found negligent and liable for the accident.

For example, it's not illegal for people to walk down the street while intoxicated. However, a court may find the pedestrian partially or fully liable for an accident if the person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time because their condition impaired their ability to use the roadways safely.

There are a couple of ways you can prove the person was fully or equally negligent in the accident:

  • Show that the person failed to take precautions when crossing the street
  • Provide evidence the person was walking while distracted (e.g. texting, talking on cell phone)
  • Provide a police report noting the person's results from a breathalyzer, drug or blood alcohol test
  • Produce photos showing the person was in a place where pedestrians are prohibited from walking (e.g. major bridges, causeways)

It's important to gather as much evidence as possible at the time of the accident. Take photos of the scene and gather the contact information of any witnesses to the incident.

Shared Fault

More often than not, the driver and the pedestrian will share the blame in the accident. In these cases, your ability to obtain compensation for damages and the amount you are awarded will be determined by whether your state uses comparative or contributory negligence laws.

In states with comparative negligence laws, you can only collect damages in the amount equal to the percentage of liability assigned to the other party. For instance, if the pedestrian if found to be 75 percent liable for the incident, that person is only required to pay 75 percent of your damages (e.g. $7,500 of a $10,000 medical bill).

On the other hand, you must prove the pedestrian was 100 percent liable for the accident in states with contributory negligence laws. If you're found to be even a little bit liable for the accident, the court will typically rule against you.

It's critical that you hire an accident attorney as soon as possible after you're involved in an auto-pedestrian collision. A lawyer can look at the facts of your case and help you develop an effective strategy for recovering compensation for your losses. Click for more information on how an auto accident attorney can help your case.