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Understanding Pedestrian Accidents – Do Pedestrians Always Have The Right Of Way?

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Father and Mother with their Son crossing the RoadA 4-way stop, cars, pedestrians – it’s one of the most commonplace occurrences, and yet there is confusion regard right-of-way. Unfortunately, the concern is not merely technical or procedural. Every year, individuals are injured in pedestrian-vehicle accidents. 4-way stops aren’t the only accident scene; pedestrians are also injured while attempting to cross highways and other roads. For both pedestrians and drivers, it is essential to understand who has right-of-way and under what circumstances. Cementing this knowledge is the first step in decreasing the number of pedestrian-vehicle injuries and fatalities.

Pedestrians Generally Have The Right of Way

It is true that pedestrians generally have the right of way. In fact, drivers of vehicles owe pedestrians and other drivers an array of duties. Drivers must possess a license to drive and do so in accordance with the laws of traffic. Unfortunately, drivers commonly fail the duty of care owed to pedestrians and other drivers. Common examples include:

-Speeding;
-Disobeying traffic signs or signals;
-Failing to signal while turning;
-Driving while distracted (e.g. text messaging);
-Failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks;
-Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Tragically, as a result of the size and speed of automobiles, injuries and even fatalities can result when a driver breaches the duty of safe driving owed to pedestrians and others. Tens of thousands are injured and killed every year.

Pedestrians Do Not Always Have The Right of Way

While it is true that pedestrians generally have the right of way, they do not always have it. For anyone who has ever stood at a crosswalk, you know you have to wait until it is your turn to cross the street, whether right of way is governed by flashing traffic signs or the age-old rules of a traditional 4-way stop. You can’t just run across the street whenever you feel like it; doing so jeopardizes not only your own safety, but also the safety of individuals operating vehicles in the flow of traffic. Just as drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians and other drivers, pedestrians owe a duty of care to driver and other pedestrians. Common breaches of this duty of care include:

-jaywalking;
-crossing in the middle of the street;
-crossing the street outside of a crosswalk;
-disobeying a traffic signal (walking when there is a red “do not cross” command);
-entering a road or highway while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs;
-walking in traffic areas where pedestrians are prohibited.

Just as drivers can be held responsible for breaches of the duty of safe driving, pedestrians can be held accountable for engaging in prohibited behavior. In some instances, both a driver and pedestrian may be at fault for an accident. In such cases, it is necessary to apportion fault according to liability when resolving legal claims.

Proving Responsibility For A Pedestrian-Vehicle Accident Requires Evidence

Whether you are the driver or pedestrian injured in accident, you will need evidence to hold a party or parties responsible for a breach of a duty of care. Often, police reports prove invaluable. After you have tended to your personal safety, document the accident scene by taking photos or video with your smartphone if you can do so safely. Also, obtain the contact information of witnesses to the accident if you can do so safely. Do not make matters worse by trying to enter the flow of traffic.

Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents Are Most Commonly A Matter Of Negligence

It is rare that a driver intentionally strikes a pedestrian, or vice versa. Doing so brings serious consequences, in both the civil and criminal justice systems. In most cases, a pedestrian-vehicle accident is the result of negligence. As discussed above, negligence is the breach of a duty owed that causes damages. Whether you are a pedestrian or a driver, if you have been injured as a result of the negligence of another, you may have a legal claim against the party or parties responsible. A successful claim will allow you to recover compensation for the cost of medical treatment for your injuries, lost income due to missed work, pain and suffering, and other losses. In the tragic case of a fatality, you may be able to recover damages under the state’s wrongful death statute.

Whatever the specifics of your pedestrian-vehicle accident, you will benefit greatly from the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney will explain your legal options, and work to obtain the compensation you need and deserve after an accident in which you have sustained injuries. There is limited window of time in which you can bring a claim of negligence against another party, so it is imperative that you contact a skilled personal injury attorney today.

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