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When is a Pedestrian at Fault in a Car Accident?

Typically, when we think about accidents between a vehicle and a pedestrian, we assume the driver is probably at fault. However, from a legal standpoint, that is not always the case. There are times when the pedestrian is at fault or assumes at least partial responsibility in a vehicle-pedestrian accident.

As the weather warms up, more people are out walking around Lillington and Harnett County for exercise, or to get places — far more pleasant now that the weather isn’t miserable! Here is what you need to know whether you are the pedestrian or the driver if you are involved in an accident.


Determining Fault in a Vehicle-Pedestrian Accident

Pedestrians refer to any person on foot, walking, jogging, running, hiking, pushing a stroller, sitting, lying down, or otherwise hanging about a road or highway. Pedestrians also include children playing alongside or in the middle of a street.

Distracted driving, driving too fast, and drunk while under the influence are the most common causes of severe or fatal accidents involving pedestrians. However, pedestrians are also distracted because of cell phones or other street stimuli. Pedestrians jaywalk, and they also walk on roadways while intoxicated. Pedestrians who dart and dash into the road or fail to yield put themselves at risk.

In 2017 in North Carolina, 8.9% of all pedestrians involved in a motor vehicle crash were killed. In 2017, 5,977 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents across the country. That accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities and a 1.7-percent increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2016. Each year, more than 3,000 pedestrians are hit by vehicles in North Carolina, making North Carolina one of the least safe states in the U.S. for walking.  On average, about 160 pedestrians are killed each year in our state.

The duty of assigning fault in a legal claim arising from a traffic accident may be simple depending on the evidence available. Maybe there are numerous witnesses, a camera that caught the entire incident, the accounts of both the driver and pedestrian, the applicable laws like speed limits, the findings in the police report, and sometimes even expert testimony. Jurors or an insurance adjuster takes all these different pieces into account to determine who was at fault in the accident.


Reasons a Pedestrian May Be At Fault

If the pedestrian is found at fault for the accident, most likely the walker will not be able to recover compensation for injuries. Conversely, the pedestrian may be sued to compensate the driver for any harm caused to their car or themselves.


Here are a few instances when a pedestrian may be found wholly or partially at fault:

  • Crossing against the traffic signal, meaning the hand says, “Stop,” but you go instead.
  • Crossing in the middle of the street.
  • Crossing outside of a crosswalk.
  • Crossing a street or entering a road while intoxicated.
  • Failing to look before crossing the street and running into the path of oncoming vehicles.
  • Walking anywhere where pedestrian access is prohibited, e.g., bridges, highways, causeways, etc.


Shared Fault in Pedestrian Accident Cases

Usually, even when a pedestrian bears partial blame for causing an accident, chances are the driver is also partially at fault. For example, a walker may have disobeyed the traffic signal, looked both ways and crossed the street, but a driver speeding through the intersection quickly made a right on red, hitting the pedestrian. Drivers are obligated to be free from distraction and traveling at a safe and posted speed. Likely there is shared responsibility in an accident of that kind.


Contributory Negligence for Vehicle-Pedestrian Accident Claims

North Carolina is one of the few states that has contributory negligence. This means if you are involved in an accident in North Carolina, and it is determined that you were partially at fault for the crash, even 1%, you cannot recover against the other party for any damages you received in the accident.

Most states follow a comparative negligence rule, which means a pedestrian’s compensation will have a percentage deducted to account for their contribution to the accident. In short, if the driver can prove some negligence on the part of the pedestrian, the pedestrian’s compensation will be reduced accordingly. For example, if a pedestrian is found to be 30% to blame for the accident, they will only receive 70% of the compensation they would have been entitled to if the accident had been entirely the driver’s fault.


In Conclusion

From a legal standpoint, both pedestrians and drivers have to exercise reasonable care on the roads and highways. The responsibility lies with all people using the roadways.  A driver or pedestrian who fails to exercise such care will be considered negligent if his or her action causes an accident. Have you been involved in an accident? Whether you were the pedestrian or a driver, call us for a consult. 910-893-8183

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