Pedestrians beware! Use a crosswalk to protect a potential claim

Whether walking is an exercise of choice or parking limitations require it, everyone is a pedestrian. Using a crosswalk can help protect a personal injury claim should you become involved in an accident.

Crosswalks and "walk/don't walk" warnings were designed to provide a safe walking space for pedestrians as they travel across busy intersections. The law requires drivers to yield to anyone in the crosswalk. Failure to do so could result in a traffic citation or criminal charges based on the circumstances.

Of course, we all know that some drivers are careless, do not pay attention or fail to follow the rules of the road. No matter how careful you are as a pedestrian, accidents will happen. The pedestrian is always the one who is more at risk for serious injuries in the collision.

Just this past week, a driver struck and killed a woman who was walking through the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Cordell Avenue in Columbus. This street doesn't have a designated crosswalk. If there had been one, would it matter in a wrongful death case? Would it matter if she had used it?

The accident is under investigation, and so we cannot predict the outcome of a potential lawsuit with any level of certainty. Let us look at a different case involving an accident in Ohio, and we know the outcome of this one.

  • The facts: Pedestrian parked across the street from his work. When he walked across the four-lane road, the driver of a car struck the pedestrian. The pedestrian sued for damages.
  • The problem: The pedestrian did not use the crosswalk at the intersection but chose to jaywalk, a traffic violation for which he could have received a ticket.
  • The legal argument: The driver argued that the pedestrian was negligent per se because he had violated a statute. Essentially, that the pedestrian caused his own injuries when he chose to disobey the law.
  • The trial court's ruling: The pedestrian was negligent. The driver did not have to pay.
  • The legal ruling on appeal: The pedestrian appealed the ruling. The appeals court ruled that regardless of the pedestrian's actions, the driver still has a duty to take care not to strike pedestrians.
  • The result on appeal: Despite the legal clarification, the pedestrian still lost. The court argued that the pedestrian had the burden to prove that the driver was negligent. The testimony and evidence did not support this conclusion.

Long story short, no personal injury or wrongful death case is a "slam dunk," which is why you must hire a qualified attorney to represent you. The outcome of your case may rest on your attorney's ability to present a clear, legal and evidentiary case.

Even though no case has a 100 percent guaranteed win, it does not mean that you can't take a few precautions in your daily routine to ensure that you have a stronger case should an accident happen. This case should act as a lesson to all pedestrians that taking a few extra steps toward a crosswalk, traffic light or designated corner could help your case.

Source: Gagnet v. Downes (2001), 2001 WL 1307631

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