What Happens if You Hit a Pedestrian With Your Car?

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By Cai Bradley
Updated on Thursday 19 May 2022

Pedestrians crossing a road

There’s no denying that road traffic accidents can be complex – particularly when it comes to determining the fault of a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident claim and the latest changes to the highway code.

Here's a quick guide to pedestrians’ right of way, who would be at-fault in the event of an accident, and what you should do if you hit a pedestrian with your car.

But first, watch this real-life example of how easy vehicle-pedestrian accidents can happen: 

Do pedestrians have right of way in the UK?

In short, no, pedestrians do not automatically have the right of way on all UK roads, but there are a few situations where they do. These include the following:

  • Since January 2022, if a pedestrian is waiting to cross a road at a junction and a driver intends on turning into that road, the pedestrian has priority and the driver should give way (see Highway Code Rule 170).
  • If a pedestrian is on a Zebra Crossing, the driver must give way (see Highway Code Rule 195).
  • If a red or amber light is flashing on a signal-controlled pelican crossing, a driver must give way to pedestrians on the crossing (see Highway Code Rule 196).

However, the right of way may not have as much bearing on a car accident claim as you might think, because Rule 204 of the Highway Code states that driving a vehicle puts other people at-risk and pedestrians are the most vulnerable of all road users. So, even if the driver has right of way, they may still be liable if they hit a pedestrian.

Drivers have a duty of care to others on the road and should always remain vigilant in situations where the risk of a collision or obstruction is high, for example, when passing parked buses or ice-cream vans.

As a rule of thumb, if the driver could or should have anticipated that a pedestrian may step onto the road, they must drive with appropriate caution – i.e., slow down.

Pedestrian accident claims – Will your car insurance pay out?

Whether or not your car insurance pays out depends on a variety of factors, including the type of policy you have, the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the evidence available to prove the at-fault party (such as dash cam footage).

While the car accident fault determination rules in the UK can provide guidance on who the at-fault party might be – such as the vehicle who hits another from behind in a rear-end collision – pedestrian accident claims can be far more complicated and difficult to settle.

When a pedestrian is hit by a car, the right of way is often looked at, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all, or the determining factor in a vehicle and pedestrian accident claim. Each case is different and there’s no way of knowing for definite whether you will receive a pay-out after hitting a pedestrian without knowing the full details of the incident (and even then, it can still be unclear).

The only way to know for sure is to contact your car insurance provider or a trained solicitor for further assistance.

As mentioned, road users should always drive with caution in situations where they could or should anticipate that a pedestrian could step out onto the road, and if they haven’t slowed down or shown a level of care, they could be held accountable for the incident.

To protect yourself against these types of claims and get the right level of cover for your needs, tap the button below and get a new car insurance quote to see how much you could save today:

Case study: Mr Williams and the pedestrian accident claim

As seen in the video at the beginning of this article, Mike Williams was driving through a green traffic light when joggers ran from behind a stationary bus in front of him.

Despite the evidence of the dash cam footage and both parties (the driver and the joggers themselves) agreeing that the pedestrians were entirely at-fault, Mr Williams’ insurance provider told him that a court would find him 30 to 40 per cent to blame for the incident and that he was going too fast.

Mr Williams claims that he was driving at 20mph when the pedestrians did not acknowledge the ‘don’t cross’ signal and ran out from behind a stationary bus. But, since uploading the video online, there have been two opposing arguments.

Some say that he was going too fast and should have slowed down when he was ‘undertaking stationary traffic’, while others argued that the pedestrians should have been more careful and caused the incident due to a lack of vigilance for oncoming traffic.

For example, one user commented: “Green means proceed if safe, as you couldn’t see any obstruction because the bus was stopped on green you should have proceeded with much more caution”.

Many agreed that the pedestrians were primarily at-fault, but also acknowledged that the driver should have taken more caution when passing a stationary bus at a crossing and that he would be likely to take some percentage of the blame if the case were to go to court.

So who is at-fault?

The claim is yet to be resolved, but Mr Williams is seeking to recover the costs of repairing damages to his car, including a smashed wing mirror and scratches on the paint, which could amount to over a thousand pounds.

While the pedestrians should not have crossed, the driver also had a responsibility to anticipate such situations and take the correct precautions (i.e., slow down) as he passed the stationary bus.

Due to him seemingly not slowing down and continuing to drive at the steady speed, it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the insurers said he’d be found 30 to 40% to blame if it went to court.

Walking on roads without pavements

Pedestrians are entitled to walk on country lanes and other roads without pavements, but they do have a duty to take reasonable care when doing so.

According to the Highway Code, pedestrians are required to walk on the right-hand side, facing oncoming traffic, but they should cross to the left at right-hand bends to give drivers the best chance of spotting them as early as possible.

They should also walk in single-file, wearing visible clothing (preferably hi-vis). If they fail to follow the relevant advice and guidelines set out by the Highway Code and are involved in an accident, the majority of the blame is likely to be placed on the pedestrians.

When pedestrians definitely DO NOT have the right of way

On the motorway.

By law, pedestrians are only allowed on the motorway or slip roads in the event of an emergency.

Even if they break down and need to use the emergency telephone on the hard shoulder, pedestrians should keep walking to a minimum and try to keep as far away from the motorway lanes as possible.

Of course, that’s not to say that drivers have no responsibility or duty of care for pedestrians when driving on the motorway – the same Highway Code rules still apply.

Reducing the risk of car vs. pedestrian accidents

Following the general guidelines that have recently been updated for 2022 in the Highway Code should keep you pretty safe, but here are a few quick pointers to keep in mind to help avoid such accidents:

  • Drive slowly
  • Proceed with caution when passing stationary vehicles
  • Be vigilant when approaching pedestrian crossings
  • Anticipate situations and adjust speed or actions as appropriate

What to do if a pedestrian is hit by a car

If a pedestrian is hit by a car – a several-tonne lump of metal travelling at speed – they’re always going to come off second-best, which means that the primary concern should always be the safety of everyone involved and that the relevant emergency services are notified as soon as possible.

Once the incident is dealt with and all injuries have been seen to, you might want to begin thinking about making an accident claim.

As mentioned in our guide on what to do after a car accident, it’s important that you share contact details with all involved, but be careful not to admit any fault immediately as it could affect your chances of receiving a compensation pay-out.

You should contact your car insurance provider when you’re ready to make a claim, because any damages caused to your vehicle or any injuries you endure may warrant compensation.

Both drivers and pedestrians possess the duty of travelling with caution, especially in situations where the risk of an accident is high, so you may be required to seek advice from a claims handler or a trained solicitor in more complex cases.

Here at Compare UK Quotes, we provide you with free car insurance advice to help you get the most out of your premiums. Be sure to browse our library of articles for more information on all-things motor insurance, from car accidents and insurance pay-outs to motor legal protection and excess.

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