Car Accidents and Pedestrians: Who's Liable?

Car Accidents and Pedestrians: Who’s Liable?

by / Friday, 19 December 2014 / Published in Motor Vehicle Accidents

One of the first things you learn when you take a driver education class is that the pedestrian always has the right of way. Drivers have a responsibility to remain vigilantly aware of their surroundings and exercise a reasonable amount of caution to prevent accidents from happening. When a car has an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is often found to be liable because they are supposed to be so mindful of their surroundings. However, there are many situations where the pedestrian can be either completely or partially liable.

Drivers are expected to use a lot of caution while driving, particularly in areas where pedestrians are likely to be, but pedestrians also have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to keep themselves out of harm’s way. Although pedestrians have the right of way when they have legally entered a crosswalk, the Michigan Vehicle Code states, “A person without authority shall not block, obstruct, impede, or otherwise interfere with the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic upon a public street or highway in this state, by means of a barricade, object, or device, or with his person.” This section of the Michigan Vehicle Code does not apply to “persons maintaining, rearranging, or constructing public facilities in or adjacent to a street or highway.” People who are found to be guilty of violating this can be charged with a civil infraction.

Pedestrians are required to cross streets as safely as possible by crossing at marked intersections and corners only when it is safe to do so. If an intersection has a “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal, pedestrians are only supposed to enter the crosswalk when the signal reads “Walk.” Pedestrians are also not allowed to walk in the roadway if a sidewalk is available. If sidewalks are not available, pedestrians are to walk on left side of the highway facing traffic. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk on expressways or limited access highways. They are also not supposed to enter traffic from in between cars parked on a street. If a pedestrian gets into an accident with a car because they were violating any of these rules, they could be held liable for the accident, especially if their behavior is so sudden and unexpected, even the most diligent of drivers couldn’t have avoided an accident.

However, even if a pedestrian doesn’t have the legal right of way to be in a roadway, motorists are still required to show reasonable care to avoid car accidents. In many cases, both the driver and the pedestrian are found to be liable. When this happens, it is called comparative negligence and each party is held responsible for a certain percentage of an accident. For example, if a pedestrian enters an intersection without checking to see if it is safe to do so, then is hit by a driver who was texting while driving, they could each be held liable because each of them could have prevented the accident had they been more attentive to their surroundings.