Who Is At Fault If a Jaywalker Gets Hit By a Car?

Pedestrian accidents are tragic collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians. The person walking or jogging almost always suffers more severe injuries than the driver of the vehicle in a pedestrian accident. All drivers must pay attention to the road and obey traffic laws to try to prevent pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians, however, must also do their part to prevent collisions. If a pedestrian breaks the law and jaywalks, he or she could be at fault for a collision.

What Is Jaywalking?

Pedestrians do not always have the right to cross the road in Massachusetts. Sometimes, they must yield to motorists. If a pedestrian has a Don’t Walk sign at a crosswalk, for example, he or she must yield the right-of-way to drivers. It is up to a pedestrian to know and follow all relevant traffic laws while walking around the city. One of these laws in Massachusetts prohibits jaywalking.

Jaywalking is the colloquial term for a pedestrian crossing a street between two marked or unmarked intersections. It is against the law for a pedestrian to cross the road in the space between two intersections. The pedestrian should instead cross at the nearest intersection or crosswalk. Jaywalking could also refer to crossing the street at an intersection or crosswalk, but when the pedestrian does not bear the right-of-way.

Jaywalking is a dangerous practice that could increase the odds of a pedestrian-vehicle collision. The penalties for jaywalking in the state are light. Jaywalking comes with a fine of just $1 for first, second and third offenses. The fine increases to $2 for fourth and subsequent offenses. Lawmakers have not increased the fine for jaywalking since the law’s original passing in the 1960s.

When Is the Pedestrian At Fault?

If a reasonable and prudent pedestrian would not have crossed the road at the same time and/or place as the victim of a pedestrian accident, the pedestrian could be liable for the collision. Even if the pedestrian sustained the worse injuries out of the two parties, he or she might be liable for the accident for stepping out into oncoming traffic, failing to yield the right-of-way, breaking a traffic law or jaywalking. In most car accident cases, proving fault requires three main elements.

  1. Duty of care. Pedestrians have a duty to obey traffic laws, including not to cross the street when it is illegal or unsafe to do so.
  2. Breach of duty. A pedestrian might have breached his or her duty of care if he or she crossed the road unlawfully.
  3. The pedestrian could be at fault for the collision if his or her breach of duty caused the accident.

If the pedestrian caused or substantially contributed to the accident by breaking Massachusetts’ jaywalking law, he or she may be liable for the collision. Liability would mean the pedestrian would have to pay for his or her medical bills and other damages out of pocket, rather than filing an insurance claim against the driver. If the driver was partially or fully at fault, however, he or she may owe the pedestrian money. The driver might bear fault, for instance, if he or she was texting and driving.

Massachusetts’ Fault Laws

After a pedestrian collision, the injured victim may not have to determine fault to obtain compensation. Massachusetts is a no-fault state, meaning if the pedestrian caused the accident, he or she could still recover compensation from his or her insurance provider. The pedestrian would not have the option of taking a serious injury claim to court, however, if he or she was at fault for the accident.

Pedestrians should always discuss their cases with attorneys before settling. The driver could share fault for the accident, or another factor such as a poorly designed crosswalk might have played a role in the accident. A full investigation of the pedestrian collision could identify all defendants to help injured parties seek fair compensation through all correct outlets.

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