woman walking in a crosswalk in front of stopped trafficBy definition, a “pedestrian” is any person traveling on foot. In Virginia, however, the legal rights and responsibilities of pedestrians extend to people traveling on roller skates, skateboards, small scooters, and other vehicles that are not cars, trucks, or motorcycles. Bicyclists, as well, enjoy some of the rights of pedestrians but also have some of the responsibilities that motorists have.

Rights of Pedestrians in Virginia

In Virginia, pedestrians have the right of way:

  • On all sidewalks
  • At any crosswalk
  • At any intersection where the speed limit for motor vehicles is less than 35 miles per hour
  • Wherever a traffic control device or law enforcement officer directs motorists to yield the right of way

Responsibilities of Pedestrians

Where a sidewalk exists, a pedestrian must walk on the sidewalk, not in the street or road. Where there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian may walk on the left side of the street or road, facing oncoming traffic. Except at crosswalks and intersections, pedestrians must yield the right of way to motor vehicles and may not enter a street or road when vehicles are approaching. Even at crosswalks, pedestrians must obey “don’t walk” signals and other signs or devices that control pedestrian traffic. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $100.

Rights and Responsibilities of Motorists in VA

In Virginia, operators of motor vehicles have the right to drive without illegal interference by pedestrians. A motorist must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian in any crosswalk until the pedestrian has cleared the lane in which the motorist is driving. When one vehicle is stopped to give a pedestrian the right of way, no vehicle approaching from behind or in an adjacent lane may pass the stopped vehicle.

When passing through or turning into an intersection where a pedestrian is crossing, a motorist must yield the right of way to that pedestrian. Municipalities in Virginia may also erect signs and other control devices directing motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Motorists who fail to yield where pedestrians have the right of way can be fined up to $500 per infraction.

Seeking Compensation for Damages in a Pedestrian Accident

If you’re a pedestrian who is injured by a motorist in violation of right-of-way laws, you’re entitled to compensation for your damages: medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering (as well as property damage if you’re a cyclist or skateboarder). To protect and strengthen your damage claim against the at-fault motorist’s insurance company, you should take the following steps at the scene if you’re physically able to do so:

  • Call 9-1-1 to report your accident.
  • While waiting for law enforcement to arrive, exchange insurance and contact information with the at-fault driver, but do not argue or discuss the accident.
  • Take photographs of the scene and the vehicle involved, focusing on the license plate and any damage to the car. If you’re hit by a commercial vehicle, photograph any sign or marking identifying the company to which the vehicle belongs.
  • Get contact information from any witnesses to the accident and note the location of security or red-light cameras nearby.
  • When the police arrive to make an official report, answer their questions honestly but basically. Don’t volunteer extra information. Find out how to get a copy of the police report.
  • If you’re not transported to a hospital emergency room, seek medical attention on your own immediately, even if you don’t feel that you’re seriously injured. Diagnostic tests can reveal internal injuries while your symptoms are still masked by the adrenaline resulting from your accident.
  • Report your accident to your own insurance company, but do not speak to adjusters or other personnel from the at-fault motorist’s insurer.
  • Do not apologize or admit any fault for anything to anyone.
  • Consult a pedestrian accident attorney as soon as possible for legal advice and help with your insurance claim.

Is There Shared Liability?

More often than not, the motorist in a pedestrian accident is found to be at fault and liable for the pedestrian’s damages, but this is not always the case. A pedestrian who darts into moving traffic where there is neither an intersection nor a crosswalk, for example, would be held responsible for the resulting accident(s) in most cases.

In some accidents, liability might be shared by the motorist and the pedestrian. If you are in a crosswalk at an intersection while the “don’t walk” signal is flashing and a motorist turning into that intersection fails to yield and strikes you, you are both at fault for the accident and share liability for resulting damages.

Contributory Negligence and the Need for an Attorney

In personal injury cases, Virginia follows a strict contributory negligence rule. This means that if you are found even one percent responsible for your own accident, you forfeit all your rights for compensation and collect nothing for your damages. Obviously, the lawyers for the motorist’s insurance company will make every effort to show that you are partially responsible for your accident in order to deny you compensation. This is just one reason why it’s so important to have legal representation in a pedestrian accident in Virginia, where your attorney can help you by:

  • Investigating your accident with the help of an accident reconstructionist to prove complete liability on the part of the motorist
  • Consulting with your doctors to determine your long-term care needs and future medical expenses
  • Putting a dollar amount on your pain and suffering to evaluate your case
  • Demanding reasonable compensation from the at-fault motorist’s insurance company
  • Negotiating for a fair award
  • Filing a lawsuit and fighting in court for fair compensation if a reasonable settlement is not offered

Have You Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident in VA?

An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help you prove liability and seek fair compensation. Contact us online or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.


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