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Who Is Liable for an Accident at an Unmarked Crosswalk?

Young pedestrian is hit by a car. an unmarked crosswalk

If you have been in an accident at an unmarked crosswalk, who is liable will depend on which party was violating road rules, or otherwise negligent. In Ohio, pedestrians typically have the right-of-way. However, drivers are not automatically responsible for a pedestrian-related accident. If a pedestrian has violated a traffic rule, it can be difficult to bring a valid claim against the driver. If you have been seriously injured in a pedestrian accident, whether in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a car accident lawyer who has a thorough understanding of pedestrian-related cases.

Common Locations of Unmarked Crosswalks

Crosswalks, also known as pedestrian crossings, are marked pathways for people to safely cross roads or streets. Some crosswalks have traffic signals to indicate when it’s safe to cross, while others are simply painted lines on the road.

What is an unmarked crosswalk? It is a crosswalk that does not have any visible markings, signs, or signals, but is still a legal place for pedestrians and bicycles to cross. Unmarked crosswalks take the form of any unregulated intersection where sidewalks and walking paths cross through roadways.

Although unmarked crosswalks lack the visual cues of their marked counterparts, they provide the same legal protections. They are typically found at intersections where crossing would be a logical extension of a sidewalk, but where painted lines are not present.

Understanding Pedestrian Right of Way

Ohio law protects pedestrians, requiring drivers to yield to them in most scenarios, including intersections. Pedestrians also have responsibilities for their own safety. Knowing pedestrian right-of-way principles helps determine fault in an accident.

Overview of Pedestrian Right of Way Laws

According to Ohio law, pedestrians generally have the right of way. If there are no traffic control signals, or existing signals are not working, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing the street or roadway within a crosswalk. The driver must slow down or stop if necessary to allow the pedestrian to cross safely. This applies when the pedestrian is on the same side of the street or roadway as the vehicle, or when the pedestrian is approaching from the opposite side. In a crosswalk with an active signal, the pedestrian always has the right-of-way.

The Duty of Drivers to Yield to Pedestrians

There are certain situations in Ohio where pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles. In these situations, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. The situations are as follows:

  • On all sidewalks, if a driver is emerging from an alley, building, private road, or driveway, the driver must stop the vehicle immediately before driving on the sidewalk.
  • On any crosswalk when traffic control signals indicate so.
  • On any crosswalk when traffic control signals are not in place or in operation.
  • On any crosswalk where a car has stopped to allow a pedestrian to pass (no other vehicle may pass the stopped car from behind).
  • Blind pedestrians with a cane or guide dog are always given the right-of-way.

Exceptions to the Pedestrian Right of Way Rule

Ohio state law gives drivers the right-of-way over pedestrians in certain situations. Most notably, when waiting to enter a crosswalk, pedestrians are required to yield to vehicles travelling on the road.

Pedestrians must yield when crossing outside of crosswalks or when traffic signals do not indicate a crossing. They should not cross an intersection diagonally or against any control devices. In the presence of a funeral procession or public safety vehicles with sirens and flashing lights, pedestrians must also yield. It is important for motorists and pedestrians alike to remain vigilant when driving or walking on the road.

Factors Influencing Liability in Accidents at Unmarked Crosswalks

Drivers are usually at fault for pedestrian collisions at crosswalks, where pedestrians have the right-of-way. Without a crosswalk, liability is less clear. Whether a driver is liable will depend on the circumstances of the accident. There are some factors that may not affect liability, for example, the ages of involved drivers as a cause of car accidents. The following factors will be considered.

Speed and Visibility of the Driver

In low visibility conditions, after a crash, a crucial question is whether the other driver took necessary measures to avoid the collision. Merely obeying the speed limit is not enough, as it may have been necessary to drive even slower to avoid an accident. For instance, if the driver is facing foggy weather, an unmarked crosswalk on a blind rise, or a bend in the road, visibility is greatly reduced. Therefore, the driver must take extra precautions and drive slower, even if it means going below the speed limit.

