When Is a Pedestrian “At Fault” for a Car Accident?

pedestrian crossing a street before car accident
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Pedestrian accident lawyers are seeing a dramatic increase in inquiries about when a pedestrian is at fault in a crash. More than 100,000 pedestrians hit by vehicles landed in U.S. emergency rooms in 2021. Victims hit by drivers suffer physically and financially. In many cases, they have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. 

Pedestrian Accident Lawyers Warn Walkers

Walk with caution, pedestrian accident lawyers warn, because record numbers of pedestrians are dying after being hit by drivers. One in six vehicular accident fatalities in the U.S. involve a pedestrian. Pedestrian accident lawyers point to several possible reasons for the increases in fatal crashes in recent years:

  • Drivers are distracted by phone calls, text messages, and the many other options on their digital dashboards.  
  • Trucks and SUVs, heavier and bigger than sedans, crowd narrow streets. When someone driving an SUV hits a pedestrian, the consequences often are more tragic than a crash involving a sedan. 
  • Population growth has led to more vehicles on the road.
  • More people are walking for exercise.

The St. Louis Metro Area is a Hotbed for Pedestrian-Involved Accidents

In Missouri, the Department of Transportation projects a record 121 pedestrian fatalities this year. In the first nine months of 2022, drivers struck and killed 90 pedestrians in Missouri, including 40 in the St. Louis area. The statistics are even worse in the Metro East, where 98 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the first nine months of 2022.

In St. Louis, 46% of crashes killing pedestrians or bike riders are hit-and-runs. A hit-and-run fatality is a violent crime in which the perpetrator leaves the victim to die in the street. The high number of hit-and-runs in St. Louis might stem from deep-seated issues like fear of the criminal justice system; dark, isolated neighborhoods; and drivers not knowing they need to stay at the crash scene, something a driver might learn in a driver’s education class. (Missouri schools do not offer driver’s education, nor does the state require it.)

When a Pedestrian Might be At Fault in a Car Accident

After receiving emergency medical care, the next critical step for a crash victim is calling a personal injury lawyer. Attorneys well versed in pedestrian accidents can help crash victims understand when a pedestrian might be at fault, and how to increase the chance of receiving compensation from the driver.

For determining fault, both Missouri and Illinois courts use one of the key concepts of personal injury law: People are expected to “exercise a reasonable level of care under a given set of circumstances.” In a car crash case, a pedestrian accident lawyer finds out whether the driver and the pedestrian were obeying traffic laws. If Party A does not act with reasonable care, and then harms Party B, Party A is at fault and can be sued for negligence. 

Some common scenarios in which a driver likely is at fault include running a stoplight, ignoring a pedestrian crosswalk, and turning right on red in front of a pedestrian.   

In Illinois, pedestrians are required to exercise reasonable care while on the roads. If pedestrians violate the law—say, they are standing in the middle of the road before a driver hits them—the driver actually can sue the pedestrian for negligence.  

Sometimes, both the driver and the pedestrian are at fault in a crash. 

ambulance for victim of car accident
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How Pedestrian Accident Lawyers Prove Negligence

Proving that a driver that hit a pedestrian is guilty might look simple. But in a court of law, the pedestrian carries the burden of proof—meaning the pedestrian, and the lawyer representing them, must prove the driver was negligent. Then, they prove that the negligence caused the pedestrian’s injuries and financial losses.

In some pedestrian cases, the defense attorney argues that the pedestrian was at fault, too. This happens when a pedestrian does something dangerous and unlawful, like running out into the street without looking. A pedestrian likely will not receive a settlement if they are blamed for the crash unless they are a child. Then, the court weighs the facts to determine which party is negligent. Sometimes both parties are considered negligent.   

Pedestrian accident lawyers recommend documenting everything that happened leading up to (and during) the crash to support a negligence claim. Keep notes on injuries and medical care, too. The lawyer will draw on the notes to build a case for two types of damages:

  1. Economic damages: medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. 
  2. Non-economic damages: pain and suffering and loss of consortium.  

Missouri and Illinois Regulations Protect Pedestrians

Both Missouri and Illinois have regulations clarifying who is responsible for keeping the streets safe for pedestrians and vehicles. Missouri regulations for pedestrians include:

  • Don’t walk or run into the path of a vehicle when it is so close the driver can’t stop.
  • Walk on the right half of the sidewalk when possible.
  • Yield to vehicles unless using a crosswalk or at an intersection.
  • Don’t cross the road between intersections at which traffic signals are in operation, unless there is a crosswalk.
  • Do not walk along the road (or street) if there is a sidewalk. 

Missouri’s regulations for drivers include:

  • Yield to a pedestrian using a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the road upon which the vehicle is traveling.
  • Do not pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk.
  • “A driver must exercise the highest degree of care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian.”  – Missouri Revised Statutes.  

Illinois requires that pedestrians:

  1. Obey traffic signals, observe walk lights, and use crosswalks.  
  2. Give the right-of-way to drivers when crossing a road, except when using a crosswalk.
  3. Don’t walk on a road, unless there isn’t a sidewalk or shoulder next to it. When walking on a road, face oncoming traffic.
  4. Don’t walk on a highway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  5. Obey railroad and bridge gates and other barriers.
  6. Hitchhiking is illegal.
  7. Skateboarding is allowed on public roads where the speed limit is 45 mph or less only by those 18 or older as long as it doesn’t impede traffic.

Illinois drivers:

  • Must yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
  • Should give way to a pedestrian waiting to cross in a crosswalk.
  • Should be prepared to yield the right-of-way.
  • Shouldn’t drive unnecessarily close to pedestrians.
  • Yield to children who are close to a school zone crosswalk. 
  • Yield to pedestrians.
  • Follow the rest of the regulations for bicycle and pedestrian safety. 

When to Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

After months of pain and suffering, some crash victims wake up and decide it’s time to talk to a lawyer. Fortunately, both Missouri and Illinois give victims years to file a claim. In Illinois, the filing deadline is two years from the date of the accident. In Missouri, the statute of limitations is five years. There is one exception. If the victim was under age 18 when they were hit, the courts typically will grant an extension.

The ability to wait to file a claim doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though. Insurance companies might offer a settlement far less than what the victim will receive when they have legal representation. Contact the pedestrian accident lawyers at Hipskind & McAninch today for a free case review.  


Car Accidents


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