Can a Pedestrian Be at Fault in a Car Wreck? 


If you hear about accidents involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle, you might assume the driver is to blame. After all, the law in most municipalities gives the pedestrian the right of way.  

But the fact is it often a pedestrian’s actions that cause a car wreck. If you have ever been driving and had to stop short after someone darted out in front of your vehicle, you know how easy it is for this to happen. If it determined the pedestrian caused the accident, the driver may sue them if they are injured or sustain damage to their vehicle. 

This discussion explores common scenarios for these accidents, how fault is determined, and what you should do if you are involved in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. 

Pedestrians Also Have a Duty of Care to Act Responsibly

Walkers, joggers, and cyclists are obviously more likely to sustain personal injury in a collision with a vehicle. However, that does not absolve them from doing their part to prevent an accident. 

Pedestrians have a duty to act with reasonable care when utilizing roads and highways. Generally, they have the ability to determine when and where they leave the sidewalk and enter the highway. They often have a better chance of avoiding a collision with a vehicle than the reverse scenario. 

Of course, there are many situations in which the driver is to blame for hitting a pedestrian, for example, if they run a red light or drive through a cross walk. That is why pedestrian-vehicle accidents are complex and require careful examination to determine who is at fault. 

Common Scenarios in Which a Pedestrian May Cause a Traffic Accident

Here are some of the circumstances in which a pedestrian bears at least partial fault for a vehicle-pedestrian accident: 

  • Intoxication: Entering a roadway while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Jaywalking: Crossing outside of the crosswalk, in the middle of the street 
  • Disregarding traffic signals: Crossing when the traffic signal says Do not cross
  • Walking in prohibited areas: Along highways, causeways, bridges, and other locations where pedestrians do not have legal access 
  • Crossing without looking: Entering the road without looking both ways to ensure it is safe 
  • Crossing while distracted: Entering the road while looking at their phone or being otherwise distracted

A Closer Look at Pedestrian Crashes in Maryland

Data from a report on pedestrian safety in Maryland offers valuable insight into the severity and frequency of accidents involving pedestrians. Knowing more about the reasons can help drivers and pedestrians take steps to prevent these crashes.

The report found that 91 percent of pedestrian-involved crashes occurred in the densely populated Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. These accidents happen most often in the evenings, on Fridays, and in the fall compared with other days and times of the year. Statistically, men account for the greatest number of pedestrians and drivers involved in accidents. 

Determining Fault for Car Wrecks Involving Vehicles and Pedestrians

In Maryland, if the injured pedestrian is found to be even partially at fault for an accident, there is a good chance their claim will be denied. They will not be able to obtain financial compensation for their injuries, medical bills, and other losses. This is because of Maryland’s contributory negligence statute.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Maryland is one of very few jurisdictions that still employ this all-or-nothing legal concept of contributory negligence. Under state law, the injured party can obtain monetary damages only if they show the other party is 100 percent at fault for the car wreck. 

If the plaintiff, whether that is the pedestrian or the driver, contributed in any way to the crash, their case is likely to be thrown out. That is true even if the injured plaintiff is just one percent responsible for the accident. 

Contributory Negligence in Pedestrian-Car Wrecks

Let us apply this legal principle to an accident scenario involving a motorist and a pedestrian. Imagine a driver going well above the speed limit on a busy city street hits a man just as he darts out into the road from between two parked cars. The pedestrian suffers a broken leg as during the collision. 

Unfortunately, even though the motorist was driving aggressively, the pedestrian can also be considered partially at fault because they did not cross at a designated location. In this case, jaywalking possibly destroyed any chance of obtaining compensation for the pedestrian’s medical expenses. 

How to Prove Fault in a Pedestrian-Vehicle Accident

Because car accident claims are more complex in areas that have contributory negligence, it is especially important to collect evidence related to the accident. If you were involved in an accident in which the pedestrian was at fault, these forms of evidence can help support your case:

  • Statements from objective witnesses who saw the accident happen 
  • Photos and/or video from red light cameras, nearby security cameras, dash-cams, and mobile phones
  • The defendant’s mobile phone records can prove they were texting or scrolling at the time of the accident 

What Are Possible Damages after a Pedestrian-Car Wreck?

In a legal context, damages refer to compensable losses. Damages after this type of accident can include: 

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Income loss due to accident-related injuries 
  • Economic impact if the injured party cannot earn income in the future 
  • Physical and mental pain and suffering because of injuries, procedures, and decline in one’s quality of life 

What Should You Do if You Are Involved in an Accident with a Pedestrian?

Any car accident is stressful. When a pedestrian is involved, it can be traumatic because they are much more likely to be seriously hurt. Knowing what to do after a pedestrian-vehicle crash will help you remain calm and get assistance in a timely manner. 

First, visually assess everyone at the scene for injuries. If you can, call 911 for assistance. If you cannot use or reach your phone, ask a passenger or bystander to call for help. Wait for emergency responders, who will assist anyone in need of immediate medical attention. 

Next, talk to the police. Tell the officer exactly what happened to the best of your ability. Do not assume facts you are unsure about or accept fault for the accident. Remember, liability is the key to Maryland personal injury claims. 

Always be truthful and state the facts but avoid saying things such as, “I never saw him coming” or “I was going too fast to stop.” It is never okay to lie or twist the facts after an accident. Instead, it is best to let the evidence speak for itself. 

Exchange contact information with the pedestrian and show the officer your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. It is wise to see a doctor after a car accident because strains, sprains, and internal bleeding may not be immediately apparent. Some delayed-onset injuries develop or worsen over time and require treatment to properly heal. 

Finally, a consultation with a skilled car wreck lawyer is a good next step to understand your legal rights and responsibilities after a pedestrian-vehicle accident. If you can prove the pedestrian breached their duty to act responsibly according to local traffic laws, you may have cause to bring a claim for any losses you incurred. 

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Are Committed to Helping Injured Clients Recover from Their Accidents 

Maryland law makes it challenging for injured car accident victims to recover compensation for their losses. The Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will use every legal tool available to prove your claim and obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.