Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people all over Minnesota have hit the streets, forming walking groups and other outdoor social-distancing activities.

Though cumulative 2020 data is not available, from January to November in Minnesota 36 pedestrians have died as a result of Pedestrian Traffic Accidents, per Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Numbers have risen from last year and, if you find yourself at the hands of a negligent motorist, you should know your rights.

Traffic Accident Information

When the driver of a car, truck, or other motorized vehicle hits a pedestrian (in crosswalks, sidewalks, or elsewhere), the driver should be held accountable for the injuries they cause.

If a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver of the car that hit the pedestrian is usually (but not always) considered to be at fault, even if the pedestrian is not walking in a crosswalk.

The common expression “pedestrians have the right of way,” has merit. Most states’ traffic and negligence laws require drivers to remain alert to what is around them, paying attention to hazards in the road. Though not what a person considers a typical hazard—like an active construction site—pedestrian presence requires the same level of alertness. Drivers have a legal obligation to see and avoid risks around them.

A few important statutes to know:

Right of Way of Pedestrians

Minn. Stat. § 169.21, subd. 2 (2020)

(a)Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. 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. This provision shall not apply under the conditions as otherwise provided in this subdivision.

In Minnesota, pedestrians do not have the right of way if not indicated by a traffic sign, or if it is impossible for a driver to stop.

Intersections

When crossing between intersections, subdivision 3 of 169.21 states:  

Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

(d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section every driver of a vehicle shall (1) exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle or pedestrian upon any roadway and (2) give an audible signal when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.

Though more important to speak to an attorney after you are hit, knowing your rights is helpful when working with an attorney.

Common causes of Pedestrian Traffic Accidents can include:

  • Speeding
  • Driver Inattention
  • Driver Distraction (cell phone, makeup, eating or drinking, etc.)
  • Failure to Yield
  • Failure to comply with Traffic Signals
  • Consumption of Alcohol or other substances before getting behind the wheel
  • Inclement Weather
  • Phantom Vehicles

Phantom Vehicles

Most of these causes are self-explanatory, all but phantom vehicles. Phantom vehicles are not haunted, nor are they a product of a horror movie. However, phantom vehicles pose an equal threat to your safety. A phantom vehicle is a vehicle an unoccupied vehicle that poses a danger, requiring a driver to swerve to avoid the unattended vehicle, leading to an accident.

In Minnesota, even without an explicitly stated phantom vehicle statute, you are still entitled to recovery. Under Nadeau v. Austin Mutual Insurance Company, 350 N.W.2d 368 (Minn. 1984), you have a right to uninsured motorist benefits when attempting to avoid an oncoming vehicle, even when no contact is made between the vehicles. The injury is related to the use of the vehicle because the individual was within a “zone of danger” causing a risk of physical impact with the vehicle.

What to Do if You are Hit?

Call the police.

If you are hit by a hit-and-run driver, you should immediately report it to the police and provide them with whatever identifying information of the vehicle. If there is a witness, make sure they give a description of the driver, vehicle, etc.: whatever you are able to do.

If possible, obtain the driver information as well. If you can, try to preserve evidence of the accident. You can also see if there is a witness as well, if you are not too badly injured.

Next, and important to your safety, go to the hospital if you are in need of medical attention.

Finally, contact an attorney to ensure your interests are protected. The renowned attorneys at Dudley & Smith, P.A. will investigate the scene, speak to witnesses, evaluate injuries, and much more, all while providing options for fair compensation.

Payment

A driver who hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk will have limited chance at avoiding liability. If the pedestrian is not in the crosswalk when he or she is hit, the pedestrian will still have a good chance of winning the case if the pedestrian paid attention to the road and did not run into the street or otherwise try to beat the traffic.

Payment depends on several pieces of information, and is best determined by an attorney.

Minnesota: A No-Fault State

The No Fault system is an important aspect of all automobile accident cases in Minnesota. Generally, every owner of a motor vehicle in Minnesota is required to maintain an insurance policy which has No Fault coverage, and a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle is generally entitled to the benefits of Minnesota’s No-Fault system.

However, the most important thing—aside from receiving the necessary medical attention—is to contact an attorney promptly, or within reasonable time after the accident. Call an attorney today!

Katherine Brown Holmen

This post was created by Katherine Brown Holmen, personal injury, worker’s compensation, and wrongful death attorney at Dudley and Smith P.A. with help from Alexander Koch, a law clerk and current student at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.  Katherine has over 24 years of experience and has worked on thousands of medical and income loss benefit claims. 

If you or a loved one suffered injury or loss as a result of negligent motorist, please contact Katherine Brown Holmen at 651-291-1717 or by email at kholmen@dudleysmith.com.  Dudley and Smith, P.A. is a full service law firm with offices in St.PaulBlaineBloomingtonBurnsvilleChanhassenWhite Bear Lake, and Woodbury.

The law is continually evolving and Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship. Postings are for informational purposes and are not solicitations, legal advice, or tax advice. A viewer of Dudley & Smith, P.A.’s blog should not rely upon any information in the blog without seeking legal counsel.