Virginia Pedestrians Injured in Crosswalks | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

pedestrian, injury, virginia, lawyerWhile it is true that pedestrians occupy a special position under the law when they are in crosswalks, or crossing near an intersection in a proper place, they are unprotected against the serious injuries that occur when pedestrians are struck suddenly by cars. And the special legal protections of pedestrians in crosswalks are not absolute, there are a number of statutes involved in analyzing any injury case when pedestrians or bicyclists are struck in the crosswalk.

For example in the Virginia Drivers Manual issued by the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, car operators are warned to constantly search ahead of their vehicle, to search for pedestrians, bicyclists or other slow-moving vehicles that may be in the road ahead.The driver’s manual sets forth that vehicle drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing a street within a clearly marked crosswalk or at an unmarked intersection at the end of a street block. The Virginia driver’s manual states that drivers must be alert for pedestrians at all times. And b prepared to slow down and/or be prepared to stop.

Click the links below for even more information on crosswalk injuries:

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers have represented numerous clients whether walking in a marked crosswalk or walking their bikes across the crosswalk. Sometimes we are contacted by persons crossing not in a clearly defined crosswalk but at the end of a block closest to the intersection. Where there is no clearly defined crosswalk, crossing at the end of the block closest to an intersection is the proper location.

Virginia, North Carolina and two other states follow a rule abandoned by 46 states. That rule states that if a person is contributorily at fault in any small way, they cannot recover in a personal injury case. So especially in Virginia where we primarily practice, we must be sure that the pedestrian did not violate any motor vehicle or pedestrian law, that is, we must assure that our client has no contributory fault. So the best way to look at the law applying to pedestrians and crosswalks, is to look at some of the actual Virginia jury instructions that are delivered by judges to juries in these types of cases. Some of the relevant crosswalk legal instructions are set forth below with some of our commentary after each jury instruction that is delivered if it is appropriate in a particular case:

A-Contributory Negligence: Right to Assume Ordinary Care

The plaintiff has a right to assume that the defendant will use ordinary care obey the law until he realizes, or in the exercise of ordinary care should realize, that the defendant is not going to do. This simply means that a pedestrian in the crosswalk has a right to assume that a car driver one exercise ordinary care and yield for them in a defined marked crosswalk.

B-Pedestrian’s Right-of-way at Crossing or Intersection Where Speed Limit Not More Than 35 m.p.h.

A pedestrian has the right-of-way when crossing a highway or street within any clearly marked crosswalk at or any regular pedestrian crossing at the end of a block or by the most direct route at any intersection where the maximum speed limit is not more than 35 miles per hour. The pedestrian’s right-of-way begins on one side of the street and continues until he has completed his crossing in the crosswalk. When a pedestrian has the right-of-way, the driver of a vehicle has a duty to change course, or slow down, or come to a complete stop, if necessary, to permit the pedestrian to cross safely and expeditiously.

If a driver fails to perform this duty, then he is negligent. This is the important Virginia model jury instruction where a pedestrian is in a marked crosswalk or walking at the end of a block to the opposite side of the street (Note that the speed limit must be 35 mph or less for this instruction to apply). This instruction sets forth that pedestrian has the special protection of the crosswalk and if the driver negligently strikes (and injuries) the pedestrian, that driver will be considered negligent under Virginia law. This essentially sets forth what most consumers believe to be the case: they are protected when they are in the crosswalk.

Well, more particularly they are protected under the law but they are very vulnerable to being seriously injured. We  have represented clients in cases where the vehicle driver must’ve been distracted to not see the pedestrian, was looking in a different direction, or for some reason or another did not spot the pedestrian who was in the protected crosswalk. As experienced personal injury lawyers, in those type cases we are fairly confident that we will obtain a good settlement for our client because they are in the favorite position under the law.

C-Walk- Don’t Walk Signals

A pedestrian has a duty not to start to cross a highway street in the direction of a “Don’t Walk” signal, and a duty, if he partially completed crossing on a “Walk” signal, to proceed to a sidewalk safety island while the “Don’t Walk” signal is showing.  If a pedestrian fails to perform either duty, then he is negligent. The applicable laws get a little more complicated if one of our client’s is injured in a defined crosswalk where there is a controlled pedestrian electronics signal. This really doesn’t change the duty of the car driver to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, but if  there is an electronically controlled walk/don’t walk signal system, the pedestrian is supposed to follow that signal as well. This can create a conflict between different applicable laws and you must talk to experienced personal injury lawyer in this type situation.

D-Last Clear Chance: Helpless Plaintiff

Contributory negligence by the plaintiff will not bar his recovery if you find by the greater weight of the evidence that:

(1) The plaintiff (pedestrian) negligently placed himself in a situation of peril from which he was physically unable to remove himself; and

(2) The defendant (driver) saw, or should have seen, the plaintiff and realized, or should have realized, his peril; and

(3) Thereafter, the defendant (driver) could have avoided the accident by using ordinary care.

The last clear chance doctrine, set forth in the Virginia jury instruction above, is a common sense instruction that sets forth that if the pedestrian is helpless or inattentive while crossing in the crosswalk, even if they were crossing against a don’t walk electronic signal, if the car driver is in a position to have the ” last clear chance” to avoid striking the pedestrian, the pedestrian will not be considered at fault. The idea is that the motorist has the last opportunity to avoid striking the pedestrian, even if the pedestrian is crossing against the don’t walk signal. The legal concept wipes out the potential contributory fault of the pedestrian in this type circumstance.

If you or a family member have suffered any injury as a pedestrian in a protected location under the law, we hope this outline has assisted you and if you need further legal information contact one of our personal injury attorneys.