Can a pedestrian be liable for being injured in an auto accident?

Did you know that in our province in 2013, more than 4000 pedestrians were injured in road accidents? Tragically, 91 of those pedestrians lost their lives in these accidents.

Unfortunately, as long as there are vehicles on the road, there will always be a danger to pedestrians. But is a driver always liable for causing injuries? Is a pedestrian always cleared of fault?

In Ontario, we have what’s called a “reverse onus” on drivers to prove they are not at fault for injuries caused to a pedestrian. The Highway Traffic Act specifies that:

Onus of disproving negligence

193. (1) When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.

Does that mean a driver will always be found at fault? Well, no. Pedestrians still have a duty of care to act responsibly when interacting with traffic. If the pedestrian was acting carelessly (for example, crossing outside of a crosswalk, failing to look both ways, being distracted by technology, running into the street suddenly, etc.) a court might divide the liability — for instance, saying that the driver and pedestrian share fault for the accident, 50/50 or otherwise.

The facts of the accident may have different ramifications, legally and insurance-wise. For example, even if the pedestrian did not have a legal right of way, an insurance company might deem the driver responsible.

And, if a driver injures a pedestrian while committing a traffic offense (like running a red light, speeding, or driving while impaired), these factors will be given substantial weight in determining fault.

No matter the specifics of the accident, if you’ve been injured by a vehicle as a pedestrian, it’s critical that you consult a lawyer, who will ensure your best chance at fair compensation for your injuries and financial losses.