Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

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The idea that pedestrians always have the right-of-way is a persistent one, but it’s not entirely true. The truth is a lot more complex. Pedestrians have the right of way, but only sometimes. 

If you or a loved one was a pedestrian who got injured by a driver, issues of “right of way” could play a significant role in your case. Here’s what you need to know.

What are Your Responsibilities as a Pedestrian?

Pedestrians are required to follow traffic laws just like drivers are, including laws which specifically pertain to pedestrian accidents.

For example, pedestrians may not cross the roadway outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, pedestrian scramble, or crossover. Pedestrians are also legally bound to pay attention to traffic signals. For example, a pedestrian who begins crossing the street while the “Don’t Walk” sign is active does not have the right of way and is in active violation of the law. Pedestrians who cross at places or times they are not supposed to cross can be found guilty of jaywalking, and can be fined $250. 

Once pedestrians are legally in a crosswalk or crossover drivers must yield the right-of-way. While Alberta law is a little fuzzy on whether drivers must wait until the pedestrian is all the way across before proceeding, a driver who hits a pedestrian who is still in the crosswalk would generally be found at-fault. At a crossover drivers are explicitly forbidden from proceeding until pedestrians have reached the opposite curb.

Pedestrians are also responsible for following the directions of any peace officers who might be managing the crosswalk. 

There are also certain “best practices” that pedestrians should know. While they aren’t enshrined in law, failing to follow these best practices could set you up to be found at least partially at fault for an accident that takes place in Alberta. For example, pedestrians are encouraged to make eye contact with drivers to make sure they’ve been seen, and to wait until traffic comes to a full and complete stop before crossing. They’re also encouraged to pull out earbuds before crossing traffic and to watch traffic rather than their phones, and to wear reflectors at night.

How does the Law Effect Pedestrians in Red Deer?

In personal injury cases, pedestrian law plays a role while assigning fault. 

In truth, almost 70% of accidents between pedestrians and drivers are caused by drivers. Drivers run red lights, make improper left turns, or drive distracted. Pedestrians then suffer.

Unfortunately this will not prevent insurance companies from trying to blame pedestrians to reduce or eliminate the need to pay out a claim. They are aided in this because Alberta is a contributory negligence province.

Here’s how contributory negligence works. Any time a person is found to have, by their own actions, also taken actions which caused the accident, they can be assigned a percentage of fault. For example, the driver might bear 75% of the blame, but the pedestrian may be found to bear 25% of the blame.

When insurance companies are successful in calling your own actions into question, they are able to reduce the actual payout by the same percentage.

In the above example, if you won a $100,000 settlement you’d only receive $75,000, because the at-fault party is not required to compensate you for the parts of the accident that they didn’t cause.

Every percentage point counts, amounting, at time, to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fault assignment can be somewhat subjective, and thus it’s up to your personal injury lawyer to become the savviest negotiator possible so as to maximize your settlement.

There is some good news. Alberta also applies a reverse onus to pedestrian accidents.

In a normal driver-on-driver accident, the plaintiff must prove, through a preponderance of evidence, that the at-fault driver was at-fault. 

When a driver strikes a pedestrian, the law requires the defendant to prove, through a preponderance of evidence, that they were not at fault. This is a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one. It’s a distinction that acknowledges the greater responsibility of the driver. After all, the driver is the one in the large, heavy machine. The driver is also unlikely to be hurt any time a pedestrian is at fault, whereas pedestrians are often killed when a driver strikes them. 

In addition, a high percentage of pedestrian cases are caused by hit and run drivers. If the driver can be found, it is possible that you will be able to secure punitive damages for your claim, in addition to securing pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. 

Injured Pedestrian? Get Help Today.

Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident? Is your deceased loved one the victim of a negligent driver?

You probably have grounds for a personal injury claim. Yet these cases can be some of the most complex personal injury cases. This is because the injuries are often catastrophic and the claims amounts are often high. Insurance companies will mount an intense defence in an attempt to protect their bottom line. 

Our team of Red Deer personal injury lawyers is here to help you hold the at-fault party accountable. The earlier you involve a lawyer, the better your claim is likely to go. We can even file claims on your behalf, reducing the amount of justification that an insurance company has to wriggle out of paying your claims. When you hire us, they know you mean business and that their normal dirty tricks aren’t going to work. 

Most of our lawyers have over 20 years of experience with personal injury law. We’re known for being some of Alberta’s toughest negotiators and savviest litigators. We’re responsive and caring. Calling us is absolutely risk-free: we’ll evaluate your case without a retainer and without charging an exorbitant hourly rate. We don’t get paid unless we bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Don’t struggle through the process of making a personal injury claim alone. Don’t let insurance companies take advantage of you. Call (403) 269-7777 to claim a case evaluation today. 

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