Crosswalks 101: A Lawyer`s Guide to Crossing the Street

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Crosswalks 101: A Lawyer`s Guide to Crossing the Street
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 9/26/2022


Stop, look, and listen. These are the three safety tenets of crossing the street taught to elementary children growing up. For the most part, these rules are golden, but they cannot and will not prevent every car accident. Washington has codified some rules of the road regarding crosswalks. It is important to understand these policies to understand fault after a crosswalk collision.

What is a Crosswalk?

Painted lines along the road make it easy to see a crosswalk on the road. Those bright spacings indicate a safety zone where pedestrians and drivers alike should be on higher attention. These might be controlled by traffic signals but not always. Washington lawmakers have even codified in RCW 46.61.235 that “unmarked’ crosswalks provide legal protection to pedestrians. These are typically located at intersections where there is no striped marking. Nonetheless, whether the intersections are marked, the pedestrian may have the right of way.

What about Jaywalking?

Pedestrians must yield the right of way to all vehicles where there is no marked or unmarked crosswalk. RCW 46.61.240 outlines jaywalking for civil purposes. In other words, if a pedestrian walks out in the middle of the road and is hit by a car at a non-crosswalk the burden will be on them to establish fault of the driver and not the other way around. But, jaywalking in of itself does not always mean the pedestrian is liable if a crash is caused.

Last Clear Chance Doctrine?

Even if a pedestrian is jaywalking, a driver who has plenty opportunity to stop or avoid the pedestrian must do so. It would be bad policy to allow drivers to mow down walkers just because they weren’t in a crosswalk. This type of defense typically requires substantial evidence regarding the sightlines, speeds, and other evidence to show that the driver could not or should not have been able to stop or avoid the crash.

Do Crosswalks Guarantee a Win for the Pedestrian?

Nope! Just like a driver outside of crosswalks must still use caution to avoid jaywalkers, pedestrians hold some responsibility, too. In fact, RCW 46.61.235(2) specifies that [n]o pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop. In other words, pedestrians must pay attention, as well. A pedestrian cannot sue a driver for causing an impact at an intersection if they jump out in front of the car in any capacity. Again, evidence must be presented to support this type of defense.

What to Do if You Were Involved in a Crosswalk Accident?

The police should be called after every crosswalk accident. Traffic tickets aside, having the police perform an initial investigation and take statements from the parties will help provide an initial accounting of facts useful for litigation in the future. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene, the crosswalk, the vehicle, and other pertinent areas. If you are at a controlled crosswalk, even take a video of the signals to document. Make sure to track down any witnesses as well.

Proving a crosswalk accident might be easy but proving one of the exceptions requires substantial evidence. Working with the experienced attorneys at the law office of Magnuson Lowell PS will help you build the case you need for your crosswalk accident. Call today for a free case evaluation.

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