When is a Pedestrian at-Fault for a Car Accident?


Margot Lester

There are scenarios where the pedestrian is at-fault, especially when the source of the accident came from ignoring traffic rules. There’s a common misconception that the driver is always at-fault in pedestrian accident liability. But the truth is that pedestrians and drivers both have a “duty of care” to act reasonably.

About 104,000 pedestrians visited the emergency department after crash-related injuries in 2020. Drivers and pedestrians wondering about their liability in an accident need a personal injury lawyer on their side. They can analyze your case to see where you stand in your accident claim.

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Legal Options After a Pedestrian Car Accident

If you’re involved in an accident, call 9-1-1 or seek medical care immediately, especially if you hurt your head. You may be unaware of injuries until hours or days after the accident.

Depending on the specifics of your case, your legal options include:

  • Filing a claim with your or other party’s insurer
  • Initiating a civil lawsuit against the driver
  • Negotiating a lump-sum settlement that signs away your rights to sue

A personal injury attorney licensed in your state can help you organize the mountains of paperwork in a pedestrian accident lawsuit. Their guidance can help you determine the best legal step for your case. Keep in mind, your claim may be subject to your state’s statute of limitations.

PRO TIP: Find out how much an auto accident attorney costs.

How is Fault Determined After a Car Accident?

Liability isn’t always as clear-cut in pedestrian accidents as we think. Both drivers and pedestrians must follow basic rules on roadways, crosswalks and sidewalks. That means that either party can be totally or partially responsible for causing the accident.

EXAMPLE: If Diane acts irresponsibly or breaks a traffic law and hurts Roger, Diane is considered negligent or at-fault.

Some states, like Massachusetts, have duty of care laws that delineate the responsibilities of pedestrians and drivers.

PRO TIP: Find a legal professional certified in the state where the accident took place.

When the Driver is at-Fault

Drivers have a legal obligation to follow the rules of the road and drive carefully. Examples of duty of care violations while driving include:

  • Excessive speeding while driving at night
  • Ignoring traffic laws like yielding to pedestrians at stop signs or not stopping when traveling in a marked crosswalk
  • Leaving the scene after hitting a pedestrian
  • Not yield to those crossing a street or standing by an intersection
  • Texting while driving

When the Pedestrian is at-Fault

If you’re on foot and not paying attention for any reason or acting irresponsibly — you could be judged to have not taken “due care” and may be found at-fault, even if you’re injured. Pedestrian duty of care violations include:

  • Crossing “dangerous environments” like bridges and busy intersections
  • Excessive jaywalking
  • Running into aggressively busy traffic
  • Violating pedestrian laws, like purposely blocking a roadway
  • Walking under the influence
  • Walking while distracted, including texting or talking on the phone

PRO TIP: Review the CDC’s tips for pedestrian safety.

When Both Parties Share Fault in Pedestrian Accident Liability

In some accidents, more than one party bears some responsibility. Say you didn’t look both ways before stepping into the street and were hit by a speeding driver. Chances are, both of you could be held liable.

PRO TIP: Understand what constitutes gross negligence.

A few states still have contributory negligence laws on the books, but most use a comparative negligence framework. In these states, the insurance adjuster assigned to your case determines negligence and how much of the accident is their fault. There are two models of comparative negligence:

  • Pure comparative negligence assigns liability based on the percentage of fault. If the adjuster determines you were 25% responsible for a wreck, your total damages are reduced by that amount. You get 75% of the settlement.
  • Modified comparative negligence assigns liability based on the percentage of the parties’ fault — unless the pedestrian is 50% or more responsible. If the up-to or over 50% mark is met, the pedestrian can’t recover any damages at all.

PRO TIP: Consult a personal injury attorney in your state to understand the negligence laws that apply to your case.

Pedestrian Accidents Involving a Third-Party

In pedestrian accident liability, there may be other parties that carry some blame in an accident, like:

  • Auto or parts manufacturers
  • City or municipal governments
  • Road or building construction companies
  • Private property owners
  • Trucking companies
  • Taxi, limousine or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft

EXAMPLES: If a tire fails forcing a car off the road and into pedestrians, the manufacturer may be liable. The government agency may be at-fault if improper signage contributed to an accident.

Third-party liability may also occur when a negligent driver worked for a company the accident took place on-the-job. The driver bears responsibility for not fulfilling their duty of care, but the company is liable for their employee’s actions.

IMPORTANT: Many state and local laws prevent you from suing, even if they created the conditions that created or contributed to the incident.

Types of Damages in a Pedestrian Accident

Damages fall into three categories:

  1. Economic
  2. Non-economic
  3. Punitive

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are monetary, measurable losses related to the accident, such as loss of employment, income or wages; vehicle repairs and maintenance; and loss of use of property. These damages also include bodily injury payouts, such as:

  • Past and future hospital bills
  • Lost wages
  • Laboratory fees

IMPORTANT: If you have medical payments coverage, you may receive some compensation for medical bills, regardless of fault.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are non-measurable losses, including:

PRO TIP: Contact a personal injury lawyer to get the non-economic damages you’re entitled to.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be awarded to punish reckless behavior and other duty of care violations, like drunk driving. To earn punitive damages, prove that the defendant acted more recklessly, negligently or maliciously than a reasonable person would.

How Much Is a Pedestrian Accident Settlement?

Your settlement is dependent on several factors that complicate the totaling process, including:

  • Your and the other party’s insurance coverage
  • Percentage of liability
  • Financial losses
  • Bodily injury
  • State and other jurisdictional laws

Average payments vary, but if your injury is minor, like whiplash, your settlement could be around $10,000. A life-threatening injury like a broken neck or spinal cord injury could receive between $100,000 to $1 million+.

PRO TIP: Learn more about maximum bodily injury settlements for car accidents.

Find a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Near You With LegalASAP

Working with an experienced attorney specialized in your state where the accident happened can make your case stronger and easier. They can handle the paperwork and build a strong case, all while you focus on recovering from your injuries.

PRO TIP: Prepare for your auto accident attorney consultation.

LegalASAP can help you find a personal injury lawyer to truly handle pedestrian accident liability. Call 888-927-3080 or complete our short evaluation form below.

Margot Lester
CEO at The Word Factory | + posts

Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.