As more and more Americans walk for fitness and transportation, one unfortunate side effect has been an increase in pedestrian-vehicle collisions. Knowing your responsibilities as a pedestrian can help prevent these occurrences, and knowing your rights can help you recover if you have suffered injuries as a result of an auto-pedestrian collision.

Pedestrians Incur a Significant Share of Automobile-Related Injuries

Across the United States, from 2015 to 2016, pedestrian traffic fatalities increased in 34 states — an estimated 11 percent increase overall. This was the largest annual increase in both the number and percentage of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. in 45 years.

In Michigan, the pedestrian death rate held steady at 1.71 per 100,000 residents, with the number of deaths in the first half of 2016 down slightly from 2015 (59 and 62, respectively). However, the significant number of injuries and fatalities makes this an ongoing health and safety concern for the state and its residents.

The Michigan Department of Transportation conducted an in-depth study of injuries, fatalities, and accident statistics for collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists that occurred between 2005 and 2010. During this time 775 pedestrians and 147 bicyclists were killed statewide in traffic crashes, accounting for approximately 15.1% of the total traffic-related fatalities; another 6,948 pedestrians and 5,500 bicyclists were injured as a result of traffic crashes.

To combat this problem, state and local agencies across Michigan are implementing public education programs and “share-the-road” messaging to promote pedestrian safety.

Liability and Responsibility of Michigan Drivers to Pedestrians           

Under Michigan law, automobiles and other vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk who are in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle, or who are approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to be in danger. Conversely, pedestrians have the responsibility to avoid suddenly leaving the curb or sidewalk and entering into a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close the vehicle is unable to yield (sometimes called “darting out”). If a pedestrian is outside of a marked crosswalk at an intersection, he or she must yield the right of way to vehicles when crossing a roadway.

Pedestrians should use sidewalks when they are available. When they are not, pedestrians should walk on the paved shoulder of a road, if there is one, or along the side of the road as far to the left as possible AGAINST oncoming traffic. It’s a good idea to wear light-colored or reflective clothing and carry or wear lights, especially in inclement weather and after dark/before sunrise; in Michigan, the majority of pedestrian crashes occur in dark conditions.

What Are Your Legal Rights?

When someone fails to exercise a reasonable, expected degree of care, and that failure results in an injury, the person is said to be “negligent.” Michigan negligence laws recognize “comparative negligence,” in which recovery of damages is reduced proportionately by an injured party’s own negligence.

In a pedestrian-automobile collision lawsuit, a pedestrian plaintiff must demonstrate that a driver was negligent in causing the collision and that the negligence was the cause of the injuries. His or her monetary recovery may be reduced if something he or she did—darting out suddenly into the road from between cars, for example—was negligent conduct that contributed to the occurrence.

Each case depends on a skillful, complete analysis of the facts, and every case is different. If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian-automotive collision in Michigan, it’s essential that you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help evaluate and present your claim. If you’ve been injured, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Personal Injury Litigation Group today to schedule a free consultation.