We often tell new teenage drivers that “driving is not a right, it’s a privilege,” in an effort to impress on them the many responsibilities that come with driving. When we get behind the wheel we need to be conscious of driving in a way that ensures our safety as well as that of other drivers and pedestrians. It is for this reason that we commit to memory many rules, e.g., the pedestrian always has the right of way, or reduce speed in a school zone. The failure to follow these rules increases the possibility of a car accident occurring.
A recent Cook County jury was asked to analyze a personal injury lawsuit involving a pedestrian and a car. The plaintiff was a student at Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois, and was leaving his school when the car accident occurred. The case was filed by a teenage boy who was hit by a driver while walking across the street to get a ride. As a result of the pedestrian car accident, the teenager sustained a severe leg fracture, requiring surgery and the placement of four screws. And while the boy eventually made a full recovery, it was not until his family had amassed over $35,000 in medical bills.
The defendant car driver was issued a ticket for traveling over the 20 mph posted speed limit and for failing to yield to a pedestrian. The driver freely admitted that he was going 5 to 10 mph over the posted school zone speed limit. However, despite this admission of guilt, the Cook County jury found in favor of the defendant driver.
The seemingly bizarre jury verdict was due to the jury’s finding that the Maywood student was more than 50 percent at fault for the pedestrian accident. In Illinois, if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the alleged injury, then the defendant is not responsible for paying any portion of the damages. But why did the Cook County jury find the student to have been the main cause of the car accident?
Even though the defendant driver had admitted to speeding in a school zone, the pedestrian student had also violated certain safety rules. While a pedestrian does have the right of way in a crosswalk, the plaintiff was not walking in the crosswalk at the time of the accident. Instead, he was walking about two car lengths north of the crosswalk. The jury also took into consideration that the accident occurred at 6:42 p.m., which supported the defendant’s claim that it was too dark to see the teenager until the last second. The defendant argued that the teenage student could have avoided the pedestrian accident if he was walking within the crosswalk and had crossed the street with the traffic light instead of against it.
After considering all of the case facts, the jury found in favor of the defendant driver on the basis that the plaintiff pedestrian was over 50 percent at fault for his own accident. This Cook County verdict demonstrates that legally pedestrians do not always have the right of way and can in fact be held responsible for their own actions.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois automobile accidents, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle crashes for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Maywood, Glenwood, Mount Prospect, Chicago’s Lincoln Square, Elgin, Joliet, and Elmwood Park.
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