Most people are aware that Virginia law requires motor vehicle operators
to yield to pedestrians who are in crosswalks. If a driver hits a pedestrian
in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is injured, that pedestrian can recover
from the driver, right? This is an easy case, right? Not so. Even though
a pedestrian in a crosswalk is generally protected by Virginia law, that
pedestrian is not without responsibilities.
Here are three top duties owed to motorists by pedestrians:
- Don't step off the curb right in front of traffic. This sounds obvious,
but we see this all the time. A pedestrian who is determined to get across
the street and asserts the right of way by stepping into the street no
matter if traffic is there, how fast traffic is travelling, etc. A pedestrian
has a duty to wait until it is safe to cross the street, even if she has
a green light or other pedestrian control signal in her favor giving her
the right of way. A driver who hits that pedestrian may also be wrong,
depending on the facts, but if the pedestrian has done anything negligent
to contribute to her being hit, the doctrine of contributory negligence
bars her claim against the driver. (see the discussion of this doctrine
posted on November 11, 2013).
- Don't move into a position of danger in the crosswalk. This is similar
to number 3, above, but applies to anywhere in the crosswalk. For example,
a pedestrian has a duty not to weave in between parked cars on the crosswalk
in such a manner that she obscures herself from the vision of other drivers.
Likewise, a pedestrian has a duty not to step in front of a car the plaintiff
sees is about to accelerate across the crosswalk.
- See what is there to be seen. Just as the driver of a motor vehicle has
a duty to keep a proper lookout for pedestrians in a crosswalk, a pedestrian
has a duty to keep an eye out for traffic. If the pedestrian is not paying
attention, is looking down, texting, etc and an avoidable dangerous situation
presents itself and the pedestrian is injured, her claim my very well
be barred, even if the driver of a vehicle contributes to that dangerous
situation—again, because of Virginia's adherence to the doctrine
of contributory negligence.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it is a start to understanding
a pedestrian hit in a crosswalk is not automatically entitled to recover.
She must keep her eyes open and pay attention. If you have been injured
in a crosswalk, a good attorney is critical to helping you understand
whether or not you will be able to recover for your injuries.