Most Americans are familiar with jaywalking, the act of crossing a road somewhere other than a designated crosswalk. While jaywalking may not appear to be a significant crime, the fact of the matter is that jaywalking rules exist for a reason, namely to protect pedestrians. When pedestrians choose to jaywalk, they are essentially breaking the law despite it appearing to be a victimless act. However, what happens if a vehicle hits a jaywalking pedestrian? The answer depends on the negligence laws in the state in which the accident occurs as well as the driver’s behavior at the time of the accident.
Right of Way Laws
Most states require that drivers yield the right of way to pedestrians in virtually all scenarios. While this pertains to jaywalkers, jaywalking laws exist to dissuade pedestrians from causing problems for passing traffic. A jaywalker can suffer catastrophic or even fatal injuries after an accident, and many people may assume the driver is automatically at fault. However, this is not always the case, especially in states that follow contributory negligence or comparative negligence laws.
In states that follow contributory negligence laws, a jaywalker who suffers injuries from a motorist may or may not be able to collect compensation. The determination will typically hinge on whether or not the motorist was negligent in any way at the time of the crash. For example, if the driver did not speed, was driving safely, and made an attempt to stop before striking the jaywalking pedestrian, the jaywalker will more than likely fail in his or her attempt at a lawsuit. However, if the driver was talking on a cell phone, speeding, or was otherwise distracted, a judge may determine the driver had the higher duty of care and was more than 50% at fault for the incident.
Dangers of Jaywalking
Considering the effects contributory negligence laws and comparative negligence laws can have on jaywalking-related lawsuits, it’s wise to always avoid jaywalking whenever possible. Although some drivers are careless behind the wheel and may contribute to accidents, jaywalkers make a conscious decision to disregard the law and put themselves at risk. Jaywalkers are also far more vulnerable to injury and even death than motorists, so breaking the jaywalking law can be a life-or-death decision for some.
When jaywalking accidents are not fatal, they can still lead to catastrophic or permanently disabling injuries. Unless a judge determines the motorist who hit the jaywalker is partially at fault for the incident, the jaywalker will have to shoulder the financial burden of his or her injuries and damages alone. Considering the massive damage a vehicle can inflict on an unprotected pedestrian, these costs are likely to be considerable.
Anyone involved in a jaywalking accident should reach out to a competent, reliable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A qualified personal injury attorney will gather the evidence from the scene necessary for building a case and help clients collect compensation for their damages. Although jaywalking is technically breaking the law, motorists still have a duty of care to yield the right of way to pedestrians in most cases. An attorney can help shield responsible motorists from unfair claims made by negligent jaywalkers, but they may also help jaywalking pedestrians minimize their damages after a serious accident.