Who is liable if a pedestrian gets hit by a car outside of a crosswalk?

The issue of who’s at fault in a vehicle-pedestrian accident depends on several factors and isn’t as cut and dried as you might think. Law experts explained below why it’s not always the driver’s fault when a person gets struck by a vehicle.

Chelsie M. Lamie

Chelsie M. Lamie

It Depends on Which State You’re In

The answer to who is liable when a pedestrian is hit outside of a crosswalk depends on the state where the accident occurs. In Florida, we operate under a pure comparative negligence model. This means that the liability of each person or entity involved is assessed and a percentage of fault assigned. The injured person receives a recovery reduced by their percentage of fault.

If the case isn’t settled by the parties outside of a trial, the percentages of fault are determined by a jury. To understand Florida’s pure comparative model, consider these examples: A person crossing a few inches outside of the crosswalk with the green light to cross may be found to be 5% at fault while the driver is 95%.

Compare that to a person crossing in dark clothes at night far away from the crosswalk on a red light may be found to be 50% or more at fault. In that second scenario, if the injury victim is awarded $100,000 in damages, they will receive only $50,000 from the driver (in reality, the driver’s insurance company). States have different models so it is important to discuss the facts of your specific case with an experienced injury attorney in your state.

Dozens of Different Variables

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the true answer to this question is “It depends.” Generally speaking, there is an expectation that the striking vehicle is at fault when a pedestrian is hit in a crosswalk. However, that is not the end of the story.

What if the pedestrian was in the crosswalk but did not have a “Walk” signal and cross traffic had the right of way? What if the pedestrian stepped into the crosswalk just as the light was changing and the car was completing a turn?

At the same time, we would initially think that a pedestrian who is hit by a car outside of a crosswalk is expected to be at fault. Generally speaking, this is probably more likely than not. However, there could be situations where the striking vehicle is at fault.

For example, the two parties may be in some kind of a construction zone where the pedestrian has no choice but to walk somewhat in the street and the car did not follow the appropriate path.

Also, it is important to distinguish between the pedestrian as a minor or the pedestrian as an adult. In some jurisdictions, minors under a certain age are considered legally incapable of comparative or contributory negligence. In that circumstance, the striking vehicle could be liable for damages even if they were only 1% negligent.

This could be the case in a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction where the most important criterion is that the plaintiff is not more negligent than the defendant to be able to recover damages. A judge or jury may find that the vehicle operator’s actions were not a factual or proximate cause of the accident, injuries, and damages, but that is taking the inquiry one step further.

So, again, it depends.

Thomas Pivnicny

Thomas Pivnicny

Thomas Pivnicny is the Managing Partner at Kitay Law Offices.

Ben Michael

Ben Michael

Ben Michael, Attorney, Michael & Associates.

Pay Attention to the Proof

Liability can go either way in situations like these, so it depends on what can be proven. The driver often ends up still being the liable party, especially if the pedestrian can prove that they were alert and didn’t step out in front of the vehicle. Drivers are expected to be alert and aware of their surroundings due to most states’ negligence/traffic laws, which is why they are often deemed liable in these cases.

However, the pedestrian can still very much be the liable party – it just depends on the specific situation and what can be proved. I always recommend that drivers get a dash cam, because it can be very helpful in proving the liability of other parties in situations like these.

Drivers Expected to Use Caution Around Crosswalks

If a pedestrian gets hit by a car outside of a crosswalk, the driver is not automatically liable. The surrounding circumstances have to be checked. Usually, when there is a crosswalk, drivers are expected to exercise full caution.

However, there can be no expectations when there is no pedestrian lane to cross. As such, drivers are not also presumed to slow down or at least be cautious. Nonetheless, if the driver is found to be negligent like violating a speed limit or committing other traffic violations, the driver will be held liable.

However, if it is the pedestrian who caused the accident, the liability of the driver might be mitigated or tempered by the courts.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Director of Business Development at Mullen & Mullen, a personal injury law firm in Texas.

Todd Bissell

Todd Bissell

Todd Bissell, Founder of RIDE FAQs.

Driver or Pedestrian Negligence Factors Into Liability

The driver is responsible for any injuries sustained by pedestrians who walk out of their way, even if they have the right-of-way. If a pedestrian walks out of the crosswalk and is struck by a vehicle, the driver may not be held liable unless he or she was driving recklessly or negligently. In addition, the driver is also liable if he or she fails to yield at a stop sign or red light.

Here are 3 points to keep in mind:

1. Pedestrian
The driver is liable for any injuries caused to the pedestrian, even if they were not at fault. If the driver was speeding or driving under the influence, then he/she may have committed a crime and could face criminal charges. In addition, the driver may be held financially responsible for damages caused to the vehicle and its occupants.

2. Crosswalk
If the pedestrian crossed the street in a marked crosswalk, the driver would not be liable since pedestrians are expected to obey traffic laws. However, if the pedestrian did not cross the street in a marked area, then the driver would be liable.

3. Driver
If the driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle, then they would be liable for any injuries sustained by the pedestrian. If the driver was intoxicated, then they could be charged with DUI (driving under the influence).

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