In a legal context, a pedestrian is any person that is on foot. It does not make a difference whether the person is standing, walking, or running; as long as they are on foot, they are considered to be a pedestrian.
Additionally, some states extend the definition of pedestrians to include people who are on skateboards, scooters, or skates. An example of this would be how the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ definition of pedestrian also includes these people.
A pedestrian accident is an accident that involves one or more pedestrians being struck by a motor vehicle. Pedestrian accidents are fairly common in the United States, with a considerably high percentage of pedestrian accidents resulting in severe injuries to the pedestrian.
Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have increased by more than 50% over the past decade, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. In 2019, pedestrian fatalities totaled 6,590, which was an increase of over 5% from the previous year. In a report made in 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that pedestrian accidents accounted for 17% of all road-related deaths.
The same reports indicated that the highest number of pedestrian accidents occur during the night, largely due to reduced visibility for the driver. Another significant factor involved in pedestrian accidents would be distracted driving, such as:
- Texting while driving;
- Other cell phone use;
- Changing the radio station; and
Another common pedestrian accident would be when a pedestrian suddenly runs out in front of a motor vehicle. An example of this would be how there are numerous pedestrian accidents that occur in neighborhoods when the driver does not see or account for children running out of their driveway.
In terms of the potential liability for hitting a pedestrian, there may be both civil and criminal penalties. An example of this would be how the penalty for hitting a pedestrian could include jail time, a ticket, or a combination of both imprisonment and a fine. Additionally, the pedestrian may hold the driver who struck them civilly liable for the damages they suffered, if the pedestrian is able to demonstrate that the driver was the negligent at-fault party.
Can I Sue If I Was Hit By A Car While Jaywalking?
Jaywalking is the act of crossing or walking in a street or road unlawfully, or while disregarding approaching traffic. It can also include crossing a roadway at any point other than a suitable and designated crosswalk. If a car hits you while you are jaywalking, you may be able to receive some compensation if the driver was also negligent or broke the law in some way. However, the driver will likely argue that you were at fault for not following the law by jaywalking.
When a pedestrian jumps in front of an oncoming car, and the driver did no wrong because they were following the law, the pedestrian is less likely to collect damages for their injuries. This is because the driver did not have any other choice, and could not get out of the way. Under these circumstances, video footage and/or witness evidence can assist the insurance adjuster in determining who is at fault for the pedestrian’s injuries.
In order for the pedestrian to claim that the driver was at fault, even if they were jaywalking, the pedestrian must prove that the driver was negligent in some way. Negligence is the duty to act in a reasonable manner in order to avoid causing injuries to others. If a person fails to act reasonably and, through this failure, causes harm to the person or property of another, they have committed negligence.
Four legal elements must be satisfied in order to prove negligence in a car accident claim:
- Duty of Care: The defendant must owe the plaintiff a duty of care. According to driving laws, all drivers owe other drivers the duty to drive safely, as well as to obey all traffic laws at all times;
- Breach of Duty: It must be shown that the defendant breached their duty to drive safely. An example of this would be how if the defendant failed to obey traffic signs, this would be considered a breach of the duty of care;
- Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach is what actually caused their injuries. If the defendant did not actually cause the injuries, they are unlikely to be held liable for negligence; and
- Damages: Additionally, the plaintiff must be able to calculate the losses and costs that are associated with the injury. This must then be put into monetary amounts. If they cannot easily determine the amount in numbers, their damages award may be reduced or outright denied.
What Is Comparative Negligence? What Is Contributory Negligence?
To reiterate, when a driver hits a pedestrian, negligence must be proved. This remains true even if the pedestrian was jaywalking. However, the driver will not always be at fault if the pedestrian also acted with negligence.
The amount of fault can also be divided between the two parties, depending on whether one party was at fault or both parties were at fault. This also depends on whether the state follows comparative fault theory. Under this theory, the jury would be instructed to consider the relative degrees of fault, and assign each party a percentage.
An example of this would be if the jury finds that the driver was 80% at fault, and the jaywalking pedestrian was 20% at fault. The jaywalking pedestrian would then be able to recover 80% of their damages, such as medical bills.
If the pedestrian was jaywalking, it is very unlikely that the jury would find that they bear none of the fault. The theory is that nobody should be forced to pay for injuries that are actually the fault of the person who was injured.
Alternatively, under the contributory negligence theory, if the defense can show that the plaintiff was at all at fault, there is no liability at all. This remains true no matter how much at fault the defendant was. An example of this would be if a person is jaywalking, which is illegal, and is hit by a car whose driver was speeding and talking on their phone at the same time. Most would agree that the driver is more to blame than the pedestrian, even though they are both at fault. However, under a theory of contributory negligence, the jaywalking pedestrian would not be able to recover any money.
Do I Need A Lawyer If I Was Hit By A Car While Jaywalking?
If you were hit by a car while jaywalking, you should consult with an experienced car accident attorney. Your personal injury lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific personal injury laws.
Additionally, a personal injury attorney will be knowledgeable in terms of whether your state is a comparative negligence state or a contributory negligence state, and how that may affect your potential monetary damages award. Finally, your personal injury lawyer will also be able to represent you in court as needed, and provide any available legal defenses.
If you have struck a pedestrian with your motor vehicle, it is in your best interests to consult with a local and experienced traffic ticket attorney.