Can a Driver Sue a Pedestrian?
When a pedestrian is hit by a car, it is not usually the driver who ends up filing a personal injury lawsuit. Yet, it is not entirely out of the question that a driver can sue a pedestrian following a vehicle accident. From the moment most of us begin studying to obtain our drivers’ licenses, it is drilled into our heads that pedestrians have the right of way. New Mexico Statute Section 66-7-334 spells out the terms and conditions for when this is true.
As a rule, drivers must yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk in the absence of working traffic-control signals. However, that does not mean individuals on foot can suddenly leave the curb or other place of safe travel and dart out into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Doing so puts the responsibility for any accidents or injuries on the pedestrian instead of the driver.
What is a negligent pedestrian?
Pedestrians who act in a careless or reckless manner fall under the legal definition of a negligent pedestrian. What are some examples of negligent behavior? Wandering out into traffic without waiting for a crossing signal or using a crosswalk meets the definition. Jaywalking also is considered careless – not to mention illegal in most jurisdictions. Pedestrians under the influence of alcohol or drugs also can be accountable if they slip and fall into traffic because their reflections and reaction times are slow.
Meeting the legal definition for a negligent pedestrian does not always involve an accident with the person and a vehicle. For instance, a walker who throws objects into the path of an oncoming car that causes the vehicle to crash into other motorists or objects can be held liable for negligence. Distracting a driver in any way that causes them to have an accident that damages their vehicle and causes injuries falls into this category as well.
How to determine pedestrian fault
Any time a car or other vehicle collides with a pedestrian, insurance companies conduct thorough investigations to determine fault. If the collision causes serious injuries, police also will launch an independent investigation to decide what, if any, charges should be filed against the driver or the pedestrian (or both). Conversely, if a driver crashes their car while trying to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is jaywalking or failing to follow other right-of-way laws and is injured, the pedestrian can be determined to be at fault.
Both the insurance companies and the police will analyze physical evidence from the accident scene and take witness statements. Police often use accident reconstruction techniques to gain a better understanding of all contributing factors.
Including a personal injury attorney skilled in automobile-pedestrian collisions in this phase of the investigation is a wise choice to ensure your rights are protected. Never speak to an insurance agent (even your own) without the advice of an attorney first. Any statements you make can be used against you to assign fault so your insurance company or that of the other party does not have to meet their obligations.
Shared fault in pedestrian accidents
Sometimes both the driver and the pedestrian share fault in a collision. When this happens, each party is held responsible for its share of the accident. If insurance companies and the police determine that shared fault is at play, you can expect the reduction of any personal injury settlement awarded to you.
Sharing the blame does not preclude you from suing the other party for damages and injuries suffered in the encounter. New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state, which requires the liability between driver and pedestrian to be split based on the percentage of fault. As the driver, if you are found 30 percent responsible, you can expect any settlement to be reduced by that amount.
Protecting your rights as a driver
If a careless pedestrian caused a collision with your car or another vehicle, you must protect your rights as a driver throughout the process. Filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover any damages to your vehicle and fair compensation for injuries you suffered is an option when the pedestrian is determined to be fully or partially at fault. Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation by calling 505-944-1050 or requesting an appointment online.