Are Pedestrians Ever At Fault for Car Accidents?

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When pedestrians are involved in car accidents, the results can be devastating. Because pedestrians do face a higher risk of injury, many people mistakenly believe pedestrians never assume responsibility in the event of an accident. This, however, is not the case, and the Nevada Supreme Court has set precedent wherein both drivers and pedestrians can be held accountable for negligence.

At Fahrendorf, Viloria, Oliphant & Oster, L.L.P., our Reno car accident lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you piece together where liability falls after your accident. Whether you were a pedestrian or a driver, it’s important that you understand the role of pedestrian fault, and how the rule of comparative negligence factors into Nevada car accident cases.

The Responsibilities of Pedestrians and Drivers

Pedestrians and drivers have the same “duty of care” toward one another when using public roads. Both parties are required to exercise a high degree of caution, and to act reasonably based on the circumstances in front of them. In essence, having a duty of care means that you have the power to protect someone else from harm (within reason).

Because pedestrians are so vulnerable to motor vehicles, and because they always have the right of way under traffic laws, people may assume pedestrians have no ability to protect drivers. However, there are a wide range of circumstances in which pedestrians can act to prevent accidents, injuries, and property damage.

Some of the primary responsibilities pedestrians have to drivers include:

  • Obeying all traffic laws.
  • Crossing the street only where indicated.
  • Avoiding sudden movements.
  • Paying attention to traffic signals.
  • Staying alert and sober on public roads.
  • Wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing at night.

On the other hand, drivers in motor vehicles also have responsibilities to pedestrians, including:

  • Giving clear and audible warnings if a collision is imminent.
  • Stopping at all marked or unmarked crosswalks to let pedestrians pass.
  • Exercising caution to avoid pedestrians.
  • Driving only when sober and fully capable of operating a vehicle.
  • Paying even more careful attention when pedestrians are on highways.
  • Slowing down in school crossing zones.

Comparative Negligence: Determining Liability in Accidents

In Nevada, judges and juries apportion fault on the principle of “comparative negligence” (NRS 41.141). This means compensation in a car accident case can be broken out into percentages, based on each parties’ level of fault in the accident. For example, a pedestrian bringing a lawsuit against a driver could be found 30% at fault due to violating an important traffic law, thus reducing the overall compensation to 70% of the total amount claimed.

The state of Nevada also has a slight modification to the standard comparative negligence rule, which prevents either party from recovering if they are more than 50% responsible for their accident. Finally, the Nevada Supreme Court has found that violating some traffic laws doesn’t automatically mean a pedestrian was negligent, as these laws were only put in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles.

This is why determining liability in pedestrian accidents can be so difficult. Although pedestrians do have some responsibilities to drivers, they are rarely considered entirely at fault for a car accident. At Fahrendorf, Viloria, Oliphant & Oster, L.L.P., our Reno car accident lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience defending clients who have been injured in accidents. Regardless of whether you were a pedestrian or a driver, we can examine your case and help you fight for fair compensation.

Do you need to discuss your pedestrian car accident case with a skilled Reno attorney? Contact our team today for a consultation!

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