You were riding your bike down the street and were struck by a distracted driver. These pedestrian-auto accidents are generally much, much worse for the pedestrian than the person in the vehicle.
But what if you were riding your bike on the wrong side of the street; riding on the sidewalk; jaywalking against a red crosswalk light; or were in another area in which you were not, technically, permitted.
Does violating a rule prohibit you from recovering for your injuries if you were struck as a pedestrian by a distracted driver?
The short answer is not necessarily. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
Violating a law as a pedestrian who has been hit by a car can be an issue, but fortunately is not generally so much of an issue that you are prohibited from recovering for your injuries. This is because New York law follows general standards of comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence means that a jury is permitted to allocate fault to the parties as it sees fit. So, for example, a jury could find that the driver that hit you was 50% at fault, and the pedestrian was also 50% at fault. This sort of allocation happens all the time.
Contrast this with a contributory negligence state, where an individual is prohibited from recovering if a jury finds that they are even 1% at fault in causing an accident. This often leads to very harsh results for victims of accidents.
In New York, the violation of a law – in this case typically a violation of a Vehicle and Traffic law – is generally considered some evidence that the person violating the law was negligent.
Practically, this means that if you were the one who violated the law by riding your bike in the wrong direction down the street, for example, a jury would be instructed that it could consider your violation of the law as some evidence that you were at least partially at fault for the accident.
This theory about violations of the law being considered as some evidence of negligence works both ways, of course. It also means that if the driver of the other car was ticketed for distracted driving, or texting while driving, you could potentially use that charge in your favor.
Which brings us to the actual legal resolution of the ticket. If you were issued a ticket following an accident – whether you were the victim or the cause of the accident – you must be very careful about how you resolve that ticket.
A guilty plea is generally considered an admission to the charge in the ticket – which means that if you plead guilty to riding your bike on the wrong side of the street this may be used against you. Practically, if you consult with an attorney and plead “not guilty,” you can ordinarily negotiate a reduction with the District Attorney's office.
In the end, while it is of course best to follow all pedestrian laws governing riding a bike, walking or otherwise, eventually everyone will break one of these. If you are unfortunately the victim of a pedestrian-automobile accident, it is unlikely that this will entirely ruin any potential for recovery for your injuries.
If you have questions about pedestrian auto accidents give us a call.