How Civil Liability Works in Pedestrian Collisions

Pedestrian collisions are unfortunate events that can happen in the blink of an eye. These incidents can lead to injuries, emotional distress, and financial burdens for the victims. Understanding how civil liability works in pedestrian collisions is essential, as it sheds light on the legal framework designed to protect the rights and well-being of those who are most vulnerable on our streets and sidewalks.

Here we examine the intricacies of personal injury law, examining the responsibilities of various parties involved, such as drivers, pedestrians, and property owners.

What is Civil Liability?

Civil liability in pedestrian accidents is a legal framework that allows individuals who have been injured or suffered damages in accidents involving pedestrians to seek compensation for their losses. [1]

It is separate from criminal liability, which involves legal responsibility for committing a criminal act. In pedestrian collisions, civil liability determines who is responsible for the accident and the resulting damages.

The number of pedestrian incidents remains a significant concern.

In 2021, there was a notable increase in pedestrian injuries and fatalities, with 7,388 pedestrians losing their lives and more than 60,000 sustaining injuries across the country. [2]

What is Civil Liability?

How Does Civil Liability Apply to Pedestrian Accidents?

Here’s how civil liability applies to pedestrian accidents:

  • Driver’s Duty of Care: In most cases, drivers have a duty of care towards pedestrians. This means they are expected to operate their vehicles with caution, adhere to traffic laws, obey speed limits, and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks. If a driver fails to exercise reasonable care and injures a pedestrian, they can be held liable for the pedestrian’s injuries and damages.
  • Pedestrian Responsibilities: Pedestrians also have a duty to exercise reasonable care while walking on or near roadways. They are expected to obey traffic signals and use crosswalks when available. However, even if a pedestrian is partially at fault for an accident, they may still be able to pursue a claim for damages, depending on the legal concept of comparative negligence in their jurisdiction.
  • Establishing Negligence: To pursue a civil liability claim, the injured pedestrian must typically establish that the responsible party (e.g., the driver) acted negligently. This involves proving that the responsible party owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the breach directly caused the pedestrian’s injuries.
  • Seeking Compensation: Once liability is established, the injured pedestrian can seek financial compensation for their losses. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain and suffering, property damage, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
  • Insurance Coverage: Often, liability for pedestrian accidents is covered by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. The injured pedestrian can file a civil claim with the driver’s insurance company to seek fair compensation. If the driver is uninsured or underinsured, the pedestrian may also be able to make a claim under their own auto insurance policy’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
How Does Civil Liability Apply to Pedestrian Accidents?

Practical Illustrations of Civil Liability Application

Let’s explore a few scenarios to demonstrate how civil liability is applied in real-life situations.

Case Study: Distracted Driver

Imagine a scenario where a driver is texting while driving and strikes a pedestrian who is crossing the street legally. In this case, the driver’s actions can be considered negligent as they failed to uphold their duty of care. Texting while driving is a clear example of distracted driving, which greatly increases the risk of accidents.

The injured pedestrian would have a strong case for civil liability against the driver, and the driver’s insurance company would likely be held responsible for compensating the victim for their losses.

Case Study: Drunk Driver

A pedestrian is walking on the sidewalk when a drunk driver veers off the road and hits them. Driving under the influence is not only illegal but also a flagrant violation of the duty of care owed to others on the road. In this case, the drunk driver would be held primarily at fault for the accident.

The injured pedestrian would have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver’s insurance company to seek compensation for their injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and possibly punitive damages.  If the injured pedestrian lost their life, their remaining family members would have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Case Study: Failure to Observe Traffic Signals

A pedestrian is crossing the road using a marked crosswalk with a traffic signal. A driver fails to yield to the pedestrian and strikes them, causing significant injuries. In this case, the driver’s failure to obey traffic laws, specifically failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, would be clear evidence of negligence. The injured pedestrian could pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver for their injuries, medical expenses, loss of income, and other related damages.

Case Study: Failure to Observe Traffic Signals

Civil Liability

In the event of a pedestrian collision, the legal process seeks to identify liable parties, which often involves gathering evidence, conducting investigations, and potentially negotiating or litigating a settlement. The goal is to provide financial relief to the injured pedestrian, covering medical expenses, lost wages, mental anguish, pain, and suffering.

Ultimately, civil liability laws serve as a critical mechanism for holding accountable those who fail to exercise due care on the road. 

Have you recently been injured in a pedestrian accident?

Contact Goldberg & Loren today for a free consultation and take the first step towards getting the compensation owed to you.


[1] Civil Liability. (n.d.). LII / Legal Information Institute.

[2] Pedestrian Safety | NHTSA. (n.d.). NHTSA.

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