What Are Pedestrians' Duties in Crosswalks? A Top Three List.

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.