As summer approaches and the weather turns warmer, drivers may encounter an increased number of bicyclists and pedestrians in crosswalks and on roadways.  Be aware of Virginia’s laws regarding bicyclists and pedestrians as you drive this summer.

The Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles issues the “Virginia Driver’s Manual” which gives general guidance to Virginia motorists.  On the topic of pedestrians in crosswalks, the Driver’s Manual indicates that vehicle operators must use caution and yield to pedestrians who are crossing a street in a clearly marked crosswalk or at an unmarked intersection at the end of a street block.  In such instances, drivers are required to reduce their speed and yield to the crossing pedestrian or bicyclist.

Unfortunately, we see many motorists who fail to obey this law and end up causing a collision with the pedestrian or bicyclist.  In these situations, it is usually not the automobile driver who suffers most of the injuries.  Pedestrians and bicyclists who have been struck by a vehicle frequently suffer serious, traumatic injuries and require substantial medical treatment to recover.  The force of the impact from a vehicle directly onto one’s body is significant.

The Virginia Model Jury Instructions, which are the instructions Virginia judges use to instruct juries during trials.  Diving deeper into Virginia law as it applies to bicyclists and pedestrians, we see the following from the Virginia Model Jury Instructions:

Instruction — “The plaintiff has a right to assume that the defendant will use ordinary care to obey the law until he realizes, or in the exercise of ordinary care should realize, that the defendant is not going to do so.”  This means that a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk has a right to assume that the driver of a car will use care and yield for him or her to cross in the marked crosswalk.

Instruction — “A pedestrian has the right-of-way when crossing a highway or street within any clearly marked crosswalk or at any regular pedestrian crossing at the end of a block or by the most direct route at any intersection where the maximum speed limit is not more than 35 miles per hour.  The pedestrian’s right-of-way begins on one side of the street and continues until he has completed his crossing in the crosswalk.  When a pedestrian has the right-of-way, the driver of a vehicle has a duty to change course, or slow down, or come to a complete stop, if necessary, to permit the pedestrian to cross safely and expeditiously.”  This is the Virginia Jury Instruction where the pedestrian is in the crosswalk or walking at the end of the block to the opposite side of the street.  This instruction explains that if the pedestrian is in the crosswalk and is struck by a vehicle, the driver of the vehicle is negligent under Virginia law.

Instruction — “A pedestrian has a duty not to start to cross a highway street in the direction of a “Don’t Walk” signal, and a duty, if he partially completed crossing on a “Walk” signal, to proceed to a sidewalk safety island while the “Don’t Walk” signal is showing.  If a pedestrian fails to perform either duty, then they are negligent.”  If a pedestrian is injured in a crosswalk with an electronic signal.  If there is an electronic signal, the pedestrian is supposed to obey the walk signal.

Often, a defendant who has hit a pedestrian or bicyclist will claim that the injured person did something to help cause the accident.  In Virginia, this is called contributory negligence.  If, for instance, a pedestrian or bicyclist did anything which can be considered negligent, it is possible that a jury might find that that person contributed to causing the accident.  In Virginia, a finding of contributory negligence by a judge or jury will prevent the plaintiff from getting any recovery or monetary damages for his or her claim.  Read more about contributory negligence in our article here.

While crossing the street may seem like a simple process, an accident involving a pedestrian or bicyclist brings with it complex and conflicting laws in Virginia.  When such complexities exist, it is important that you contact a lawyer who is experienced in handling these types of personal injury cases.  Pedestrian and bicycle cases are not the same as accidents involving two vehicles.  Different laws apply.  You need someone experienced with this type of law to make sure that your claim is successful.  The lawyer you choose does make a difference.  The attorneys at the Ritchie Law Firm have successfully handled numerous pedestrian and bicycle cases, helping our clients heal from their injuries and be fairly compensated.  Contact us and we’ll give you a free evaluation of your case.

If you or a loved one has suffered significant injuries as a result of being a pedestrian or bicyclist in Virginia, Ritchie Law Firm is here to help.  The experienced, certified attorneys at the Ritchie Law Firm has helped thousands of injured victims and their families recover the compensation they deserve after an accident. Contact us by phone at 800-277-6124 or by using our online contact form.