Impact of Traffic Laws on Maryland Pedestrian Accident Claims

There are many different liability issues that arise from traffic laws in pedestrian accidents. As far as pedestrians at crosswalks are concerned, the Maryland Transportation Article is the statute which sets forth the rules.  Generally speaking, pedestrians who are lawfully in a crosswalk always have the right of way and pedestrians are to use a crosswalk if one is available.

If you have been involved in an accident, and are looking to pursue a claim, it is pertinent that you contact a pedestrian accident attorney in Maryland immediately.

Interpreting Pedestrian Signals

If the crosswalk is controlled by a pedestrian signal – usually a signal with a “lighted man”, generally white in color, signifying that it’s safe to cross, and an orange/red hand, signifying “stop” or that it’s unsafe to cross, pedestrians may start to cross the road when the man is lit.

If the orange hand is blinking, the pedestrian may not start crossing the road but may continue crossing if they are part-way across the road.  If a solid hand is showing, pedestrians may not start to cross and may not be in the crosswalk.

In, short, pedestrians must follow traffic control devices and pedestrian signals at intersections and should not cross the road unless there is a crosswalk.

Defenses Against Pedestrian Claims

The biggest defense in pedestrian accident cases are contributory negligence and assumption of risk.  Contributory negligence means that a plaintiff did something that caused or contributed to the accident, no matter how slight.  In Maryland, if a plaintiff is even one percent contributorily negligent or contributed to their injury, they are not entitled to any recovery.  The insurance companies are fully aware of this, and if facts point to a plaintiff’s contributory negligence, they will adjust their offers accordingly or deny liability altogether.

The other common defense raised in these kinds of cases is assumption of risk, meaning that the plaintiff knew, was aware of, and appreciated certain dangers and voluntarily assumed the risk of certain harm, thereby bringing about their injuries.  A defendant driver has the burden of proving contributory negligence and assumption of risk on the part of an injured plaintiff.  These defenses can be used effectively to determine liability from traffic laws in pedestrian accidents.

For example, if a person is in a crosswalk when they are not supposed to be, or if testimony comes out that they were texting, listening to music with their ear buds in, distracted, looking down, running through the intersection trying to “beat” an oncoming car, or otherwise not paying attention or acting carelessly or recklessly, the defendant will more than likely raise the defense of contributory negligence or assumption of the risk, or both.  Again, if there’s a finding of contributory negligence or assumption of the risk, the plaintiff recovers nothing in Maryland.

Last Clear Chance Doctrine

In Maryland, there is also a doctrine called the last clear chance doctrine, which the plaintiff must prove.  Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent, then they must show that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the harm but failed to do so.  If a plaintiff can prove that, they can overcome the contributory negligence hurdle and still recover damages.  Generally speaking, last clear chance is hard to prove.

Negligence Per Se

Also, in the case of pedestrian/traffic signals, there is a doctrine in Maryland called negligence per se, or “negligence as a matter of law.”  What that means is that if an individual violates a traffic law or traffic statute that amounts to negligence per se and is sufficient to prove both the duty and breach elements of a negligence claim.  This concept can come up on either the defendant’s side of the case, or on the plaintiff’s side of the case.

Impact of Distracted Driving

If a driver strikes a pedestrian while engaging in distracted driving, that can lead to a finding of liability also.  A recently enacted law in Maryland prohibits using a handheld electronic device while driving.  This includes using a cell phone to text or make a telephone call while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  A driver can make a call using a hands-free Bluetooth device if their vehicle is equipped with that feature.

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving and distracted driving can have an impact on liability in a pedestrian accident case. If a defendant driver strikes a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol, and this information is evident in a police report or from police officer/witness testimony, the defendant will likely admit liability because in that context, there’s no real question as to fault. In these cases, the defendant is obviously responsible for the harm caused to the plaintiff.  The defendant may also be subject to criminal penalties, depending upon the amount of alcohol consumed/in the bloodstream.

All of these elements are used to determine liability from traffic laws in pedestrian accident cases. If you are involved in a legal case involving pedestrian liability, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney immediately.