Pedestrian Behavior

It is important to determine if the pedestrian’s behavior played a role in causing the accident. Ohio law states that pedestrians must not suddenly leave the sidewalk or other safe location and walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle. When crossing a street, pedestrians should only use the shortest route to the opposite sidewalk or use a crosswalk that is perpendicular to the street.

If pedestrians violate these laws or behave recklessly, they may be held partially responsible for the accident. A pedestrian’s conduct will be evaluated to determine if he or she contributed to or caused the accident.

The court may take several factors into consideration when evaluating the pedestrian’s behavior, such as whether he or she was jaywalking, walking slowly or aimlessly in the street, suddenly darting into the street, or neglecting to check for traffic before crossing.

Driver Negligence

As a driver, it is important to remain attentive and exercise caution toward pedestrians. Any form of careless or negligent driving can be the cause of an accident. If the driver is found to be responsible for the accident due to negligence, he or she will likely be held liable. Negligent driving can include behaviors such as running a red light, texting while driving, speeding, driving under the influence, passing illegally, not yielding to pedestrian traffic, distracted driving, and driving through stop signs. Ultimately, a jury will weigh the facts and circumstances to determine fault.

Impact of Traffic Signals or Signs Near Unmarked Crosswalks

Yield markings are important as they help motorists to yield or stop at a greater distance from the crosswalk. This reduces the visual obstruction of a vehicle as pedestrians cross the road. Pedestrian crossing signs, traffic signals, and other signs alert motorists to the possible presence of pedestrians, making them more aware. They also help to control traffic near pedestrian crossings, reducing the chance of accidents involving pedestrians. If a driver fails to follow traffic signals or signs, this indicates negligence. Therefore, if a driver fails to follow signals and signs and causes an accident involving a pedestrian, the driver will likely be held liable.

Your car accident lawyer will help you determine and prove liability in a pedestrian accident. Your lawyer can help to prepare a lawsuit if necessary, or negotiate on your behalf should you settle your case.

Road Authorities’ Role in Ensuring Safety

As part of their responsibility, the road authority must ensure that:

  • The users of new road works follow the expected road behavior as per the design.
  • The existing road network operates safely by promoting the right behavior.

To make this happen, road authorities need to work with local police and local governments. They should explain the crucial role local law enforcement plays in achieving a safe road network. The authorities should encourage and support police action to ensure compliance with speed limits, giving priority to pedestrians on crossings, safe overtaking, and observing traffic controls at intersections.

Responsibility of Local Road Authorities in Maintaining Road Safety

The road authority is responsible for ensuring safe road design for new roads and safety improvements for existing ones. They also work towards safer outcomes from road maintenance and network operation activities.

To achieve this, they identify, analyze, and prioritize safety improvements on local roads that address local issues and needs. They maintain roads and implement improvements when necessary.

Local road authorities have the ability to prioritize a list of issues, risks, actions, and improvements that can be used to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on local roads. They can identify where signage and markings are needed, adjust speed limits, and determine appropriate locations for pedestrian crossings to ensure pedestrian safety.

Importance of Adding Appropriate Signage or Markings at Unmarked Crosswalks

Unmarked crosswalks can be dangerous for pedestrians since drivers often do not expect them to be crossing. Combining signs, markings, and other enhancements can help create a safer environment for pedestrians. Small changes, like raised medians and advance yield markings, along with traffic signals near pedestrian crossing signs, can significantly improve pedestrian safety. Additionally, traffic signals can slow down cars, reducing the likelihood of pedestrian accidents.

Jay A. Bolotin is a partner at the injury law firm of Young, Reverman & Bolotin. Serving the people of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, Jay dedicates his career to helping clients in the tri-state area obtain financial compensation after suffering serious injuries. He focuses his practice on cases involving car accidents, trucking accidents, dog bites and animal attacks, and other types of personal injury incidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Registration Status:: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Cincinati Bar Association