Who's Liable In A Car-Pedestrian Accident?

10 July 2017
 Categories: , Blog


If you've recently been in an accident involving a pedestrian, you probably want to know how the courts will determine fault. Because most people are taught that you should always stop for anyone crossing the street, it's easy to assume that the driver is always to blame. But that isn't necessarily true. And in fact, sometimes both pedestrian and driver are partly to blame. Here are the factors that come into play when determining who's at fault in a car-pedestrian accident.

Driver Liability

When determining driver liability in a car-pedestrian accident, the plaintiff pedestrian generally bears the burden of proving driver negligence.

Overall, in order for a driver to be found at fault, the pedestrian must show that the driver had a duty to the pedestrian, the driver neglected to meet that duty either by action or inaction, failure to meet that duty resulted in an accident involving the pedestrian, and the pedestrian was injured as a result. What this means is that everyone behind the wheel should drive while exercising reasonable care to avoid accidents.

The following are the more common ways that driver negligence can be established:

  • Speeding
  • Driving while impaired
  • Ignoring traffic signs and signals
  • Failing to use a signal when turning
  • Failing to yield right-of-way to pedestrians
  • Ignoring bad weather or traffic conditions
  • Texting while driving (or being otherwise distracted)

As you can see, these are in line with the factors that are evaluated when determining liability in a multiple car accident, the primary difference being the need to stop for pedestrians that are moving through a marked cross-walk or other legal crossing point.

Pedestrian Liability

Believe it or not, pedestrians do have an equal responsibility to exercise care when walking near streets and crossing traffic. And as with drivers, the amount of care they exercise should be proportionate to the amount of danger present.

When a pedestrian is found to be negligent, it's usually due to one of the following reasons:

  1. Jaywalking. This is walking outside of a crosswalk. Every state has laws regarding jaywalking. For instance, in Arizona, you can walk outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk where two roads meet. But if you do so, be aware that vehicles have the right of way and you must yield to them.
  2. Ignoring "don't walk" signals. Ignoring the signals that warn a pedestrian not to cross is illegal in most states. But in North Carolina, if the signal changes from "Walk" to "Don't Walk" while someone is crossing, the car must yield to the pedestrian until they are safely across the street.
  3. Crossing while intoxicated. This is somewhat of a gray area in that simply crossing the street while on drugs or alcohol isn't enough to exclusively determine liability. But if a pedestrian is intoxicated, they're much more likely to make poor decisions and cross when they're not supposed to.
  4. Walking where restricted. If a pedestrian is walking along a highway or street that's restricted to pedestrians when the accident occurs, they could be found liable. This includes bridges, causeways, and construction zones that are off-limits to pedestrians. It also includes walking out into traffic or oncoming vehicles.

Liability with Both Parties

There are situations in which both the driver and pedestrian are partially at fault. For instance, suppose a pedestrian crosses outside of a marked crosswalk, assuming the car will stop. Meanwhile, the driver is texting and doesn't see the pedestrian. In this case, comparative negligence is applied, and the amount of damages are reduced to reflect the amount of negligence.

Very few states still implement contributory negligence, which is essentially an "all or none" type ruling: you're either completely at fault or you aren't.