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Pedestrian Accidents: Know Your Rights

by | Mar 23, 2018 | Personal Injury

Walking is the oldest and most basic mode of transportation and more people are walking to get to where they need to go than ever before. However, current statistics indicate that simply walking across the street is increasingly more dangerous as well.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of fatal pedestrian accidents jumped 11% in 2016, the largest single-year increase in more than 20 years.

In fact, there were nearly 6,000 fatal pedestrian accidents in 2016, 15% of all motor vehicle fatalities that year.

Florida, California, Texas, and New York together account for approximately 42% of all fatal pedestrian accidents in the United States.

The three biggest factors contributing to fatal pedestrian accidents in the U.S. are as follows:

  1. Speed

Speed is the biggest contributing factor to the increase in fatal pedestrian accidents. To combat this, cities like New York have decreased the speed limit on most of their streets to 25 mph.

  1. Alcohol

Another significant contributor to fatal pedestrian accidents is alcohol. 15% of those who are killed in pedestrian accidents each year are struck by drunk drivers. But, what’s most shocking is that more than 1/3 of those killed were also legally drunk. In fact, 34% of those killed in pedestrian accidents had a blood alcohol level above .08, the threshold for drunk driving.

  1. Distracted Driving/Distracted Walking

Drivers who are distracted by devices such their radio, mobile phone, GPS devices, etc. are a rising cause of pedestrian accidents, but so too are pedestrians who are distracted by their mobile phones and smart devices and who are oblivious to the traffic around them.

What Rights Do Pedestrians Have?

A pedestrian can be defined as anyone near or in a street who is standing, walking, jogging, rollerblading, pushing a stroller, or performing any activity you can think of that involves being on foot, as opposed to being in a car, on a bicycle, etc.

When it comes to the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles on U.S. roads, you may have heard that pedestrians always have the right of way. Well, this is not always true. Just as motorists have rights and responsibilities they have to follow, pedestrians do as well.

Pedestrians generally have the right of way in marked crosswalks and at intersections, but they are also required to obey traffic lights whenever they are present. Pedestrians are also supposed to stay on the left side of the road or on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, most pedestrian accidents that occur involve a pedestrian being struck from behind. Usually, this means that they were walking on the wrong side of the road, often at night.

Pedestrians need to exhibit reasonable prudence and act in their own best interest and safety. This means that should obey traffic signs and signals, stay on the left side of the road when at all possible, and at night they should have lights, or wear reflective gear.

What Obligations Do Motorists Have?

While there are statutes that require pedestrians to obey traffic signs and signals and to yield the way to motor vehicles, except while crossing roads at marked crosswalks and at intersections, it is also true that there are statutes that very clearly state that just because a car has a right of way over a pedestrian, that does not relieve the driver of that car from his or her obligation to use reasonable care for the safety of the pedestrian.

Whenever a car enters a scenario where a pedestrian is around, the driver of that car has an absolute obligation under the law to defer to that pedestrian and allow them to cross the street, or do whatever they need to do to get to where they are going without being struck by that car. Moreover, drivers are generally obligated to blow their horns and to use special precautions whenever children or obviously confused or intoxicated persons are in or near the roadway.

Compensation For Injuries Sustained in a Pedestrian Accident

If you or someone you know has been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to recover significant compensation for:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future lost wages and income
  • Pain and suffering
  • And more

Another thing you need to know about pedestrian accidents is that while the accident report prepared by law enforcement may list the pedestrian as being at fault for the accident, law enforcement does not actually make this determination. The determination of who is at fault for injuries resulting from a pedestrian accident for the purpose of civil liability is made by a jury, after it has heard all of the facts from all of the witnesses––not by a law enforcement officer who, in most cases, did not even witness the accident.

But, regardless of who the accident report says is at fault, you may need the assistance of an experienced pedestrian accident attorney to succeed in your claim. A good pedestrian accident attorney will have handled many pedestrian accident cases and will be able to successfully demonstrate to the insurance company, defense attorney, and/ or jury that you had the right of way and that had the vehicle stopped, you would have gotten to where you were going without being struck.


The law is very clear––drivers have an absolute obligation to yield to any pedestrian who crosses their path. It is also clear that pedestrians must use reasonable safety when crossing the street or otherwise interacting with motorists.

So, many pedestrian accident claims are evaluated on who entered the street or intersection first. Was it the pedestrian who was already far enough into the crosswalk to be seen, or was it the truck who entered the intersection before the pedestrian stepped off of the sidewalk?

Pedestrian accident claims often require complex time and distance analysis and they should never be handled by an attorney who doesn’t handle them on a regular basis. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, you should only engage an experienced pedestrian accident attorney to help you pursue your claim for compensation.