Is There a Case if a Pedestrian is Hit While Crossing Illegally?

pedestrians walking illegally in the street
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Drivers have an obligation to be aware of their surroundings at all times. But if a pedestrian appears out of nowhere because they are crossing illegally, is the driver who hits them liable for their injuries? The answer depends on a number of factors including where the accident happened, how distracted the driver was, and which party is more at fault.  

What if the Pedestrian Hit Was Breaking the Law?

Jaywalking is punishable by fines in both Missouri and Illinois, so it is technically illegal. However, drivers have a duty of care to avoid hitting pedestrians at all costs. This means that even if a person on foot is crossing illegally, a driver should be cautious enough to slow down and let them pass safely. 

But in many cases where a pedestrian is hit, placing blame on one party or another isn’t black and white. Of the 8,000 nationwide accidents involving pedestrians killed by vehicles in 2021, nearly half involved alcohol. Around 20% were caused by drunk drivers, and 30% were due to intoxicated pedestrians. And in 2022, a spike in pedestrian deaths in St. Louis was attributed to driver impairment and inattention, but also involved pedestrians crossing without a traffic signal, playing in traffic, and simply not paying attention while in the road. 

It’s easy to see why we can’t just assume a pedestrian is automatically at fault for crossing illegally, or that a driver is to blame when a pedestrian is hit.  

Determining Fault: Modified Contributory Negligence vs. Pure Comparative Negligence States

The outcome of a legal case involving a pedestrian will depend on the state in which the accident took place. Illinois has adopted modified comparative negligence laws (735 ILCS 5/2-1116), which means the injured party will only receive compensation if found to be less than 50% at fault. 

In a case where a pedestrian runs carelessly into traffic, the driver of the car may not have to pay any of the pedestrian’s medical bills. However, suppose the driver was partially negligent because he was speeding, intoxicated, or otherwise distracted. In that case, the driver may be deemed more than 50% at fault and must pay for part of the pedestrian’s medical care. 

Modified comparative negligence law correlates the percentage of fault with the percentage of payment, so if a driver is found to be, say, 30% at fault, they will be liable for 30% of the pedestrian’s bills. 

Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state, which has no fault threshold. As long as the plaintiff (the pedestrian) wasn’t 100% at fault, they will be compensated for at least a portion of their injuries. For instance, if a pedestrian hit when crossing illegally is found to be 90% at fault and ends up with $100,000 in medical bills, he or she will be able to recover only 10% ($10,000) from the driver.

Can a Driver be Compensated for Injuries a Jaywalker Caused?

Sometimes, a pedestrian crossing illegally isn’t the only one who gets hurt in an accident. If a driver swerves to avoid hitting the person and ends up crashing his car, the pedestrian could be found liable for the driver’s injuries. Again, it will depend on whether the accident is in a pure comparative negligence state or modified negligence state, on how well the driver was paying attention leading up to the accident, and whether the driver was impaired.

pedestrian injured in a car accident
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Is a Third Party Ever Liable When a Pedestrian is Hit?

There are some situations in which neither the pedestrian nor the driver of the vehicle will take on liability costs. For example, if traffic signs blocked a driver’s view of the crossing pedestrian, or a lack of streetlights made it hard to see someone in the road, the city could be guilty of negligence. In some scenarios, the vehicle involved may be a cab or owned by a trucking company, so those businesses could be responsible for paying damages instead of the driver. Other possible parties who could be blamed for a pedestrian accident include:

  • The car designer or auto parts manufacturer
  • A private property owner
  • A construction company
  • Rideshares

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Pedestrian Accident?

Whether you are the driver or the pedestrian, there are certain damages you can be compensated for if the other party caused the accident. These include:

  • Medical bills from hospitalizations or treatment
  • The cost of future treatment such as rehabilitation
  • Reimbursement for wages lost
  • The cost of disabled accessibility modifications to your home or vehicle
  • For the driver, repair or replacement costs of the vehicle 

How Long Can I Wait to File a Claim?

In Illinois, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit is two years, while Missouri law allows five years to make a claim. If you’re involved in a pedestrian accident and are not at fault or only partially to blame, you could receive compensation for your injuries, damages to your vehicle, and pain and suffering. It’s important to speak with a personal injury attorney who can help before time runs out.   

During your free consultation with Hipskind & McAninch, we will listen to information about your situation and offer our honest, professional opinion about your case. We are licensed in both Missouri and Illinois and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements with a 99% success rate. As dedicated and ethical car accident attorneys, we make our clients’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being our top priority.


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