Pedestrians are hit and hurt every day in Maryland. Figures from 2018 found the number of pedestrians who died last year rose to 133 from 117 in the previous year. We know people on foot have rights on crosswalks but can a jaywalker sue for an injury if hit by a car in Maryland?
This is a tough question. Many of the worst injuries pedestrians suffer is away from crosswalks on busy highways where traffic travels fastest. The insurance companies will look for any excuse to say you were jaywalking and to dismiss your injury claim. As Baltimore pedestrian accident lawyer Randolph Rice explains, pedestrians face a struggle to make a case if they are crossing the road in a place they are not meant to be.
What Are the Jaywalking Laws in Maryland?
Jaywalking means violating pedestrian traffic laws, usually by crossing a street illegally. The term jaywalking is not a legal term. It was first coined by automobile interest groups in the 1920s. They tried to blame pedestrians who continued to amble down the streets as they had for centuries. Some situations in which a pedestrian can be fined for improperly crossing the road are outlined by Montgomery County Police Department. They include the following:
- The failure to obey a red traffic signal (21-202(l))
- Starting to cross an intersection in the direction of a solid red hand signal
- Failing to obey a pedestrian control signal
- Not crossing the road on a marked crosswalk where a traffic control signal is working
- Crossing a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic control device
The term “jaywalking” is traced to Kansas. Its meaning was different when it originated in the early 20th century. The word imitated the older word, jay-driver. This phrase referred to a driver of horse-drawn carriages or cars in the early 20th century who drove on the wrong side of the road. An editorial in the Kansas City Star bemoaned people who drove on the wrong side of the road. The term was later modified to refer to pedestrians crossing the street as a derogatory term for those who lacked etiquette.
Today police may issue citations for jaywalking in certain jurisdictions in Maryland but it’s rare. In recent years, Baltimore police have stepped up jaywalking enforcement in certain parts of the city that experienced an upsurge in auto-pedestrian accidents. Under the Maryland code, the fines for jaywalking offenses in Maryland range from $40 to $500.
Can a Jaywalker Sue After Being Hit by a Car in Maryland?
Pedestrians can sue the drivers of cars, buses, and trucks, motorcyclists and even cyclists for injuries they suffer on the streets of Baltimore, Annapolis or elsewhere in Maryland. However, their rights to sue depend on who was at fault for the accident and where it occurred.
Jaywalkers face problems on both scores. If they cross the road away from marked or unmarked crosswalks, they may have committed an offense and are outside a location where a motorist is required to give way to a walker. However, drivers do not have the right to mow down pedestrians just because they are not crossing the road at the proper place.
The fact pedestrians are jaywalking can mean they caused the accident and are held liable, even though their injuries are likely to be more serious than those of the driver.
The rights of a jaywalker to sue for injury if hit by a car in Maryland are further eroded by Maryland’s contributory negligence rule that bars a personal injury lawsuit if you are even one percent to blame for a car accident in Maryland. The insurance company for the driver is likely to claim that the accident would not have occurred if the pedestrian was not jaywalking.
Nevertheless, a jaywalker may consider claiming for injuries in some extreme cases such as when a driver was speeding and the pedestrian reasonably expected to get across the road safely. If the driver was drunk, texting or deliberately tried to hit a pedestrian, the jaywalker’s odds in litigation may be higher. If the accident occurred near the sidewalk, the pedestrian might argue he fell or was even pushed into the road. Given that jaywalking is not a legally defined term, it’s open for pedestrians to argue they were not jaywalking.
Extreme cases aside, Maryland’s brutal contributory negligence law adds up to a bleak climate for jaywalkers to sue.
Why Pedestrians Should Always Cross the Road on Crosswalks in Maryland
Both drivers and pedestrians must follow the rules, but the consequences can be particularly horrific for walkers who have less protection and typically suffer more serious injuries.
Cross the roads on crosswalks and make sure to obey signals for pedestrians on when to walk. Drivers of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles in Maryland must stop for a pedestrian who is on a crosswalk when the walker is on the side of the road the vehicle is driving or is approaching the motor vehicle lane from the other side of the highway. Drivers do not have to stop for pedestrians who are standing on the sidewalk by a crosswalk. At an intersection in Maryland, a driver must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian when turning on a green signal or green arrow.
You will protect your legal rights if you are crossing the highway at a crosswalk and obeying the white ‘walk’ sign if there is one. If there are no pedestrian lights, make sure the road is clear. Pedestrians should not suddenly step into the road assuming all vehicles will stop for them.
Talk to a Baltimore Pedestrian Accident Lawyer About Your Jaywalking Injury
A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association in early 2019 found pedestrian deaths in the United States hit a 28-year high. Although traffic deaths appeared to plateau, the report by the GHSA found about 6,227 pedestrians died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 — a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest death rate since 1990. Thousands more are injured every year in Maryland. The relentless rise in distracted driving appears to be a factor.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer can meet you one-on-one to give you a realistic assessment of your pedestrian accident case. We know how a car accident can mean your life is never the same again. Please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation,