“I was in a crosswalk when the car struck me. It’s totally their fault!” Well, that may be true but don’t jump to conclusions. There is so much more involved in a pedestrian vs. motor vehicle accident despite a pedestrian being struck in a crosswalk. While the right of way may favor pedestrians, a pedestrian does not always have the absolute right to cross the street without regard to motor vehicle traffic. There are many circumstances where a pedestrian must give the right of way. You can’t just cross the street indiscriminately.
It’s hard to believe but in 2020 there were over 1,200 pedestrian accidents in Massachusetts. That comes out to a little over 3 per day. That is an alarming number of pedestrian accidents and the injuries that occur from these types of accidents can be very serious, even life-threatening. With these types of statistics, it’s always beneficial to know your legal rights and have a general understanding of the laws as they pertain to pedestrian accidents in the event you are injured as a pedestrian.
Overview of the Pedestrian & Crosswalk Laws in Massachusetts
The written laws regarding pedestrians are rather lengthy and can be found in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 89 Section 11 (M.G.L. c.89, §11) and the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (720 C.M.R. 9.09). Principally, under Chapter 89 §11, when control signals are not in place or in operation, a driver shall yield the right of way when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk. The Code of Massachusetts Regulations, on the other hand, goes into a lengthy discussion of pedestrian crossing, stating that no pedestrian shall cross a roadway except within the limits of a marked cross walk and where controls are in place, how those controls are to be interpreted. The Code states that no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a sidewalk or safety island and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield the right of way. Notice the words used: “suddenly”, “so close”, “impossible”. This is where the art of lawyering becomes involved (on both sides) in determining who was at fault.
In its strictest sense, you only must stop for pedestrians when the pedestrian has the right of way, such as an intersection with crossing controls and motor vehicles have the red light. Safe driving suggests that you should always stop and let pedestrians cross the street. However, there are many instances where it is unsafe for the motor vehicle to yield to a pedestrian.
For example, a person crossing a well-traveled road with no crosswalk or controls in sight could present a hazard for motor vehicle traffic. Stopping unexpectedly for the pedestrian could result in a rear-end collision for the yielding driver. We’ve all been in situations where you must hit the brakes fast. When that happens to me, my immediate reaction is to look in the rear-view mirror and hope that the traffic behind me is also coming to a stop.
Determining Fault in Pedestrian Accidents is Not Always Cut & Dry
Just like in personal injury claims stemming from a motor vehicle crash, liability (i.e., fault or responsibility for an act) must be determined. While insurance companies take pedestrian versus motor vehicle accident cases very seriously, just because a person is struck walking in a crosswalk and severely injured doesn’t mean the insurance company automatically accepts liability and pays compensation.
Insurance investigators know that in this scenario witness statements, accident reconstruction, even available video can defeat a claim for personal injury by an injured pedestrian. As an example, stepping off the curb when motor vehicles are too close in distance or going too fast to stop could mean the motor vehicle may not be liable for the resulting collision, or that the pedestrian was comparatively negligent, which may be fatal to a personal injury claim.
So then, with all this information what is the answer to the question proposed above? Well, if you are driving and see someone intending to cross the street and you can reasonably stop, then you must stop. Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state meaning that even if a pedestrian contributed to the accident, they could still recover compensation as long as the pedestrian was less than 51% at fault. If it’s determined that the pedestrian was 51% or more responsible for the accidents, there is no recovery. The courts will reduce a plaintiff’s award by his or her percentage of fault.
Take Action if You Were Involved in an Accident as a Pedestrian
If you were struck by a moving vehicle and hurt while a pedestrian, you should always follow the Three Most Important Things To Do Immediately After A Massachusetts Accident. Generally, calling 911 and seeking immediate medical treatment is always a priority. After, consult with an experienced pedestrian attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Our Experienced Massachusetts Pedestrian Accident Attorneys
An experienced lawyer will take crucial steps to substantiate your claim. One of the important steps is to commence an immediate investigation of the accident because it is necessary that important evidence is located, collected, and preserved. It is also important to make all efforts to gather witness statements, inspect any damage caused to vehicles, obtain video surveillance where available, and communicate effectively with law enforcement and insurance investigators.