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Home > Blog > What Happens if You Hit a Jaywalker?

Being a pedestrian in some cities can be a dangerous job. In fact, the entire state of South Carolina ranks third place in the country ahead of places like California for being one of the deadliest places to be a pedestrian. Remember that pedestrian accidents do not mean the state is filled with poor drivers. The roadway infrastructure throughout South Carolina can actively encourage unsafe driving practices. Pedestrians only need to cross the street using designated crosswalks in intersections, but simply walking along dangerous roadways may be unavoidable.

If you are behind the wheel and you hit a pedestrian who was jaywalking, you may be facing a lawsuit. The trauma from the event will be enough for a single person to deal with, so the added burden of a lawsuit will not do anything to make moving on easier. Fortunately, that’s where a personal injury attorney can help. We might be able to reduce your liability if the plaintiff in the personal injury case was breaking the law by jaywalking. The car accident lawyers at HawkLaw, P.A. can help fight for you, so contact an experienced attorney at our law firm today to get started.

What Is Jaywalking?

Put simply, jaywalking is when a pedestrian illegally crosses a street, and it is a misdemeanor that typically warrants a fine of around $25. The law in South Carolina is quite specific regarding outlining the responsibilities of pedestrians on the sidewalk who cross at intersections. To start, every pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway when crossing at any point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Most importantly, it is an infraction to cross the street between intersections with working traffic signals like traffic lights in any capacity other than via crosswalk. Pedestrian crossing at an intersection diagonally is also expressly prohibited unless it is explicitly allowed by traffic control devices. This is all in accordance with the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 56-5-3150.

Am I Liable for Damages If I Hit a Jaywalker in SC?

South Carolina uses a modified comparative negligence standard in civil claims rather than contributory negligence, so your liability for damages after hitting a jaywalker is related to how responsible you were for the accident in the first place. South Carolina is an at-fault state, so any party involved in the traffic accident may receive deductions from their reimbursement based on how responsible they were for it. For example, if a motorist suffered $10,000 worth of medical bills in an accident but is determined to be 10% responsible for the accident, they would only be able to receive $9,000.

Since South Carolina uses a modified comparative negligence law, the deduction from reimbursement based on a percentage of responsibility is limited. If it is determined in court that a motorist is more than 50% at fault for an accident, they will not be able to recover compensation for any damages.

Instances in Which You Are Liable for a Jaywalker’s Injuries

Pedestrian jaywalking is a crime, but as a driver, you are still responsible for paying attention and remaining alert on the road. After all, jaywalking typically comes with a $25 fine, so it hardly warrants the medical costs of the pedestrian’s injuries. This is why it is on you as the driver to ensure that you’re paying attention and obeying all traffic laws, even if there are jaywalkers in the area. The following are instances in which you would be responsible for a jaywalker’s injuries.

Distracted Driving

woman driving while looking at her phone

Distracted Driving is the leading cause of car accidents of any kind. Talking to someone else in the vehicle, glancing at a billboard, or looking at a notification on your phone all qualify as being distracted. Looking at a billboard or your passenger could have you taking your eyes off the road for a second, if that. However, looking at and reading a text message could have you looking away from the road for about five seconds on average.

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is obviously a serious problem that would put the weight of the accident firmly on your shoulders. After consuming alcohol, your reaction time and alertness are impaired, along with your vision and ability to think, depending on how much you’ve had. Driving under the influence is a crime, but even if you don’t get charged with a DUI after striking a pedestrian, the pedestrian can still hold you liable for damages if you have been drinking. Remember, civil cases, like personal injury claims and criminal cases, do not always use the same standards for proof.


The faster you travel on the road, the more grievous injuries can be during an accident. The way those two factors relate to each other means that if you are speeding when you strike a pedestrian or were speeding in the moments leading up to it, you can still be held responsible, especially if you were forced to run a red light. You should drive under the posted speed limit in poor weather or road conditions. Failing to do so and treating the road as if the hazardous conditions were not present can be considered speeding and not meeting your duty of care in civil cases.

How to Prevent an Accident With a Jaywalker

overview of cars driving through crosswalks

To prevent a motor vehicle accident with a jaywalker from happening in the first place, there are several different strategies you can put into practice to reduce your chances of this horrific incident ever happening, in addition to obeying the rules of the road.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

You should have your eyes peeled for any danger, including jaywalkers. Too many drivers simply look for other vehicles since that’s what most people imagine when they think of the concept of a car accident.

Follow the Speed Limit

Speed limits, like other traffic rules, exist to reduce accidents and the damages caused by accidents that do happen. Plus, if you are not speeding, it is less likely that you will be held liable for damages should you get in an accident.

Avoid Night Driving

Night Driving is sometimes unavoidable and is not against any vehicle code, but it is always best to avoid it when possible. Visibility is low, and pedestrians are even harder to see, as they do not have lights coming off them like other cars.

Do Not Drive Distracted

Driving distracted is a recipe for disaster, and no one’s life will be worth whatever argument you are having with a passenger or the notification you received on your phone.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians in South Carolina

Follow these tips to stay safe while walking in South Carolina.

  • Walk on the sidewalk.
  • Walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
  • Cross at marked crosswalks.
  • Look left, right, and left again when crossing.
  • To stay alert, do not wear earbuds or use your cell phone while walking.
  • Wear bright and reflective clothing along with a flashlight at night.
  • Avoid walking while being impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

If you were driving safely and couldn’t stop in time after a pedestrian walked in front of your car, you’ll need a personal injury lawyer to help show that you’re not responsible for the accident. Of course, if you were on the receiving end of an accident as a pedestrian, the team at HawkLaw can seek damages for you while you focus on recovery. We handle both personal injury cases and pedestrian accident cases for all South Carolinians. Do not leave liability up to an insurance company. To request a free consultation* with an accident attorney, call our phone number, 888-HAWKLAW, or complete the online contact form to speak with an experienced team member at HawkLaw today.

John D. Hawkins

Founder and CEO

John Hawkins is the Founder and CEO of HawkLaw He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation with honors in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was on the Law Review and Order of Wig and Robe.

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