Day 11: Auto Accidents Involving Pedestrians or Cyclists: Different Rules Apply

Auto accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists are particularly concerning, as they can result in severe injuries or even fatalities. When a motor vehicle collides with a pedestrian or cyclist, different rules and considerations come into play compared to accidents involving two or more motor vehicles. In this article, we will explore the unique aspects and legal implications of auto accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists.

Duty of Care towards Vulnerable Road Users

Motor vehicle drivers are responsible for exercising caution and vigilance when sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. As vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists are more exposed and have limited protection against the force of a collision. Motorists must prioritize their safety and take additional precautions to avoid accidents. They even have a higher duty of care when on notice of a clearly vulnerable pedestrian, including those with physical/mental handicaps or even those who are staggering under the influence (drug/alcohol).

Pedestrian Right of Way

Pedestrians typically have the right of way in designated crosswalks and intersections, depending on local traffic laws. Motorists must yield to pedestrians in these situations and exercise caution when approaching crosswalks, school zones, or areas with high pedestrian activity. Failing to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way can result in legal consequences, including being held liable if accidents/injuries occur.

Cyclist Rights and Responsibilities

Cyclists are considered legal road users, subject to traffic laws and regulations. While cyclists must follow the rules of the road, motorists must also respect their presence and provide sufficient space when passing. It is crucial for drivers to be aware of cyclists and exercise caution when sharing the road to prevent accidents. Again, drivers are expected to use higher care when around clearly vulnerable cyclists.

Comparative Negligence and Contributory Fault

In some cases, both the driver and the pedestrian or cyclist may share some degree of fault. The concept of comparative negligence or contributory fault may be applicable, depending on the jurisdiction. These legal doctrines consider the percentage of fault attributed to each party and may affect the compensation awarded in personal injury claims. South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state, in which a person can bring suit against a liable party despite bearing some liability themselves, as long as that liability is not beyond 50%.

Legal Consequences and Liability

When an auto accident involves a pedestrian or cyclist, the potential legal consequences for the driver can be significant. The driver may face criminal charges, such as reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter if their actions are found to be grossly negligent or intentionally harmful. Civil liability may also arise, and the driver may have to compensate the injured pedestrian or cyclist for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Importance of Evidence and Witness Testimony

As with any auto accident, gathering evidence is crucial in establishing liability and determining the circumstances of the incident. Eyewitness testimonies, video footage, photographs, and police reports can provide valuable information in reconstructing the accident and determining fault. Seeking legal representation from a personal injury attorney experienced in pedestrian and cyclist accidents can help navigate the legal complexities and ensure the rights of the injured party are protected.

Conclusion

Auto accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists require a distinct understanding of the laws and responsibilities applicable to these vulnerable road users. Motorists must exercise increased caution and respect the rights of pedestrians and cyclists, while pedestrians and cyclists must also adhere to traffic regulations. If you have been involved in an accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian or cyclist (whether you were a driver or pedestrian/cyclist), consult with a qualified personal injury attorney who can help navigate the legal process, assess liability, and seek fair compensation for injuries and damages.