A pedestrian always has the right of way…right?
Actually, it depends. Cars must yield the right of way to pedestrians when they are in a legal crosswalk, whether it is marked or unmarked. They should also watch out for pedestrians who are walking along the side of the road. Still, pedestrians also have a duty to obey traffic lights (“Walk” vs. “Don’t Walk”) and use crosswalks.
Pedestrians need to use caution when crossing the street, just as the operators of motor vehicles need to take care when driving.
In Alaska, when a car strikes a pedestrian, the driver isn’t automatically at fault. The law looks at what’s called the comparative fault of both the driver and the pedestrian.
What does this mean? If the pedestrian is to some degree at fault for the accident—say, because he or she was jaywalking or crossing against traffic lights—the compensation that he or she would receive from a personal injury claim would be reduced by the amount of fault.
For example, let’s say that a pedestrian is hit while jaywalking and sustains $10,000 in medical bills. The pedestrian brings a personal injury lawsuit and is found to be twenty percent at fault for the accident, while the driver is eighty percent at fault. Because the pedestrian shares responsibility in the cause of the accident, the driver would only be legally responsible for $8,000 of the total $10,000.
Unfortunately, accidents involving pedestrians happen quite often, and the resulting injuries can be devastating.
Recently, the News Miner reported that a Fairbanks woman was struck by a Subaru Tribeca while crossing Old Steese Highway late at night. The woman suffered head trauma from the accident and was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Police arrested the driver of the Subaru on charges of felony assault and driving under the influence. Fairbanks police officer Rick Sweet stated that the driver had watery eyes and slurred when speaking. She failed a field sobriety test and refused to take any additional tests, including the breath-alcohol test. A sample of her blood was taken at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
The News Miner hasn’t yet reported why the accident occurred, but the driver’s inebriated state may well be the cause of this tragedy.
The injured woman could bring a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the Subaru. Her level of fault—whether she walked into the road without looking or was legally crossing when struck—will affect how much compensation she could receive for her injuries.
Our thoughts are with the woman during this difficult time, and we hope that she receives justice. We encourage everyone who uses the roadways in Fairbanks, whether on foot or in a vehicle, to stay safe. When walking, make sure to use crosswalks and to look for oncoming traffic before crossing. When driving, watch out for pedestrians the entire length of the road—not just at crosswalks.
And of course, never drink and drive.