Can a Pedestrian Be Held Liable in an Accident?

Walking is a health-conscious and eco-friendly option within a community, but when a pedestrian and an average 4,000-pound vehicle collide, the pedestrian is vulnerable to severe or catastrophic injuries. But does a pedestrian’s unprotected status mean they are always the victim in a traffic accident? In fault-based insurance states like Texas, it matters who causes an accident or how much each party contributes to the accident or injury. Like all individuals in traffic situations, the court expects pedestrians to follow traffic laws, but is a pedestrian ever liable for an accident? Speak to an Austin injury attorney today!

How Does the Texas Comparison Negligence Law Apply to Pedestrians?

Texas is not a no-fault insurance state. In Texas, injury victims in traffic accidents must make compensation claims against the other party’s insurance if the other party is at least 51 percent responsible. Texas Sec. 33.001 states :

“A claimant may not recover damages if his percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent…If the claimant is not barred from recovery under Section 33.001, the court shall reduce the amount of damages to be recovered by the claimant with respect to a cause of action by a percentage equal to the claimant’s percentage of responsibility.”

Under this Texas Civil Practice code, a pedestrian may share fault for an accident if they contribute to the cause of the accident. In some cases, a pedestrian may be more than 50% at fault for a pedestrian accident and liable for damages to the driver and vehicle. For example, if a pedestrian wearing dark clothing at night attempts to cross a street mid-block and not at an intersection or crosswalk, they could be 100 percent at fault for the accident. However, if the driver was speeding when the accident occurred, they could share fault. In this example, insurance adjusters and attorneys for each party investigate to determine which party was more than 51 percent at fault.

Can a Pedestrians Recover Compensation for Damages If They Shared Fault in an Accident?

In the above example, a pedestrian could only recover damages if the driver’s speed was so excessive that they were more than 51 percent at fault because their reckless speed made it impossible to avoid the pedestrian. In this case, if the pedestrian’s damages amount to $100,000 and they are determined as 40% at fault while the driver was 60 percent at fault the pedestrian would recover $60,000. On the other hand, if the driver was only exceeding the speed limit by five miles per hour it’s unlikely that they could have avoided the pedestrian even at the speed limit. In this example, the driver could recover compensation for property damage to their vehicle and any medical expenses or lost wages if they were injured in the collision. For instance, if their damages equal $10,000 and they were only 10 percent at fault for the accident they’d recover $9,000 and the pedestrian would be responsible for their own damages.

Common Mistakes That Leave Pedestrian’s Liable in Accidents

Drivers have a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions and measures to avoid hitting a vulnerable pedestrian. However, pedestrians have a responsibility to follow traffic laws. In Texas, pedestrians could be held liable for an accident if they disregard pedestrian traffic laws by doing the following:

  • Crossing a street without using a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • Crossing a highway without a signal
  • Walking on bridges
  • Failing to wear reflective clothing while walking at night
  • Wearing headphones or earbuds while walking or jogging in traffic
  • Failing to yield to vehicles with the right of way
  • Looking at their cell phone while walking in traffic

Pedestrians account for about a third of all traffic deaths despite making up a much lower percentage of individuals in traffic than motorists. Because a pedestrian is exposed to direct impact in an accident, both motorists and pedestrians have the responsibility to follow all traffic laws and avoid distraction. Speak to an Austin pedestrian accident today to learn more!