Maryland Law Applicable to Pedestrian Accident Cases

Maryland Pedestrian Accident Law

A recent fatal accident occurring in Prince George’s County, occurred when a man was crossing the street in a crosswalk and was struck by several vehicles. This terrible tragedy is a reminder of why rules of the road are so important. Only by following these rules can accidents like this one be prevented.

  1. Pedestrian Accidents Generally

Typically, when we think of a car accident, we think of a collision involving two vehicles. However, motor vehicle accidents often involve a pedestrian, and when they do, it can result in serious personal injury. The Maryland State Highway Administration reports that pedestrian deaths account for 20 percent of all fatalities in Maryland. Most of these accidents occurred in the dark, and 75 percent of the pedestrians killed were males. While statistics can dull of sense of what’s going on here, it is important to remember that real people are injured and killed in these accidents and that they are preventable if the rules of the road are followed

In about 70 percent of these pedestrian accidents, it is the pedestrian that is found at fault according to police reports. Often, this is because the pedestrian was crossing outside a crosswalk or otherwise began to enter a crosswalk when a crosswalk sign indicated, “do not cross.”

  1. Definition of Crosswalk in Maryland

1. Under Maryland law, a crosswalk is defined as part of a roadway that is:     

1) Within the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at any place where two or more roadways of any type meet or join, measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway; or

2) Distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings.

  1. In Maryland, Pedestrian Must Prove Striking Vehicle Operator was Negligent

In Maryland, a pedestrian may be able to recover damages if they have been injured in an accident with an automobile. They will need to prove that the driver of the vehicle was not driving in a reasonable manner. For example, if the driver was speeding, texting, talking on the phone, eating, or otherwise not paying attention, the driver may have been negligent. The driver would then be responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

  1. The Defense of Contributory Negligence

Ever heard the phrase; “the pedestrian always has the right of way”? Well, this statement isn’t entirely true. Pedestrians have rights and responsibilities just as motor vehicle drivers do. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of exactly what those responsibilities are. Generally, Maryland cases hold that a pedestrian crossing a street between crossings is guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law if he fails to look for vehicular traffic, or, if having looked, he fails to see an approaching vehicle.

See, for example, Billmeyer v. State, Use of Whiteman, 192 Md. 419, 64 A.2d 755 (1949), where it was held that when a pedestrian walks from a place of safety and keeps on walking across a town street without observing an approaching vehicle, he is guilty of negligence as a matter of law. This case shows us that pedestrians cannot simply leave a place of safety and enter into a place of danger without looking for approaching traffic. Further, even where pedestrians look, they may still be found negligent if they failed to see approaching vehicles under certain circumstances. This is especially true if they are crossing outside of designated crossing areas.

The best example of this rule was touched on in United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company v. Royer, 230 Md. 50, 185 A.2d 341 (1962). In this case, the court indicated that while a pedestrian crossing outside of a crosswalk is not negligent per se, he or she may still be found negligent if she fails to use “great care” to protect him or herself from injury and "it is generally no excuse if he [or she] fails to see or hear approaching traffic," 230 Md. at 54, 185 A.2d 34.

VII. What a Pedestrian Should Do When Hit By a Motor Vehicle

In Summary, if a pedestrian was hit while crossing the street, but not crossing at a crosswalk or not crossing at the designated time, the driver who struck the pedestrian may argue the defense of contributory negligence. Generally, a pedestrian may be contributorily negligent under Maryland law if they contributed to their own injury by being negligent. Whether a pedestrian was negligent is not always clear. It you were injured as a pedestrian while crossing the street legally, it will be the job of your Attorney to help you prove that the other driver was solely at fault and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident.

When crossing a street, the pedestrian should always go to the nearest crosswalk, and if there is a pedestrian signal, wait for the signal to activate the "walk" sign. If there is no crosswalk, then the pedestrian should go to the nearest intersection, and cross when safe, at the intersection as the law says that there is an "implied" crosswalk located there. If struck by a vehicle, what we find, often times, is that the pedestrian will leave the crosswalk and move over to the curb for safety purposes. While this may be prudent, often times when the police arrive, they assume that the pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk when struck. So if it is safe to do so, the pedestrian should not move from the point of impact. More importantly, if there are any witnesses in the area, the pedestrian should try to get the name and number of the witness if at all possible. The pedestrian should also make sure if they have a cell phone, to call the police if they are able to, to ensure that a police report is written. Again, the most important thing after being struck is that the pedestrian should stay where they are and contact the police immediately, if they are able to. In addition, an ambulance will typically be called by the police to assure that the pedestrian who was struck receives prompt medical care and the pedestrian should agree to go to the hospital if they are in pain and believe they are in need of medical assistance.


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Justin P. Katz
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Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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