Pianko Law Group

The Color Guard: What Injured Pedestrians Need to Know Now

Pianko Law Group
Pianko Law Group 
November 15, 2021

Growing up, most of us learned that we should always stop and look both ways before we cross the street, whether we have the green light or not. Animal costumes, dance moves, and smiling faces are optional. As a result, some people believe that if they do not adhere to this law of nature, if a car hits them, they are ineligible for compensation.

Although overall traffic deaths have only inched up in the last ten years, pedestrian deaths have increased a staggaring 46 percent since 2010. Most of these wrecks happen outside marked crosswalks. The high death total is not just a safety issue. It’s also a social justice issue. A disproportionately large percentage of these victims are people of color. 

Amidst all this bad news, there is good news. Even if you didn’t stop and look both ways or cross with the light in a crosswalk, a New York personal injury attorney can still obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. 

Non-Crosswalk Accidents

As mentioned, most pedestrian accidents happen outside crosswalks. If Tommy lives across the street from Jimmy, Tommy won’t walk to the corner to cross the street. These incidents are not just more common. The injuries are also more serious.

Usually, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is travelling at or near top speed in non-crosswalk accidents. Speed is a major factor in all traffic accidents. It’s an even bigger factor in pedestrian accidents.

At impact speeds below 25mph, the pedestrian death rate is less than 10 percent. At impact speeds above 45mph, the death rate skyrockets to 75 percent. Even if they survive, these victims usually have permanent injuries.

The duty of care requires motorists to avoid accidents when possible, regardless of what other people do or don’t do. Striking a pedestrian in the road, even one who was jaywalking, clearly violates that duty.

But not so fast. Common insurance company defenses in non-crosswalk pedestrian accidents include comparative fault and the emergency doctrine.

In this context, comparative fault is usually, wait for it, a failure to stop and look both ways. Frequently, a smartphone is involved. However, the comparative fault defense does not always hold up in court. Basically, the insurance company must prove that the victim ignored a clear danger, like a car rapidly approaching, or the victim was so engrossed in the device that s/he ignored the environment.

Generally, insurance company lawyers claim these victims “darted out into traffic” and therefore the tortfeasor could not avoid a wreck. This line sets up the emergency doctrine. Drivers are not responsible for damages if they reasonably react to a sudden emergency.

Fortunately for victims, a jaywalking pedestrian is normally not a “sudden emergency” in this context. Instead, a jaywalking pedestrian is like a stalled car or large pothole. Drivers should be ready to deal with these everyday hazards. They are not completely unexpected situations, or sudden emergencies.

Crosswalk Accidents

So, even in non-crosswalk cases, compensation is available. These claims are simply more complex. Crosswalk injury claims could be almost as equally complex, largely depending on the color of the light.

Green Light

This section will be pretty short. If the pedestrian was inside the crosswalk while the light was green, liability is fairly clear. Occasionally, tortfeasors come up with excuses in these situations, like the sun was in my eyes or cars parked on the side of the road limited my visibility. These excuses normally do not hold up in court.

Likewise, the aforementioned defenses are little good here. Even if the pedestrian did not stop and look both ways, if the pedestrian had the light, the driver ran the light. According to the negligence per se rule, if a tortfeasor violates a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury, the tortfeasor could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.


Most urban streets were designed to move vehicle traffic as quickly as possible from Point A to Point B. Therefore, wide lanes and short red lights are the norm. These conditions make it almost impossible for anyone with a significant mobility impairment to cross the street before the light turns red. That’s especially true if the intersection does not have a countdown timer or a walk/don’t walk flashing sign.

Technically, insurance companies cannot use pre-existing conditions, like mobility impairments, to reduce or deny compensation. Nevertheless, comparative fault is usually available in these situations. That’s especially true if the pedestrian started across the street right before the light changed.

Speaking of flashing signs, virtual crosswalks are a special case. To activate these crosswalks, which are usually at non-intersections, the pedestrian presses a button. That button activates flashing yellow lights which command motorists to stop. 

Some virtual crosswalks have overhead flashing lights which are clearly visible. Others have flashing lights mounted on curb signs which are more difficult to see. Comparative fault and the emergency doctrine are easier to prove if the pedestrian simply pressed the button and keep walking or if the lights were obscured.


If the pedestrian started walking across the street on red, compensation is still available. The emergency doctrine is usually unavailable, even if the victim did indeed dart out into traffic. The comparative fault defense is another matter. Pedestrians who cross the street in these circumstances, even if they stop and look both ways, clearly bear most of the fault.

New York is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the tortfeasor was only 1 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is still entitled to a proportionate share of damages.

Injured pedestrians are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. Lawyers can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

Related Posts

Does Workers’ Comp Always Cover Job Injuries?

November 26, 2022  •  Maurice Pianko

Let Us Help

If you need legal representation for you personal injury we are here to help. Call us today or click the button below to schedule a free consultation.
Call: (646) 801-9675Schedule consultation
Attorney Advertising; No Attorney Client Relationship or Confidentiality /// This Site is intended to enable readers to learn about Pianko Law Group. The information provided in this Site should not be considered an offer to represent you. This Site may be considered attorney advertising under the rules of certain jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Use of this Site or of the e-mail links on this Site to communicate with Pianko Law Group or its lawyers does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Pianko Law Group; no such communication will be treated as confidential and no such communication is guaranteed to be secure. This Site contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments. The Site Content should not be construed as legal advice. Please do not include any confidential or sensitive information in a contact form, text message, or voicemail. The contact form sends information by non-encrypted email, which is not secure. Submitting a contact form, sending a text message, making a phone call, or leaving a voicemail does not create an attorney-client relationship. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New York or New Jersey.
Copyright © 2024 Pianko Law Group. All rights reserved.
phone-handsetcalendar-fullbubblecrossmenuchevron-up linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram