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Car v. Pedestrian Accidents: Who's at Fault?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Cars and pedestrians are often at odds on the road. But when accidents occur, how do you figure out who's at fault?

In car v. pedestrian accidents, both the driver and the injured pedestrian typically try to blame each other. And with accidents like a recent hit-and-run in Pittsburgh that resulted in a Penn State student's death, you can see why.

In less clear cases, how can you tell which party is legally to blame?

Driver Was Negligent

When a car hits a pedestrian, it's often due to the driver's lack of reasonable care while driving, or negligence.

Generally, drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists. This duty can be breached, for example, by:

A driver also has an additional legal duty to take greater care around young children who are unpredictable around vehicles, and can be at fault for not taking extra precautions in areas where children are present.

Pedestrian Was Negligent

Even though they do less damage than cars, pedestrians can be to blame for accidents when they are negligent. Generally, pedestrians are expected to act like reasonable people in guarding their own safety.

Common negligent mistakes by pedestrians include:

  • Crossing a street on a "don't walk" signal,
  • Walking or running into the flow of traffic,
  • Not using crosswalks, or
  • Sprinting in front of a car.

Pedestrians are also expected to remain alert to traffic conditions and not solely rely on signals.

Both Parties Were Negligent

Most contentious accidents involve some level of fault from both the pedestrian and the driver. In such cases, contributory and comparative negligence theories enable courts to decide who should pay depending on how much they were at fault.

The rules of comparative or contributory negligence are different based on each state, but the three types are:

  1. Pure contributory negligence. If the injured party contributed in any way to cause the accident, the defendant doesn't have to pay a dime.
  2. Pure comparative negligence. When both the driver and the pedestrian share fault for the injuries, they split the cost based on their share of the fault (e.g., a party who is 40% at fault pays for 40% of the damages).
  3. Modified comparative negligence. The driver and the pedestrian would share costs under this theory only if the plaintiff is 50% or less at fault.

Determining fault in a car v. pedestrian accident can be difficult, but it's often key to getting compensation for damage or injuries. That's why you may want to consult an experienced car accident lawyer to help figure out who was at fault and how to proceed with your particular case.

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