Pedestrian-vehicle accident in MarylandIn Maryland, when a vehicle hits a pedestrian, who is at fault? Does the pedestrian always have the right of way or must the pedestrian always yield to vehicles? Or is there some other rule?

Well . . .

The basic rule is that vehicle operators and pedestrians have the same duty, to exercise ordinary care. The vehicle operator must exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring pedestrians, and pedestrian must exercise ordinary care to protect their safety.

To convert this general rule into a liability determination, we must look at a series of rules that apply to pedestrians and drivers.

Traffic Rules Affecting Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents

If a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, these are some of the traffic rules that are used to determine responsibility . . .

Pedestrians . . .

  1. Must comply with all traffic control devices such as traffic signals. Pedestrians cannot cross a road, for example, if they are facing a solid red signal. In addition, pedestrians cannot begin to cross the street if there is a solid yellow signal.

  2. Have the right-of-way if they are in a crosswalk; however pedestrians cannot suddenly leave safety and walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, even if they are in a crosswalk.

  3. Crossing at any point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk must yield the right-of-way to vehicles. (An “unmarked crosswalk” basically is an imaginary crosswalk which extends between the sidewalks on each side of the intersection.)

  4. Cannot walk on roadways if there is a sidewalk they could use.

  5. If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians can only walk on the left shoulder, if practicable, or on the left side of the roadway, as near as practicable to the edge of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic.

Drivers . . .

  1. Must use their horn to warn pedestrians of danger.

  2. Must exercise proper precaution when they see a child or an obviously confused or incapacitated individual.

  3. When entering or leaving an alley, driveway or building, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.

Contributory Negligence Rule

Remember also that Maryland is one of only four states that applies the ancient and unfair defense of “contributory negligence.”

That means that if an injured pedestrian did anything to contribute to causing the collision, the pedestrian’s claim is completely defeated.

Contributory negligence compares to “comparative negligence” which exists in the other 46 states. Under comparative negligence, a negligent pedestrian’s recovery is reduced by the percentage that the pedestrian contributed to causing the accident; it is not completely defeated as it is in Maryland.

With the many rules of the road that might apply and the fact that slight differences in the facts can change the rule that applies, not to mention the lurking complete defense of contributory negligence, you can see why determining liability for a Maryland pedestrian accident can be difficult. That is why you should consult with a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer, such as me, as soon as possible after your accident if you are injured as a pedestrian.

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**These questions and answers are designed to provide helpful information that can be read quickly. They are neither a full explanation of the subject nor legal advice. To learn more, and to receive legal advice on which you can rely, contact me or another lawyer.