Drivers who strike a pedestrian lawfully in a crosswalk can face:
- a civil lawsuit,
- driver’s license repercussions,
- traffic citations, and
- potentially even criminal prosecution.
If the pedestrian is seriously or fatally hurt, the consequences will be even worse for the driver. Though if the pedestrian was at-fault for the accident, the driver may not face any consequences at all.
What can happen to the driver after a pedestrian accident in a crosswalk?
Drivers who hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk may find themselves facing the following repercussions:
- traffic tickets,
- driver’s license sanctions,
- a personal injury claim, and
- criminal charges.
The details of the case will matter a lot:
- If the pedestrian is found to be at fault for the car accident, the driver may not face any repercussions, at all.
- If the driver was at fault and the pedestrian was seriously hurt or killed, the repercussions will be severe.
- If the driver was under the influence or fled the scene of the crash, it may be a felony offense.
If there is any indication that the driver was at-fault for the accident, they will likely be ticketed by police for violating traffic laws. These tickets are the least severe but also the most common consequence that drivers face for striking a pedestrian.
Some common tickets that drivers receive for hitting a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk include:
- failure to yield to a pedestrian,
- distracted driving,
- making an unsafe turn, or
- running a red light.
These tickets carry a fine that can be as high as a few hundred dollars. They can also leave a blemish on the person’s driving record.
Driver’s license penalties
A traffic ticket can lead to points being assessed on the person’s driver’s license. If enough points accumulate, the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend the license or impose other penalties.
For example, in California, the state DMV will suspend or revoke a driver’s license if the driver gets:
- 4 points in 1 year,
- 6 points in 2 years, or
- 8 points in 3 years.
Driver’s license points
Points are added to the driver’s license on the date of conviction for the ticket, not the date of the infraction. Many tickets only add 1 point to the driver’s license. These include:
- failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian,
- running a red light,
- running a stop sign, and
- not stopping for a school bus.
Some of the most serious traffic infractions add 2 points to the person’s driver’s license. These include:
Personal injury claim
The motorist who hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk will also likely face a personal injury lawsuit. This is a formal claim for compensation for the pedestrian’s:
- medical bills, including medical expenses for the future medical care that the victim is likely to need,
- lost wages, earning capacity, and other professional losses, and
- pain and suffering.
While the at-fault driver will likely be served with the lawsuit, the driver’s insurance company will likely be the one to defend the personal injury case. If the driver is uninsured, the accident victim may have to turn to their own insurance for compensation.
Injuries determine compensation
The pedestrian’s compensatory damages will reflect the severity of their injuries. Personal injury claims for minor injuries suffered in a vehicle accident at the entrance to a parking lot, for example, will demand relatively little in compensation.
Pedestrian accident cases that involve serious injuries or life-threatening injuries that demand extensive medical treatment, like a traumatic brain injury, will lead to a higher demand.
For fatal pedestrian injuries, the victim’s loved ones may file a wrongful death case to invoke the victim’s legal rights on their behalf. Injured pedestrians in these cases often seek out the legal advice of a pedestrian accident lawyer or a personal injury lawyer from a local law firm.1
Drivers who hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk may also face criminal charges for the auto accident.
If the driver left the accident scene without stopping to see if the victim needed medical attention or to leave their contact information, it can be a hit-and-run.
In California, hit-and-run accidents are wobblers if they produce an injury. This means prosecutors can file felony or misdemeanor charges.
If filed as a felony, the potential penalties of a conviction are up to:
- 4 years in state jail, and
- $10,000 in fines.2
If pursued as a misdemeanor, the penalties are still up to:
- 1 year in county jail, and
- $10,000 in fines.3
If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, they can face DUI charges. These carry steep penalties, especially if the accident was a fatal one.
In California, this can lead to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter if the driver was being grossly negligent. Convictions for this offense carry up to 10 years in state prison.4
What if the pedestrian hit was at-fault?
If the pedestrian who was hit was at-fault, the driver may not face any repercussions, at all. In some cases, the driver may even be able to file a claim for compensation against the pedestrian for any property damage that the driver suffered to their motor vehicle. This can happen if the pedestrian crossing the road was actually jaywalking at the time.
This protects drivers
- who were behaving safely and reasonably,
- but who accidentally hit a pedestrian when they ran out into the roadway.
For example: Mary is driving through a busy intersection. Her traffic signal shows a green light. Steve is jogging on the sidewalk and incorrectly thinks that he has the green light. He runs into oncoming traffic and Mary hits him in the crosswalk.
The pedestrian’s fault is a defense against most of the consequences of a pedestrian accident.
Pedestrian fault can also be a defense against a traffic ticket associated with the accident. This can then keep points off the person’s driver’s license.
The share of responsibility for the crash that falls on the pedestrian will reduce the amount of compensation they can recover in states like California.
In other states that use different comparative negligence rules, if the pedestrian was more than half at-fault for the crash, it will bar them from recovering any compensation.
In a few states, if the pedestrian was at-fault at all, they will recover nothing.
The conduct of the pedestrian may not impact certain criminal charges that were filed against the driver, however. If the driver was accused of DUI or hit-and-run, these charges may still go forward.
Prosecutors can often secure a conviction even if the pedestrian was at-fault for the accident that led to the criminal allegations.
- See, for example, O’Brien v. Schellberg (Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Two, 1943) 59 Cal. App. 2d 764.
- California Vehicle Code 20001 VC.
- California Penal Code 191.5(a). See, for example, People v. Calles (Cal. App. 2d Dist., 2012), 209 Cal. App. 4th 156.