Have you ever wondered if a pedestrian can ever be at fault for a car accident? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that a pedestrian can have zero fault, partial fault or total fault for an accident involving a car. It all comes down to the facts of the accident. Let us explain in a little bit more detail.
Tennessee law requires both drivers and pedestrians to follow the law and exercise due care. Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are in crosswalks and must use due care to avoid hitting a pedestrian even if they are not in a crosswalk. If a sidewalk is not provided, Tennessee law dictates that a pedestrian should walk facing traffic. If a pedestrian is crossing at an intersection with or without a crosswalk, the pedestrian has the right of way. If the pedestrian is crossing a street in the middle of a block or otherwise not at an intersection, the pedestrian should yield to cars.
Based on the above, an example of a pedestrian having zero fault for an accident would be in a situation where they are in a crosswalk walking in accordance with the traffic signal and a driver hits them. An example of partial fault might be a pedestrian who crosses the road where there is not an intersection. Tennessee law says he or she must yield to the driver of the car. But, let’s assume the pedestrian thinks he can safely cross because the car is far off in the distance. And let’s further assume, the driver of the car is speeding. Under those circumstances, a jury may say that the pedestrian was partially at fault but the driver was even more at fault because he was speeding and distracted by his phone. An example of total fault could be where a pedestrian intentionally walks in front of a vehicle.
As we said, the facts of the case are important in determining whether the pedestrian is at fault for the accident. Some important facts are:
- Was the pedestrian in a crosswalk?
- Did the pedestrian look before crossing the road?
- Was the pedestrian walking with traffic or facing it?
- If the pedestrian was walking along the road, had other drivers seen the pedestrian and driven safely around him or her?
- What was the visibility based on the time of day and weather and road conditions?
- Was the driver speeding?
- Was the driver of the car or the pedestrian distracted?
- Was the driver of the car or the pedestrian under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Was the pedestrian wearing reflective clothing or carrying a light? (Tennessee law does not require pedestrians wear reflective clothing or carry a light but if they were then it makes it even less likely that they bore any fault for the accident). Even in the absence of reflective clothing, a pedestrian has a better opportunity to be seen by a driver in nighttime or poor weather conditions if he or she is wearing light-colored clothing.
The fact that a pedestrian is partially at fault impacts the amount of damages the law allows him or her to recover. For instance, if the pedestrian is determined to be 10% at fault and the driver of the car 90% at fault, the pedestrian is permitted to recover damages from the driver (and driver’s insurance company) but the amount of the recovery will be reduced by 10%. If the pedestrian is 25% at fault, the damages that would otherwise be recovered is reduced by 25%. However, if it is determined that the pedestrian is 50% at fault, Tennessee law completely bars any recovery by the pedestrian, even if he or she is horribly and permanently injured in the incident.
Every 81 minutes in this country, a pedestrian is killed. As drivers, the best way to prevent these types of accidents is to slow down, pay attention and to not drive under the influence. For pedestrians, use crosswalks when provided and be vigilant. If you or a loved one has been injured as a pedestrian and would like to discuss the facts of your case in a free consultation with our office, give us a call at one of our three Middle Tennessee locations. We handle all pedestrian accident cases on a contingency-basis so we only get paid if we win. And as always, if you can’t come to us for any reason, we will gladly come to you.