In pedestrian accidents, driver's liability depends on facts

Accidents that involve pedestrians are usually somewhat ambiguous when it comes to determining who is at fault and whether the driver is liable to pay for the pedestrian's losses. Many pedestrian accidents in Connecticut and throughout the country involve young children running out into the street. In that case, the liability of the driver is usually extremely difficult to prove.

Thus, where a pedestrian appears suddenly in the driver's path liability cannot generally be imposed. Cases of pedestrians in crosswalks give the other side of the story. A driver must be observing everything on the road in front of him. A pedestrian properly crossing the street in a crosswalk has a right to be there and a right generally not to be run over.

Only the most extenuating circumstances would free a driver from liability for hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This should apply at night also. Most crosswalks will have lighting near them and the driver must be going slowly enough in any event to see what is ahead.

The toughest case is where the pedestrian is in the middle or near middle of the road, crossing at a point that is not a crosswalk. Sometimes that pedestrian is not crossing at all but simply walking at or near the berm of the road or on the road itself. These present the cloudier disputes about liability. In a reported Connecticut case, a man was struck by a car and killed while walking on a road in Hartford at 2:30 a.m.

The driver fled and is being sought by the police. In most pedestrian accidents, the hit-and-run driver will likely be found sooner or later. The issue is whether he is financially liable to the family of the decedent for a wrongful death claim.

Despite being guilty of hit-and-run he may be innocent with respect to civil monetary liability. Under Connecticut law dealing with negligence and pedestrian accidents, this depends on whether the pedestrian was visible on the road. If there were no unusual visibility problems then the driver probably should have seen him well in advance, and will be found liable to compensate the family.

Source: NBC Connecticut, Pedestrian Killed in Hartford Hit-and-Run, Stephanie O'Connell, Nov. 24, 2013

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