Pedestrian Right Of Way In North Carolina


Pedestrian right of way is something most of us feel comfortable with. We all grew up with the understanding that “The pedestrian always has the right of way.” In most people’s minds, this maxim applies whether you’re walking, running, or riding a bike. If you’ve handled pedestrian personal injury cases in North Carolina, you know that insurance companies often disagree. This article is intended to help clarify some issues involved with pedestrian accidents in North Carolina.

Charlotte Pedestrian Accidents

A pedestrian accident in Charlotte, NC can be a unique personal injury case. It’s not that Charlotte has its own set of laws, but being a larger more densely populated city in North Carolina, Charlotte has more crosswalks, more pedestrians crossing outside of crosswalks, and more complicated roadways in general.

The Pedestrian Right of Way

The state of North Carolina has codified (made into law) some of the rights of pedestrians. Chapter 20 of the North Carolina General Statutes addresses pedestrian concerns. NC General Statutes Section 20-155(c) states specifically:

“The driver of any vehicle upon a highway within a business or residence district shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing such highway within any clearly marked crosswalk, or any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block, except at intersections where the movement of traffic is being regulated by traffic officers or traffic direction”

The first aspect of this is extremely helpful when building a pedestrian personal injury claim. If the pedestrian is crossing within the crosswalk, they are protected. While the latter part of the paragraph carves out an exception where traffic is being directed by an officer, that rarely comes up in my personal injury practice.

The Gray Area Involving Right of Way

North Carolina follows a rule called Contributory Negligence. Essentially, it means that if the plaintiff (The pedestrian in this instance) contributed in any way to the accident, then they can not recover from the defendant. This is typically the first claim of insurance companies defending a claim for a pedestrian personal injury case. The typical reasons given are:

  • Not in a crosswalk
  • Wearing dark clothing (Not visible to the driver)
  • Impaired (Drugs or alcohol)
  • Last Clear Chance
  • Crossing at Night

If you’ve been in a pedestrian accident, your personal injury lawyer will discuss some or all of the items on the above list, in anticipation of the insurance company claiming you did not have the right of way. If the insurance company can establish the pedestrian did not have the right of way, then the driver did not have to yield to the pedestrian. Next, the insurance company will attempt to establish at least some part of the accident was the pedestrian’s fault. While our firm has successfully made claims regarding pedestrian personal injury accidents, it is almost never without a fight from the insurance company in this manner.

The Pedestrian Crosswalk Dilemma

As a driver, I am always on the look out for pedestrians, because I know that pedestrians quite often cross a street outside of a crosswalk. I do it myself, and I see others do it every day. As a result, I believe it’s reasonable to expect a pedestrian to cross the road in these circumstances. There are several circumstances where a driver should anticipate or even expect this behavior:

  • No other crosswalk opportunity within sight
  • A break in the median
  • Handicap ‘cut-outs’ on either side of the street suggesting a ‘crosswalk’

While every pedestrian right of way claim is a challenge, pedestrians are also quite sympathetic to juries. Even where a pedestrian has been crossing in the evening, or wearing dark clothing, if the jury decides the driver had the last clear chance to avoid the accident, there is a good chance the pedestrian will win the personal injury lawsuit.

Speak With A Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you love has been struck by a vehicle, please call us to find out your rights. We are more than happy to hear your story and give you a complimentary assessment of your case or claim. If we can not take your case for some reason, we will help you find another lawyer that we trust, who can assist you. If you’d like to speak with an attorney today, call 704.749.7747 or click HERE to send us a request for a phone consultation. We hope you’ll choose to Recover With Us.