According to the law in all 50 states, a pedestrian is defined as being a person who is traveling on foot, meaning they are walking or running. Some states maintain a broader definition of the term “pedestrian,” defining pedestrians as people who ride on skateboards, scooters, or roller skates. Additionally, pedestrians may also include people riding bicycles, tricycles, or using a wheelchair. However, as some states consider a bicycle to be a vehicle, this definition varies considerably from state to state.
Pedestrians are required to share the road with motorists. Motorists are generally defined as being people who are operating motor vehicles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. As such, a pedestrian accident is what occurs when a pedestrian is injured by a motorist.
Pedestrian accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Under some circumstances, the fault is with the motorist. An example of this would be how a motorist who speeds, operates a vehicle while impaired, or fails to watch where they are going can injure an innocent pedestrian. Under other circumstances, the fault actually lies with the pedestrian. Pedestrians, similar to motorists, must comply with state traffic regulations and signage. When a pedestrian fails to do so, a motorist who is otherwise observing the rules of the road may injure them.
In terms of risk of injury, pedestrians with a “failure to appreciate risk” generally stand a higher risk of injury. Most commonly, this refers to children. However, pedestrians who are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol stand a higher risk of injury for the same reason. Additionally, people who have limited or decreased mobility are at greater risk of injury, which may include elderly people. Other examples of high-risk pedestrians would be people with a physical impairment, such as those who use a cane or a wheelchair.
Are Sidewalk Accidents The Same As A Pedestrian Crash?
Sidewalk accidents are personal injury accidents that happen on a sidewalk, which generally involve a pedestrian being injured by another party. An example of this would be a bicyclist who is riding on the sidewalk instead of in the street. The bicyclist collides with a pedestrian, and causes injuries. The resulting injuries may be minor or severe, depending on the collision and/or the health of the pedestrian.
Another example would be how a slip and fall accident could be a sidewalk accident. Slip and fall accidents occur when a person slips, trips, or slides on the ground. Because a person can slip on a snowy and icy sidewalk that has not been properly maintained by a property owner, a slip and fall accident could be considered a sidewalk accident.
It is important to note that sidewalk accidents are not the same as pedestrian crashes. A pedestrian crash, or pedestrian accident as was previously mentioned, generally refers to an automobile accident involving a pedestrian. These accidents generally happen when a person is walking in the street, and not on the sidewalk.
Do Pedestrians Have Any Legal Duties?
To reiterate, pedestrians must adhere to all state traffic laws and regulations. These laws and regulations prohibit pedestrians from engaging in specific activities, such as:
- Darting Out: Darting out, or running out, into a street or public thoroughfare is generally prohibited by law. Here, a pedestrian “jumps out” into a public area with traffic, from an area that a motorist cannot see. An example of this would be the pedestrian coming out from behind a tree; or
- Jaywalking: A pedestrian who crosses a roadway is legally required to comply with all traffic lights, signals, and rules while doing so. Jaywalking refers to crossing a street when the traffic light is green. However, jaywalking is also defined as crossing the street outside of the area that is marked as the “crosswalk” area. Jaywalking laws are intended to prevent pedestrians from crossing a street in moving traffic.
Generally speaking, a pedestrian who is walking on a roadway must use a sidewalk if the sidewalk is present, and the pedestrian can safely use it. A pedestrian who is walking on a roadway without a sidewalk must generally walk only on the left side of the roadway. Additionally, the pedestrian must walk against traffic that can approach from the other direction. State laws most commonly dictate that a pedestrian must move as far to the left as is practicable when a vehicle approaches from the other direction.
Additionally, 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 such activities. Additionally, pedestrians are generally prohibited from “hitchhiking,” or soliciting a ride, while on highways and freeways. Some state laws do permit pedestrians to walk on a freeway or highway, but only under specific exceptions.
Examples of such exceptions are generally limited to emergency circumstances, such as when a motorist’s vehicle has broken down. When their vehicle has broken down, most states permit a driver and passenger to walk to the nearest exit on the side of the freeway in which the vehicle is broken down.
Who Can Be Held Liable For Sidewalk Accidents?
Who is at fault for a sidewalk accident largely depends on whether one of the parties was negligent. Negligence is the legal theory which allows injured parties to recover for the carelessness of others. A person is said to be negligent when they fail to use the same amount of care that an ordinary person would use in the same or similar circumstances. The person causing the accident may have been responsible for protecting the victim from harm; however, under specific circumstances, the victim may be entirely or partially responsible for the accident because of their own negligence. This would serve as a defense to liability.
Negligence has four elements that must be shown in order to recover a monetary damages award for injuries:
- Duty: A duty is a responsibility that one person owes to another person. Generally, people who are going about their business owe a duty of reasonable care to each other. Reasonable care refers to the level of care that an ordinary and prudent person would use in the same situation. An example of this would be how if a person is driving during inclement weather, they would be exercising their duty of reasonable care by driving slower and having their headlights on in order to increase visibility. Alternatively, a person would not be exercising reasonable care if they instead were driving forty miles per hour over the speed limit;
- Breach: Breach of duty occurs when a person’s level of care falls below the level that is required by their duty. The person who was driving forty miles per hour in the above example breached their duty of reasonable care by speeding during inclement weather;
- Causation: The breach of a duty must be the cause of injury. Essentially, the legal test for causation is “but for” one person’s actions, the injury would not have occurred. As such, if the person who was speeding during inclement weather did not have enough time to stop before hitting another car, they have breached their duty of reasonable care which then caused injury to the other car and driver; and
- Damages: There must be some sort of harm that occurred. The specific type of injury can vary from property damage and emotional stress, to lost wages.
All of the above elements must be present in order to successfully determine that the other party was negligent. If one of the above elements cannot be proven, then negligence cannot be established.
Do I Need An Attorney For Sidewalk Accidents?
If you were involved in a sidewalk accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific personal injury laws, and will also be able to represent you in court as needed.