Michigan Lawyer Blog

What Happens If I Hit a Pedestrian Jaywalking?


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If you've been involved in an accident as a driver who hit a pedestrian, it's essential that you know your rights and that the pedestrian is not absolved of fault simply because you were driving. While pedestrians usually have the right-of-way, there certainly are times where they can be at fault when it comes to accidents. The knowledgeable team at Goodman Acker understands that there's more to a pedestrian-versus-car accident when assigning fault and awarding damages. So, what happens if you hit a pedestrian who's jaywalking?

What Is Jaywalking?

Image via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 by KOMUnews

Jaywalking is crossing the street when not permitted or in a non-designated area. Non-permitted can include when the crosswalk is flashing “Don't Walk.” Jaywalking is a citable violation of traffic laws, even though you're not in a vehicle. Before the 1920s, there wasn't much need for such a rule on the streets. Once vehicles became more and more popular and prevalent, it was clear that laws needed to be created to protect both the drivers and the pedestrians. Depending on the jurisdiction, jaywalking can be considered a minor infraction up to a misdemeanor and usually comes with a fine.

What Happens If You Hit a Jaywalker?

First of all, as with any accident, do not leave the scene. Instead, you should immediately pull off to the side of the road. Call the police and any other emergency services immediately to tend to any injuries and begin the investigation. Additional steps should be taken, just like any other car accident, in order to protect you should the pedestrian pursue damages. Start by exchanging personal information such as names and phone numbers.

Take any pictures, including any damage to your vehicle, the spot where the accident took place, and any other significant images that will help prove the pedestrian was jaywalking at the time of the accident. If there are witnesses, get them to provide a statement and their name and phone number to either you or the police. Your goal is to gather as much information as possible to support your claim that the pedestrian was jaywalking and thus shares in the fault of the accident.

Can You Go to Jail for Hitting a Jaywalker?

Typically, an accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian is the same as a two-vehicle accident. The police will take down personal information and start an accident report, and the parties involved will be allowed to go on their way afterward. However, there are several instances where hitting a pedestrian may land you in jail even if they're jaywalking. These include:

  • Hit and run. If you accidentally hit a pedestrian with your car and fail to stop at the scene of the accident, it's more likely for you to incur criminal charges. Hit and run is a felony charge with a potential prison sentence.

  • DWI/OUI. If the driver is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Operating Under the Influence (OUI), it means they are under the influence of a controlled substance such as drugs or alcohol. The use of drugs or alcohol is extenuating circumstances that prevent the driver from being in complete control of their vehicle, reaction times, and actions. This instance may result in higher fines, possible jail time, and harsher driver's license penalties.

  • Vehicular Manslaughter (Involuntary Manslaughter). Even if the pedestrian was jaywalking, if the driver was operating the vehicle recklessly — such as speeding or driving under the influence — any death resulting from the accident may result in criminal charges.

If you've been involved in a car-versus-pedestrian accident that landed you in jail, you should consult an attorney well-versed in your specific type of case as your best defense.

Who Is at Fault if a Pedestrian Is Hit While Jaywalking?

Anyone using the road must follow the rules, whether in a vehicle or on foot. Just like drivers, pedestrians are required to follow the traffic signals, signage, and traffic laws. If failure to follow the traffic laws results in an accident, the pedestrian will more than likely be found at least partially at fault for the accident. Laws vary by state when it comes to a shared fault in any type of accident, so it's critical to know how your state looks at accidents and assigning responsibility.

Drivers are required to do everything possible to avoid an accident with a pedestrian, even one who's jaywalking and not following the rules of the road. Drivers are considered more at fault in a jaywalking accident if there was an opportunity to avoid the accident and didn't take it. Instances include:

  • Speeding.

  • Eyes not on the road.

  • Failure to yield.

  • Distracted driving.

Pedestrians also have the responsibility of avoiding an accident by using designated crosswalks, following traffic lights, and not darting out into traffic from between two cars reducing a driver's ability to see them enter the roadway.

Michigan Pedestrian Laws

Michigan pedestrian laws state that vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk on the same half of the road their vehicle occupies or approaching the halfway point. On the other hand, pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing the road outside of the designated crosswalk area.

Negligence in Michigan

Michigan follows the comparative negligence law, which states that the injured party must prove that the other person was at least partially at fault for the accident. In the case of a pedestrian versus car accident, the driver will always be assigned some percentage of fault. A pedestrian involved in an accident can't see non-economic compensation if they were 50% or more at fault. However, they can seek economic damages from you as the defendant relative to the percentage of fault assigned to you.

If you've been involved in an accident where you hit a pedestrian who was jaywalking, reach out to the team at Goodman Acker. The pedestrian involved will have their insurance company and attorney working hard to get them a large settlement. Our experience and expertise will provide you with the defense you deserve and a fair settlement. Call for a free consultation, or complete our online form and a member will get back to you as soon as possible.