Maryland Pedestrian Accidents and Right of Way Laws
While pedestrian accidents may not rank high in terms of the total number of traffic-related fatalities and injuries in Maryland, statistics reveal the disproportionate nature of the harm to victims. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MD DOT), there are almost 3,300 traffic accidents involving people on foot every year; however, the number of casualties exceeds the number of incidents: More than 3,400 people are killed or injured in pedestrian accidents annually.
- Baltimore City is the most dangerous region to walk. On average, there are 16 deadly incidents and 954 injury-causing accidents involving individuals on foot.
- Fall and winter see the highest number of total pedestrian accidents, with almost 30% occurring during October, November, and December. Just 22% of incidents happen from June through August.
- The risk of pedestrian accidents is highest on Fridays, though one-quarter of all crashes occur during the weekend.
- Evenings are also a time to exercise precaution. Of the 114 fatal crashes that happen annually, 56 take place between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
These statistics help predict trends, but there is another important factor at play when it comes to pedestrian accidents — the right of way and traffic laws that apply to all road users. Both motorists and those on foot should be aware of these rules, from the standpoint of safety and your legal rights.
Laws for Drivers
Pedestrians are clearly at an increased risk of death or injuries when sharing the road with motorized vehicles, so there are specific traffic laws that drivers must obey. For example:
- A motorist must come to a complete stop for someone using or approaching the crosswalk on the same side of the road.
- When turning right or left at a green light, drivers must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- It is unlawful to pass a vehicle yielding right of way to a person on foot.
- Before making a right turn on a red light, a motorist must first come to a complete stop and then wait for the crosswalk to clear.
- Motorists must drive at a safe speed, which may be under the posted limit, when there is a special danger to pedestrians – such as in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
Pedestrian Traffic Laws
People on foot are required to comply with traffic laws, and they are responsible for their actions with respect to safety. In general, it is important to note that you must follow traffic lights. There is a common misconception that walkers need only heed the “Walk/Don’t Walk” signs, and that crosswalks are the key to safety. However, pedestrians’ duties extend to any situation where they share the road. As such:
- When a crosswalk is present, people on foot are required to use it.
- At a red light, a pedestrian cannot enter the roadway regardless of whether there is a crosswalk.
- It is illegal to “jaywalk,” i.e., cross the street at a point that is not an intersection or taking a diagonal route across the intersection.
- When there is a sidewalk along the roadway, people on foot are required to use it. In the absence of a sidewalk, pedestrians must walk on the left shoulder or facing traffic.
How Violations of Traffic Laws Affect Pedestrian Accident Claims
When a motorist does not comply with right of way rules and related traffic laws, these actions might be evidence of negligence. This term means more than just carelessness, as it is the basis for liability in a pedestrian accident claim. You must prove that the at-fault motorist failed to exercise reasonable care while driving, and a violation of traffic laws serves as solid proof.
However, negligence also plays a role when it comes to your own actions in a pedestrian-involved collision. The reason is that Maryland applies the rule of pure contributory negligence in personal injury cases, which operates to bar compensation entirely when the victim is also at fault for causing the incident. In other words, even when a careless motorist was at fault for failing comply with traffic laws, you might still recover nothing if:
- You did not obey one or more of the pedestrian traffic laws mentioned above
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when walking in close proximity to traffic.
- You were texting, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, or otherwise using your cell phone when crossing the street.
Compensation for Pedestrian Accident Victims
Motorists are required to carry auto insurance to cover the losses of victims, including people who were hurt in pedestrian crashes. As such, you will be working with an insurance company as the first step to recovering monetary damages for your losses. If the insurer refuses to settle for a fair amount, you will need to take your case to court to obtain compensation.
With either option, there are a few points to keep in mind about your losses and damages.
- The physics of a pedestrian accident mean that lower extremity injuries are common for the person walking. Not only does this increase medical costs for immediate treatment, but there can be long-term complications.
- The potential for temporary or permanent disability means the victim may not be able to work, leading to serious financial difficulties. It is possible to recover for lost wages when you miss work, as well as for future earning capacity if you are unable to return to your job.
- Maryland’s statute of limitations on personal injury cases is three years, and the clock starts to run the date of the pedestrian-involved collision. If you do not file a lawsuit before this deadline, you are prohibited from recovering compensation.
- There may be multiple sources of insurance coverage. In Maryland the striking vehicle may carry PIP coverage in addition to Liability coverage. Speak with an attorney to determine what types of insurance coverage may be available to you.
Our Maryland Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Will Tackle Challenges
An overview about the process is useful, but it takes experienced legal representation to ensure you receive the full amount of compensation under Maryland law. For more information about your rights and remedies after a pedestrian accident, contact our office. We will schedule a free case evaluation to review your circumstances and discuss potential strategies.