Liability at a Crosswalk


Herman asked:  If a cyclist is traveling down the road and an elderly person is about to step off of the sidewalk/curb but sees the cyclist and stops short and/or has a heart attack or some other “fear induced” reaction, could the cyclist be held accountable for the pedestrian’s injuries?


You will have to ask an attorney about potential liability. Assuming you are referring to a crosswalk, the following is the applicable statute, which would be the case whether it is a motor vehicle, human powered vehicle, horse or any other traffic.

s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(7)(c) When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation and there is no signage indicating otherwise, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

If there is no crosswalk, this would apply:

(8) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

2 Comments on “Liability at a Crosswalk

  1. It was a question raised at another web site that I frequent regularly. There is a case out in SF where a cyclist hit an elderly pedestrian and the pedestrian later died from the injuries sustained. The question was raised as to what would be the liability/legal ramifications if even though a cyclist did not make physical contact with a pedestrian, but that the pedestrian in question suffered some sort of “fear” induced “trauma?”

    Would they, even though the cyclist did not strike the pedestrian be responsible?

    In your second citation I encountered such an act several years ago. I was headed to the local library on a weekend when a gal who had just gotten off of the bus. Had with cell phone glued to her ear. Step off of the sidewalk (in the middle of the block) without looking. Had I not been scanning the road in front of me I would have NOT “seen” her and would have hit her. “Knock wood” I was able to swerve around her and avoid hitting her.

    And correct me if I am mistaken, but even though she was engaged in an illegal action, that under the doctrine of last clear chance, that I had an obligation to avoid her so long as doing so didn’t place myself in danger.

  2. Once again, you will have to seek legal advice about the potential liability in a specific situation. We can only try to explain the laws on this site. That is not addressed specifically in the statutes. What happens in court can result in case law that might be used as a precedent, but I am not aware of such in a case like this.

    Drivers always have the obligation to try to avoid a collision in accordance with the “due care” provisions in the statutes.

    s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
    (1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

    s. 316.185 – Special Hazards
    The fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than the prescribed limits shall not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed …. when special hazards exist or may exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or other roadway conditions, and speed shall be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the street in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

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