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Could a Pedestrian Be at Fault in a Car Accident?

Could a Pedestrian Be at Fault in a Car Accident?

Pedestrians crossing a crosswalk

Cars are heavy boxes made of thousands of pounds of steel and hard plastics. Bodies are squishy tubes made of tens of pounds of bone, fat, and muscle. It’s easy to assume that when a hard, fast-moving box hits a soft, slow-moving body, the driver of the box will always be held responsible for the accident. There are, however, laws in place that pedestrians, people who travel on foot, are expected to obey. The answer to the question of whether or not pedestrians can be held liable in an accident is, “it depends on the situation.”

Pedestrian Right-of-Way

In Arizona, pedestrians have right-of-way at designated crosswalks. This includes “unmarked crosswalks,” which we will discuss below. When crossing at a crosswalk, pedestrians have an expectation of safety. Drivers must wait for walkers to be safely across from their lane, meaning that a pedestrian should be well into the other side of the street before a car can proceed. In most cases, pedestrians wouldn’t be held responsible if they were hit at a crosswalk.

Unmarked Crosswalks

In residential areas, pedestrians can basically cross anywhere they like. The city has designated these streets “unmarked crosswalks,” opening up foot traffic. It keeps people moving and cuts down on building and maintaining crosswalks. As stated above, cars are expected to wait until the pedestrian is at a safe distance, at least halfway across, before they can proceed. Unless they are doing something foolish or dangerous, pedestrians are unlikely to be liable if they were hit in a residential area.

Dangerous Pedestrian Behavior

Regardless of where they are crossing, pedestrians need to be traveling reasonably and with common sense. Darting out in front of traffic can make a pedestrian liable for damages, even in a residential area with marked or unmarked crosswalks.

No Crosswalks

Essentially, Arizona pedestrians have no right-of-way at a place without designated crosswalks. This includes unmarked crosswalks. If someone is crossing anywhere other than a crosswalk, they are responsible for yielding to traffic. A walker who gets hit due to this behavior can be held responsible for damages.


At busy intersections with traffic signals, foot traffic is expected to obey those signals. Crossing at a red signal is considered jaywalking, which is illegal. Arizona vehicles are expected to be on the lookout for pedestrians in any situation, but if a foot traveler is breaking the law, it’s possible for them to be held at least partially responsible for the accident. Partial responsibility is called “comparative negligence.”

Comparative Negligence

Arizona’s personal injury laws work on a “comparative negligence” model. The court will hear both sides of the case, and then assign a percentage of blame to all parties involved. Let’s say the plaintiff is a pedestrian. He was hit by a speeding car at an unmarked crosswalk, but he had darted out into the road to chase his daughter’s Frisbee. Both parties are clearly at fault, but it’s up to the judge to decide who was more at fault. The court determines that since the pedestrian was still clearly using an unmarked crosswalk, he was 45% at fault for the accident, and the driver was 55% liable.

After determining fault, the court will reward the plaintiff in proportion to their percentage of responsibility. This means that since our plaintiff was 45% liable for the accident, they can expect to receive 55% of the total compensation. Arizona is one of only a handful of states that uses a “pure comparative negligence” model. This model stipulates that no matter how at-fault a plaintiff is, they can still receive some portion of the total reward. In theory, a plaintiff could be 99% responsible for the accident and still get 1% of the total damages.

Depending on the specifics of the accident, a pedestrian may be held liable for damages. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, we want to help. Contact us online for a free consultation, or call us at (602) 483-6114.