Pedestrians are a particularly vulnerable segment of traffic, which is why motorists must yield to people crossing the street or crossing the paths of automobiles. As with any other traffic accident, liability for pedestrian accidents is based on negligence. Although motorists do tend to take the blame for many accidents of this type, pedestrians can still be liable under a doctrine called “contributory negligence.” The articles below contain more information on this topic, as well as a wide variety of resources and articles on pedestrian accidents. There is information about pedestrian accidents on interstate highways, links to additional pedestrian accident resources, and more.
As in all situations, drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care given their circumstances. Failure to do so constitutes negligence. A driver's negligence that results in an accident may render them liable for the damage to the pedestrian. Driving may be negligent where traffic rules are disobeyed or the driver is distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise unaware of the driving conditions.
On the other hand, a pedestrian must also exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety. The care they exercise must be proportionate to the danger to be avoided as well as any reasonably anticipated consequences. Failure to exercise reasonable care might result in an assessment of their contributory negligence, which could result in the reduction or bar to receipt of damages for the resulting accident. Pedestrians may be negligent where they fail to use crosswalks, dart into the roadway, ignore walk signals at intersection, and otherwise fail to account for the flow of traffic.
These assessments shift, to some extent, when the pedestrian is a child. Children aged 5-9 are at the greatest risk of being hit by a vehicle. At these ages children are small, may move unpredictably, and lack the foresight to avoid danger effectively. Drivers have a higher duty of care when it comes to children such as these and in some jurisdictions may not use contributory or comparative negligence as a defense to their liability because under the "tender years" doctrine these young children are incapable of exercising reasonable care in the protection of their safety or that of others.
Pedestrians on the Highway
Accidents on an interstate highway can be very serious since the vehicles on such roads move very quickly and pedestrians or other obstacles are not expected. Pedestrians crossing or entering a highway, walking along the road in the dark, pushing or repairing a vehicle, tending to a previous crash, or otherwise present in the roadway may themselves act negligently. As with other kinds of accidents, pedestrian negligence may reduce or bar recovery.
In some cases a legal claim may be possible against state or federal agencies responsible for the highway's design, construction, state of repair, or maintenance. As with the driver and pedestrian, the state agencies have a duty to exercise reasonable care toward those who would reasonably use the highway, even if, as with a pedestrian, they are generally not permitted on the highway.