We’re taught—or at least it was my impression—that cars had the ultimate responsibility to avoid hitting pedestrians. That’s basically in line with Washington law. Except when the pedestrian makes it impossible for a driver to avoid hitting them, the driver is responsible:
No pedestrian 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.
The Washington Supreme Court has explained: “When the statute refers to a ‘curb or other place of safety’, it obviously means a place out of the lanes of traffic.”
So once a pedestrian is in a lane of traffic–even if they’re not in a crosswalk–drivers still have the ultimate responsibility of/for avoiding them.
Unfortunately these rules came into play in Everett this week:
Southbound traffic on Evergreen Way was down to one lane just south of Everett Mall Way after a serious injury car-pedestrian accident Monday afternoon. The accident happened shortly before 5:00pm as a pedestrian was trying to cross Evergreen Way in the 10700 block in front of the Casablanca apartments. The person was not in a crosswalk and there are six lanes and a center left turn lane in that stretch of Evergreen Way.
We’ve handled a lot of these cases. Frequently drivers (especially in summer months) try to skirt responsibility by claiming that the sun was in their eyes. Common sense says that if you can’t see you should slow down or stop. And that’s consistent with Washington law.
The fact it was bright and the sun was in the driver’s eyes is not an excuse. “Reduced visibility doesn’t lessen the protection given to pedestrians but gives rise to greater vigilance on the part of driver.”
Drivers are almost always responsible (to some degree) for accidents with pedestrians. But insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to show the pedestrian’s at fault. That’s why it’s important to contact an attorney right away if you’ve been hit by a car.