Can a Motorist Sue a Pedestrian?

Sadly, far too many motor vehicle accidents happen between cars and pedestrians. In most of these cases, the driver is at fault, and an injured pedestrian will sue the driver for damages.

But in some cases, the pedestrian acted negligently and may have contributed to an accident. When that happens, can a motorist sue a pedestrian?

Standard Negligence

Liability in all traffic accidents is based on negligence. Because pedestrians are a particularly vulnerable segment of traffic, motorists must yield to people crossing the street or crossing the paths of automobiles. At the same time, pedestrians must also exercise the same care that a “reasonable person” would in the same situation. This often means obeying street signs and pedestrian controls and staying within designated crosswalks.

If a pedestrian fails to act reasonably and causes damage to a car, a motorist could theoretically sue the pedestrian to recover for the damage, although this rarely happens. More often than not, the pedestrian is injured and, in this situation, his or her own negligence will affect the pedestrian’s ability to sue the motorist.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence

The theories of comparative and contributory negligence are ways to apportion liability in cases where there may have been two or more negligent parties. States with comparative negligence laws will reduce a person’s recovery for damages by the percentage of his or her fault in the accident. For example, if a pedestrian was 75 percent to blame for jaywalking when she walked into the side of a car, she can only get 25 percent of her total damages.

In states that use contributory negligence standards, a person is prohibited from recovering any damages at all if he or she contributed to the accident. So the pedestrian in the above example may be barred from bringing any lawsuit at all.

State laws regarding pedestrian accidents may vary. If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injuries, you may want to contact an experienced injury attorney where you live.

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