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Is the Driver Always at Fault in a Pedestrian Crash?

Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians in Utah do not always have the right-of-way. Although pedestrians can suffer worse injuries than drivers in auto collisions, they may not always have grounds to file insurance claims or lawsuits against the drivers. If the pedestrian was breaking a roadway rule, crossing the road unsafely or ignoring a driver’s right-of-way, the driver may not be at fault. Learn Utah’s pedestrian laws and nighttime pedestrian safety tips to keep yourself safe and free from liability.

What are the Pedestrian Laws in Utah?

Utah has several laws controlling how drivers must interact with pedestrians. Drivers must always exercise a reasonable degree of care not to harm pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers should always use due care, prudence and caution when maneuvering around or near pedestrians – especially in crowded city locations. Drivers must also obey all related pedestrian laws, as outlined by the Utah Department of Public Safety.

  • 41-6a-706.5. Drivers must leave at least three feet of space between their vehicles and pedestrians at all times. Motorists cannot force pedestrians off the roadway or distract them with the intent of causing an injury.
  • 41-6a-902. Drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks at unmarked intersections. At marked intersections, drivers must yield only when the pedestrian has the right-of-way. Motorists must yield to pedestrians in adjacent crosswalks at intersections. It is illegal to pass a car that is stopped for pedestrians at a crosswalk.
  • 41-6a-905. Construction and maintenance zones can be dangerous for pedestrians. Motorists must yield pedestrians the right-of-way in these areas.
  • 41-6a-907. Drivers must come to complete stops and check for pedestrians before crossing over sidewalks when leaving alleys or driveways. Motorists must always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on sidewalks.
  • 41-6a-1002. Drivers must yield to pedestrians at school zone crosswalks when the crosswalk lights are flashing.
  • 41-6a-1006. Motorists must actively prevent pedestrian accidents. This requires yielding to visually impaired pedestrians, using their horns as necessary and being extra cautious around child pedestrians.

Breaking any of these laws and subsequently striking a pedestrian will most likely point to driver liability for damages. A driver that breaches a duty of care to a pedestrian will be at fault for a related collision. If the driver did everything he or she could have to prevent the crash, however, the pedestrian could be at fault for the accident instead. Pedestrians also have rules and requirements they must obey in Utah.

Comparative Negligence

Utah’s comparative negligence doctrine states that a person’s contribution to an accident will not alone bar that person from financial recovery. Someone partially at fault for a collision could still receive some compensation from the other at-fault party. As long as the plaintiff is less than 51% at fault, he or she could still recover money damages. Applied to a pedestrian accident case, this means a pedestrian could be comparatively negligent and still receive payment for his or her losses.

Comparative negligence is a common defense drivers use during pedestrian accident claims. A driver may allege the pedestrian is partially to blame for crossing the road illegally, walking while distracted or breaching another duty of care. If the courtroom assigns a percentage of fault to the pedestrian, he or she will receive less compensation. The courts will reduce the award by the percentage of negligence. A $10,000 award, for example, would drop to $9,000 if the courts found the pedestrian 10% at fault for the collision.

Assigning Fault for a Pedestrian Collision

Pedestrian accidents are common in Utah. In 2016, 898 pedestrians in Utah suffered injuries and 39 died. Drivers are at fault for many of these accidents, due to acts of negligence such as texting and driving, drunk driving, speeding and red-light running. However, pedestrians may also be to blame, depending on the circumstances. A driver is not automatically at fault for a pedestrian accident. An insurance company will need to investigate the crash to determine and assign fault to one or both parties.

If you want to learn more about traffic and pedestrian related law, speak to an experienced pedestrian accident attorney in Utah.

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