In recent years, the number of pedestrians injured and killed by drivers of motor vehicles has been on the rise across the country. In Virginia alone, thousands of people traveling on foot, bikes, scooters, and skateboards are injured, while hundreds are killed annually in car accidents. One way to decrease the number of such injuries and fatalities is to make sure that both pedestrians and motorists know and abide by Virginia’s pedestrian laws.
What Motorists Need to Know
While pedestrians in Virginia may not illegally interfere with motorists’ rights to drive on any thoroughfare, motorists are required by law to do the following:
- Stop and yield the right of way at any marked crosswalk in which a pedestrian is walking until that pedestrian has cleared the motorist’s lane.
- Stop and yield the right of way to any pedestrian crossing the street at any intersection where there is no marked crosswalk.
- Obey all signs and signals directing drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians.
- Refrain from passing any vehicle that has stopped to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.
A driver who violates any of these laws can be fined up to $500.
Extra Protection for Vulnerable Road Users
In 2020, Virginia passed new legislation to protect “vulnerable road users,” who include pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, roller skaters, roller bladers, skateboard riders, motorized scooter riders, horse riders, and anyone traveling in an animal-drawn vehicle. Any motorist who injures or kills a vulnerable road user due to reckless, distracted, or otherwise negligent driving can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Hands-on Cell Phone Use Is Prohibited
The state of Virginia has recently passed legislation designed to protect pedestrians as well as motorists against accidents resulting from the manual, visual, and cognitive distractions of negligent cell phone use. It is now a misdemeanor to hold a cell phone, enter text or numbers on a keypad, or read text messages while driving. A first offense carries a fine of $125. Subsequent violations are punishable by fines of $250.
What Pedestrians Need to Know
Pedestrians in Virginia have the right of way at any marked crosswalk, at any intersection where the speed limit is below 35 miles per hour, wherever a sign or signal gives them the right of way, and on all sidewalks. Pedestrians are required by law to do the following:
- Walk on the sidewalk, not in the street or on the road, where a sidewalk exists.
- Walk toward oncoming traffic where there is no sidewalk or safe shoulder to use.
- Yield the right of way to motor vehicles except at intersections or marked crosswalks.
- Refrain from standing in the roadway to solicit transportation (hitchhiking).
- Refrain from entering a roadway where there are oncoming motor vehicles.
- Refrain from entering a roadway where there is no intersection or crosswalk (jaywalking).
- Obey signs and signals that control pedestrian traffic.
- Cross the street or road only at right angles when boarding a bus or other conveyance.
Violation of any pedestrian law is punishable by a fine of $100.00.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
- Carry a flashlight and/or wear protective clothing when walking after dark or before sunrise.
- Wear bright colors to make yourself visible when walking.
- Do not assume that a driver sees you, even at an intersection or marked crosswalk.
- Try to make eye contact with approaching drivers.
- Be sure children cross the street with an adult.
- Obey crossing guards and all signs and signals for pedestrians.
Information for Pedestrians Injured in Car Accidents
Any pedestrian injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver who has violated right-of-way laws may file a claim for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and property damage (in the cases of cyclists, skateboarders, or scooter riders) against the at-fault party’s auto insurance company.
If the insurer does not offer a reasonable settlement, the pedestrian may file a lawsuit for damages in civil court, in which case the services of a pedestrian accident attorney are highly recommended. You can take steps at the scene of the accident, if you’re physically able to do so, to strengthen your claim and help your attorney increase your chances of winning a fair award:
- Move to a safe area and call 911 to report the accident.
- While waiting for police to arrive, take pictures of the vehicle that struck you, especially its license plate and any external damage. If the car that hit you is a commercial vehicle, try to get a photo identifying the company that owns it.
- Take photos of the scene of the accident, focusing on any indicators of bad weather or road conditions.
- Look around and note the location of any security or redlight cameras that might have footage of the accident.
- Get contact information from anyone who witnessed the accident.
- Exchange insurance and contact information with the driver who hit you, but do not discuss the accident or argue.
- When law enforcement officers arrive to make a report, answer their questions honestly with basic facts only. Ask how to get a copy of the official report.
- If police or EMTs do not take you to a hospital, see a doctor on your own as soon as possible. Even if you have no symptoms, you could have internal injuries that a medical exam and diagnostic testing will reveal.
- Report your accident to your own auto insurance company.
- Do not give statements to adjusters from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- Do not apologize or admit any fault for anything to anyone.
- Contact a pedestrian accident attorney and refer all communications from the insurer to your lawyer.
Shared Liability and Contributory Negligence
The at-fault driver’s insurance company is likely to claim that you violated pedestrian law and thus share liability for your accident. Doing so allows the insurer to invoke Virginia’s contributory negligence rule, which disqualifies you from obtaining any compensation for your damages if you were even one percent responsible for your accident. This is just one reason why it’s very important to have an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer in your corner to help you prove complete liability on the part of the at-fault motorist.
Have You Been Injured in a Front Royal Pedestrian Accident?
An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can guide you through the insurance claim process and file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary. 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.