Pedestrian Knockdown

When I was driving, a person stepped out onto the roadway and I struck him. I never saw the pedestrian because he unexpectedly began walking from the sidewalk onto the road. What should I do?

I assume you already spoke to police at the accident scene. The first thing you should do is contact your insurance company immediately. The insurance premiums you pay provide that your insurance carrier will defend and indemnify you for accidents. That means that your insurance company will hire attorneys to represent you in any negligence case that is brought. Your insurance company will also be responsible to pay for damages up to the amount of your insurance policy limits. If you have a separate umbrella policy, you should notify that carrier as well of the accident. As long as you notify your insurance company about an accident in a timely fashion you should be protected.

Since you were vague about your description of the accident, there are a few issues about which you should probably be aware. These legal points all are centered on the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Some of these laws may seem contradictory, but once you can get a clear picture of the facts, there will be no contradictions.

Was the pedestrian in a crosswalk at the time of the accident? Vehicle and Traffic Law § 110 defines crosswalk. Not only are painted lines across the road considered a crosswalk, but there are “unmarked” crosswalks. At the end of a block, there are “imaginary” lines that connect the “lateral lines” of sidewalks on each side of a roadway. Those “imaginary” lines are a cross walk and the pedestrian has the right of way.

If your accident occurred where there were no traffic signals, Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1151(a) apply. Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks (marked or unmarked). But pedestrians must yield the right of way to cars if they are crossing in an area that has no crosswalk, under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1152.

There are also “common law” duties, meaning that there is no statute defining this duty, but judicial decisions over the course of decades have imposed duties on motorists. One common law duty is to “see what there is to be seen.” So even if a pedestrian is in the road, not at a crosswalk and in an area without traffic controls, the driver still could be liable. Thus, in the question when you mentioned “I never saw the pedestrian.” Do you mean that you never saw the pedestrian at all or you never saw the pedestrian until it was too late to avoid the accident? The last issue will probably be huge in determining accident responsibility.