One of the worst types of collisions is the pedestrian strike. There is no real positive outcome when a 2,000 lb. vehicle strikes or runs over a person. Generally, the law in Maryland is that pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk, after that, each case has to be reviewed individually. A few years ago, the law was that anyone who crossed the street outside the crosswalk was at fault as a matter of law, until proven otherwise. That meant that a pedestrian struck outside the crosswalk started the case off with the presumption that he or she caused or contributed to her injury and could not win her case until she proved that the collision wasn’t her fault. This was a difficult uphill battle. Although that is no longer the law, the idea that the pedestrian contributed to the injury still prevails among many Maryland citizens and jurists. The shifted burden is difficult but not impossible to overcome.
For a pedestrian to have contributed to a collision, the fact that she was outside the crosswalk must be an actual and legal cause of the injury. In legal terms, this legal cause of the collision is called the “proximate cause.” For instance, if a pedestrian is two feet from the crosswalk, it is often fair to say that the motorist should have seen her, forget that she was outside the crosswalk, and therefore her position did not contribute to the collision. If a pedestrian is crossing mid-block, and a motorist has been traveling straight for a half mile, and a collision happens away from the curb, it is often fair to say that the driver should have seen the pedestrian, and therefore should have avoided the collision. The fact that the pedestrian was outside the crosswalk was unrelated to the fact that the motorist did not see her. This is because if the motorist did not see the pedestrian prior to the strike then she wouldn’t have seen the pedestrian if she was in the crosswalk. Here, the pedestrian was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; and under Maryland law, that is not negligence.
These are very hard cases, but not impossible. Before pursuing such a case, a client must know that there are no guarantees and that the odds of winning and losing are about equal.
- Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
- FELDMAN & DARBY LLP
- 481 N. Frederick Avenue, Third Floor
- Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877