In all 50 states, a pedestrian is an individual who is traveling on foot (walking or running). Some states have a broader definition of the term “pedestrian.” In these states, pedestrians may include individuals who ride on skateboards, scooters, or roller skates. Pedestrians also include people riding bicycles, tricycles, or using a wheelchair.

Pedestrians must share the road with motorists. Motorists are individuals operating motor vehicles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. A pedestrian accident occurs when a pedestrian is injured by a motorist.

What are the Causes of Pedestrian Accidents?

Pedestrian accidents occur for a variety of reasons. In some instances, the fault lies with the motorist. A motorist who speeds, operates a vehicle while impaired, or fails to watch where they are going, can injure an innocent pedestrian. In other instances, the fault lies with the pedestrian. Pedestrians, like motorists, must comply with traffic regulation and signage. When a pedestrian fails to do this, a motorist observing the rules of the road may injure them.

What Pedestrians are Most LIkely to be Injured?

Pedestrians with a failure to appreciate risk, stand a higher risk of injury. These individuals include children. Pedestrians who are impaired by drugs or alcohol stand a higher risk of injury for the same reason. Individuals with limited or decreased mobility are at greater risk of injury. These individuals may include elderly individuals. These individuals may also include individuals with a physical impairment, such as individuals who use a cane or a wheelchair.

What Legal Duties Do Pedestrians Have?

Pedestrians must follow state traffic laws and regulations. These laws and regulations prohibit pedestrians from engaging in certain activities. These activities may include:

  • “Darting out” (running out) into a street or public thoroughfare: Here, a pedestrian “jumps out” into a public area with traffic. The pedestrian comes from an area that a motorist cannot see, such as from behind a tree.
  • Jaywalking: A pedestrian who crosses a rodway must comply with all traffic lights, signals, and rules, while doing so. Jaywalking is crossing a street when the traffic light is green. Jaywalking also is crossing the street outside of the area marked as the “crosswalk” area.  Jaywalking laws prevent a pedestrian from crossing a street in moving traffic.

What Rules Apply to Pedestrians on Roadways?

In general, a pedestrian on a roadway must use a sidewalk if the sidewalk is present and the pedestrian can safely use it. A pedestrian walking on a roadway without a sidewalk must generally walk only on the left side of the roadway. The pedestrian must walk against traffic that can approach from the other direction. State laws provide that a pedestrian must move as far to the left as is practicable when a vehicle approaches from the other direction.

May a Pedestrian Walk on a Freeway or Interstate Highways?

Generally, pedestrians are prohibited from walking, jogging, or running on freeways or interstate highways. The absence of stop signs, traffic lights, and crosswalks makes it especially dangerous for pedestrians to do so. Pedestrians are generally prohibited from “hitchhiking,” or soliciting a ride, on highways and freeways.The law permits pedestrians to walk on a freeway or highway under certain exceptions.

Exceptions are generally limited to emergency situations, such as when a motorist’s vehicle has broken down. When a vehicle has broken down, most states permit a driver and passenger to walk to the nearest exit on the side of the freeway where the vehicle is broken down.

Can a Pedestrian Recover Damages if They are Injured by a Motorist?

If a pedestrian is lawfully walking and an accident occurs with a negligent motorist, the pedestrian can sue for negligence. To prevail, the pedestrian must show the driver owed a duty of care to the pedestrian, which the driver breached. The pedestrian must show that the breach caused the pedestrian’s injuries. The pedestrian must show that they sustained damages, or monetary losses, from the injury.

Pedestrian recovery may be limited in some states. In a “contributory negligence” state, a pedestrian may be barred from recovering damages if that individual was themselves negligent. Some state laws provide that if a pedestrian is more than 50% negligent and the driver is less than 50% negligent, the pedestrian may not recover damages from the motorist. In other states, called comparative negligence states, a pedestrian injured by a motorist may recover damages if the motorist is negligent. In these states, the recovery is reduced by the extent to which the pedestrian was themselves negligent.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer if I Have Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident?

If you have sustained injuries in a pedestrian accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury lawyer near you can review the facts of your case, advise you as to how to proceed, and can represent you at hearings and in court proceedings.