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Who Is to Blame for Accidents: Car or Pedestrian?

| Jon Montagna |

Accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians can cause severe injuries. In this type of auto accident, the pedestrian is likely to have the worst injuries. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, this state had 1,399 pedestrian crashes in 2021, resulting in over 400 serious injuries to pedestrians and 125 pedestrian fatalities. Pedestrians are only involved in about 1% of all car crashes in Virginia, but they account for approximately 12.9% of all traffic fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a pedestrian fatality occurred every 81 minutes in 2020. Because of the danger of injury or death in pedestrian accidents, it is critical that you are aware of your rights and exercise caution when driving or walking along a roadway. Determining who is liable in a pedestrian-car accident depends on the circumstances of each case. If you or a loved one has been involved in a pedestrian accident, our Virginia auto accident lawyers at Montagna Klein Camden are available to discuss your case and help you understand your options.

woman crying on the phone after being in a car accident

Who Is Considered a Pedestrian Under Virginia Law?

The term “pedestrian” primarily refers to a person traveling on foot. Under Virginia law, people riding any of the following on a sidewalk or across a street also have “all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances”:

  • Bicycles
  • Roller skates or roller blades
  • Skateboards
  • Electric personal assistive mobility devices
  • Motorized skateboards or scooters
  • Motor-driven cycles
  • Electric power-assisted bicycles

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way?

pedestrians using a crosswalk

Pedestrians have the right-of-way at all times on sidewalks. People on a sidewalk riding bicycles or other devices listed above must yield to pedestrians.

The right-of-way for pedestrians on streets and roads in Virginia is more complicated. Many people incorrectly believe that pedestrians may cross the street anywhere they want. Pedestrians only have the right of way over motor vehicles at the following locations:

  • Clearly-marked crosswalks
  • Pedestrian crossings at intersections, as indicated by the continuation of a sidewalk’s boundary lines
  • Intersections of streets with speed limits of up to 35 miles per hour

These rights of way are dependent on pedestrians’ duty to behave carefully on and around roadways. Pedestrians should use sidewalks whenever possible. If no sidewalk is available, they must walk in the direction of oncoming traffic and remain as close to the edge of the road as possible.

Pedestrians must obey all traffic signals. A pedestrian does not have the right-of-way at a marked crosswalk if the signal says Do Not Walk. They must not walk into a roadway without regard for traffic or “carelessly or maliciously interfere with the orderly passage of vehicles.”

Crossing a street away from an area designated as a crosswalk for pedestrians is commonly known as “jaywalking.” Virginia has decriminalized jaywalking, meaning that people who jaywalk will not face arrest, fines, or jail time. However, it may be a factor in a personal injury claim involving a pedestrian accident.

Virginia law provides additional protection for blind pedestrians. Motorists must always yield the right of way to them if they have a dog guide or a cane that is primarily white or metallic.

Who Is Liable in a Car-Pedestrian Accident?

Virginia is a “pure contributory negligence” state, meaning an injured person cannot be at fault in any way for their injuries to collect damages. If a driver is 99 percent at fault for a car accident and a pedestrian is one percent at fault, the law of pure contributory negligence would bar the pedestrian from recovering damages from the at-fault driver.

Only four states, including Virginia and the District of Columbia, still use a pure contributory negligence system. Many states use a system known as “comparative fault,” which would allow an injured pedestrian to recover damages as long as their share of fault is less than 50%. A court would reduce their damages by the percentage of their fault. For example, say a pedestrian is 25% at fault for an accident, a driver is 75% at fault, and the pedestrian has $100,000 in medical bills and other damages. A comparative fault system would allow the pedestrian to recover damages but would reduce the amount by 25% to $75,000. The same circumstances in Virginia would preclude the pedestrian from collecting any damages.

In Virginia, any fault on the part of an injured pedestrian means they cannot recover anything. Insurance companies pay attention to the likely outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. They will try to find any fault to pin on the pedestrian to avoid paying anything. Behaving irresponsibly, such as jaywalking or ignoring a Do Not Walk signal at a crosswalk, can prevent a Virginia pedestrian from recovering any damages.

Start Recovery From Your Accident Today

Our personal injury attorneys at Montagna Klein Camden represent injured pedestrians throughout the Hampton Roads area, including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk. We can help you recover the damages owed to you because of your pedestrian accident. Contact our law firm today at 757-622-8100 or through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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