If I Was Hit by a Car While Jaywalking, Can I Still File a Lawsuit Against the Driver?

We’ve all heard the common refrain, “the pedestrian has the right-of-way.” But is there ever a time when a pedestrian is at fault for an accident? If you were hit by a car while crossing a street outside of a crosswalk or where there was no crosswalk, you may be wondering whether you have any legal rights.

In fact, in Pennsylvania, there are no laws explicitly prohibiting jaywalking. Unlike other states that make it illegal for pedestrians to cross streets outside of intersections or to cross outside of crosswalks, even when the crossing signal is green, Pennsylvania does not outright ban “jaywalking.” That being said, pedestrians are still required to follow certain traffic rules and regulations. If you are found to have been in violation of these rules when the accident occurred, the driver can potentially use this to argue that you were at fault for the accident. However, if the driver was also acting negligently or was doing something illegal, such as driving while intoxicated, at the time of the collision, you may have more legal ground to stand on.

Pedestrian Rights & Rules in Pennsylvania

Pedestrians in Pennsylvania have a duty to exercise reasonable care in order to keep themselves and others safe.

As outlined in Pennsylvania Vehicle Code Subchapter C, pedestrians are required to abide by the following rules:

  • Obey any and all traffic control devices, including stop signs, traffic signals, crossing signals, crossing guards, etc.
  • Pay attention to where they are walking and exercise care
  • Yield to vehicles when crossing streets outside of crosswalks
  • When available and when traffic control devices are working, cross at crosswalks
  • Use sidewalks when they are available
  • Yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, firetrucks, police cars, etc.

Pedestrians are also granted certain rights when walking along or crossing streets in Pennsylvania. When a pedestrian is crossing in a crosswalk, even when traffic signals are not in operation, the motorist should yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian. Furthermore, pedestrians who are blind and are using a white cane or seeing-eye dog should always be granted the right-of-way. Additionally, all motorists should exercise reasonable caution and avoid hitting pedestrians whenever possible, regardless of the situation, due to the inherently catastrophic nature of vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Understanding Pennsylvania’s Law of Contributory Negligence

Pennsylvania follows what is known as the contributory negligence rule. This means that a person who is partially at fault for an accident is not barred from recovery (filing a lawsuit), granted that he or she is less than 50% at fault for the accident. However, the total recovery amount will be reduced by the percentage for which the person is found to be at fault.

For example, if you were “jaywalking,” that is, crossing outside of a crosswalk when a crosswalk was available, and were hit by a car, the driver of the car may try to argue that they did not expect you to be there and, therefore, you are to blame for the accident. However, if the driver is found to have had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08% at the time the accident occurred, the driver could be found mostly liable, as drunk driving often constitutes gross negligence. If this were the case, and the jury found the drunk driver to be 75% liable for the accident, assigning the remaining 25% of fault to you, you would be able to recover up to 75% of the total award that you could have recovered were you not liable at all.

This is just one example of how Pennsylvania’s law of contributory negligence works; each situation is unique and the various factors involved in your case will play a large role in your legal options and the outcome of your case.

If you were involved in a pedestrian accident in Pennsylvania and want to learn more about your rights, contact Metzger Wickersham today for a free case evaluation.

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