According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), nearly 5,000 pedestrians die in motor vehicle-related accidents each year. Although commonly spoken, the adage “The pedestrian has the right-of-way” is not necessarily true. Drivers of motor vehicles and pedestrians both have the responsibility to follow the rules of the road and exercise reasonable care.
Failure to exercise reasonable care is considered to be negligence. A person who negligently operates a vehicle may be required to pay damages for personal and property damage caused by the negligence. Common examples of negligence by a driver include distracted driving, speeding, failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian at a crosswalk, disobeying traffic signals and signs, failure to signal while turning, disregarding weather or traffic conditions, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers have a higher duty of care when they know or should know that small children are present in areas such as schools, parks, and residential areas.
In order to establish negligence, the pedestrian must prove that the driver of the motor vehicle owed a legal duty to the pedestrian under the circumstances, failed to fulfill the legal duty, caused the accident or injury, and the pedestrian suffered harm as a result. The police report and witness statements can be helpful if fault is not obvious. If the driver is at fault in the accident, the pedestrian can usually receive compensation from the driver or his or her insurance company.
Pedestrians must also exercise reasonable care. A pedestrian can be considered negligent if s/he jaywalks, crosses the street against traffic control signals, crosses freeways, highways, or other roadways without traffic controls, or walks along areas where pedestrians are prohibited by law, such as freeways, highways, and bridges. If the pedestrian is at fault in the accident, s/he will not be compensated by the driver or his or her insurance company. In fact, the driver could actually sue the pedestrian for injuries and/or damages to his or her car!
It is possible for both the pedestrian and the driver of the motor vehicle to be negligent. Michigan follows a modified comparative negligence rule, where an injured person can collect damages from the at fault party as long as s/he is less than 50% at blame for the accident. If the injured person bears 50% or more of the blame, s/he cannot recover from the other party at all.
In rare occasions, the fault for vehicle-pedestrian accidents can be the fault of the city or town where the accident occurred. This could be the case if the traffic controls were malfunctioning, or if a crosswalk is poorly placed.