Can a Pedestrian Be at Fault for a Car Accident?
In most accidents involving a pedestrian, the driver of the vehicle is held responsible. There are good reasons for that policy, too. Because pedestrians are likely to suffer much more severe injuries in an accident, drivers are held to a higher standard of safety protocols.
But can a pedestrian ever be at fault for an accident? It’s an important question — one that could make all the difference in a personal injury lawsuit.
Here’s what to do if a negligent pedestrian caused your car crash.
Minnesota’s Right-of-Way Laws for Pedestrians
Minnesota law gives pedestrians significant protections when walking on or near roads. Vehicles are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in most cases, even on sections of road with no crosswalk markings. Drivers must then wait until the pedestrian has left their lane to proceed.
Any driver who violates Minnesota pedestrian right-of-way laws could be charged with a misdemeanor offense and face possible jail time or fines. (See Sec. 169.21 MN Statutes.)
But while pedestrians do have the right-of-way, they can still be considered at fault in the eyes of the law. Both drivers and pedestrians have a duty to exercise reasonable care on the road, and a pedestrian who fails in that regard will be considered negligent if their reckless actions cause an accident.
In fact, you don’t have to actually hit anyone for pedestrian negligence to come into play in a personal injury claim. If a driver swerves to avoid a negligent pedestrian and hits another vehicle or a stationary object, the pedestrian can still be held responsible
Examples of Pedestrian Negligence
There are quite a few situations in which a negligent pedestrian could be held responsible for a car accident. These include:
- Crossing or walking on roads where there is no clear pedestrian crosswalk or walkway (in such cases, the pedestrian has the right-of-way, but is still responsible for their own actions and the inherent risks involved)
- Ignoring and defying traffic signals or signs
- Entering a street or road while under the influence of alcohol or drug
- Behaving recklessly, such as darting into a street, running erratically on a sidewalk, or wandering in and out of traffic
- Entering a street or road while distracted by a phone or other device
- Walking on bridges, highways, causeways, or other areas where pedestrians are prohibited (unless in an emergency)
- Not looking before crossing the street and moving into the path of an oncoming vehicle
- Wearing dark clothing while walking at night
- Intentionally distracting a driver
As you might guess, many of these factors would leave room for interpretation in determining responsibility for an accident. The presence of one or more of them wouldn’t guarantee that the pedestrian was at fault.
For example, if a pedestrian crossed the street at a crosswalk while looking at their phone or intoxicated, this wouldn’t constitute careless behavior, as they had the right-of-way and were obeying the rules of the road. In this case, the driver would likely be the negligent party.
What to Do If a Negligent Pedestrian Caused Your Car Accident
In the event of a pedestrian accident, no matter who is at fault, the first thing to do is call 911. This is obviously the right thing to do anyway, but it could also help you prove that you weren’t responsible.
Police officers can evaluate any injuries and prepare an accident report. They’ll get witness accounts, document both sides of the story, take pictures, and possibly even assign blame. Having a professional accident report prepared by a police officer during an accident may very well be better for your case than if you wait and file one yourself.
Don’t just leave it to the police, though. While everything is still fresh in your mind, make your own notes of what happened, especially anything that would make you believe that a negligent pedestrian was at fault. If you get any medical attention, keep the records for establishing your claims for reimbursement.
Why is it so important to establish such a clear record? Well, as the driver, you may be held liable for any costs resulting from injuries that exceed the no-fault insurance provided to both parties in a crash. If you can prove that a negligent pedestrian was at fault, however, you can avoid paying more than you truly owe and seek compensation for your own injuries.
That isn’t always easy, though. While pedestrian negligence certainly has substantial legal precedence, the law does tend to assume the driver was at fault. And rest assured, any insurance companies involved are going to try to give you the short end of the stick.
Fortunately, you don’t have to fight the battle on your own. A skilled personal injury attorney will know how to investigate the details of the case — such as surveillance footage, eyewitness statements, and accident reports — in order to build a strong case.
Maybe We Can Help
If you or somebody you love was injured in an accident caused by a negligent pedestrian, SiebenCarey’s team of experienced auto accident attorneys are ready to lend a hand. For more than 70 years, we’ve helped thousands of personal injury victims get the full financial support they need. We’ll be happy to do the same for you.