Liability in Pedestrian Accidents
Drivers and pedestrians have an obligation to yield the right-of-way under different circumstances. Pedestrians should cross roadways only at intersections or marked crosswalks and if they do not, they are required to yield to vehicles. Pedestrians are required to yield to emergency vehicles at all times. As is the case with drivers, pedestrians must also obey traffic signals and signage.
Pedestrians must also use sidewalks where they exist, walk on the right-hand portion of crosswalks when they can, and are prohibited from standing in the roadway to hitchhike.
In Montana, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians where there are no traffic devices when the pedestrians are crossing at an intersection or marked crosswalk. Drivers must yield to pedestrians when crossing a sidewalk, such as to enter a driveway. If a car stops to allow a pedestrian to cross, other vehicles may not pass the stopped car. In general, the law requires that drivers exercise care to avoid colliding with pedestrians.
Determining Fault in Pedestrian Accidents
The motorist or pedestrian who fails to exercise the duty of care required under the law can be sued for negligence. For example, the motorist would be at fault if they make a turn at an uncontrolled intersection and strike a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Likewise, a pedestrian would be at fault if they cross the roadway where there is no crosswalk or intersection and are struck by a vehicle traveling at the speed limit.
Montana observes a “modified comparative fault” rule. Fault for an accident is assigned to anyone who was negligent. The motorist and the pedestrian could both be assigned fault if they were negligent in some way. Fault would be assigned proportionately. For example, a pedestrian is walking while texting and wanders to the left side of the crosswalk. A motorist stopped at the intersection leans over to pick something up from the floorboard and rolls forward, striking the pedestrian. They both had a duty to pay attention, and both failed to do so. A jury would assign a percentage of fault to each of them. The person assigned 50% or more at fault would be unable to sue the other person.
You can pursue compensation for the damages you sustained as the result of an accident. Possible damages include the cost of your medical treatment including future expenses, wages lost while unable to work, and emotional pain and suffering.
When someone dies in a pedestrian accident, the decedent’s spouse and minor children, or the parents of a deceased child under the age of 18, can seek to recover compensation for loss of companionship, lost financial support, the cost of the funeral and burial, and mental anguish.
Statute of Limitations
Montana has a three-year statute of limitations for both personal injury and wrongful death claims. You must file a bodily injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company within three years from the date of the accident or file a lawsuit against the driver. In a wrongful death action, you would have three years from the date of the death that resulted from the accident.
Important Steps to Take
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, or if your loved one is now incapacitated or died as the result of their injuries, you should consult with a personal injury attorney right away.
A wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate in Montana. If there is no will and therefore, no representative, the court will appoint one, usually a spouse or adult child. If the decedent was under the age of 18, the child’s parent or legal guardian may file a wrongful death action.