“Pedestrians always have the right of way.” This is an often-repeated phrase, and one that is likely best to follow, but is it legally correct? If you’re driving down the street and someone walks into the road and is struck by your car, are you responsible? The answer is murky.
Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked. If within a crosswalk, any injuries sustained will likely be the fault of the driver. However, even when outside of the crosswalk, drivers may still be at fault. Most states apply a standard of “reasonable care” to both drivers and pedestrians. This means that a driver must always exercise reasonable care and pedestrians must do the same.
Certain activities are frequently found to violate the pedestrian’s standard of reasonable care. Jaywalking, or crossing outside of the crosswalk, is often found to violate the duty of care. Thus, if a pedestrian were hit outside of a crosswalk, it is likely that the pedestrian would be found to have contributed to the accident. Whether a pedestrian is at fault is paramount to any personal injury suits that the pedestrian may bring.
Many states employ comparative negligence and contributory negligence laws to personal injury lawsuit. These laws limit the amount that the plaintiff can recover if the plaintiff is found to have been partially at fault. Comparative negligence is significantly less restrictive than contributory negligence. Under comparative negligence laws, a plaintiff who is found to be partially at fault will have his or her compensatory damages award reduced by the percentage he or she is found to have contributed to the injury. Conversely, under contributory negligence laws, a plaintiff who is found to be partially at fault will be completely barred from recovering for damages suffered as a result of the plaintiff’s action.
For example, Susan is walking home from work and decides to cross the street outside of the crosswalk where she is struck by a car. Susan was crossing in an area that she believed to be safe but that was in fact outside of a crosswalk. Additionally, the driver who hit Susan was texting and driving. A jury determines that despite Susan crossing outside of a crosswalk, the driver of the car is also at fault because he failed to exercise reasonable care while driving as a result of texting and driving. Overall, the jury determines that Susan and the driver are each 50% at fault and deem Susan’s damages to value $10,000. In a comparative negligence state, Susan will recover $5,000; however, in a contributory negligence state, Susan will recover nothing.
When dealing with personal injury laws, a thorough understanding is necessary to navigate to complex and daunting legal field. If you have questions pertaining to a personal injury or a case brought against you, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you.