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Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

pedestrian light with walk sign

The city of Indianapolis sees dozens of pedestrian deaths each year from car accidents. Over Memorial Day weekend alone, five pedestrians were struck and killed. In one accident, three teenagers were killed as they were walking along the side of the road.

Drivers have a responsibility to keep an eye out for pedestrians, but pedestrians also have a responsibility to pay attention when they are walking near roads. Indiana laws protect pedestrians in many cases, but that doesn’t mean pedestrians always have the right of way. If you were struck by a vehicle while walking or riding your bike, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury claim.

How Indiana Laws Protect Pedestrians


Failure to yield and pedestrian action is listed as the cause of 58 percent of collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Understanding Indiana laws about right-of-way is crucial for keeping everyone on the road safe.

In Indiana, drivers must yield to pedestrians on a crosswalk on the same side of the road as the car, or when a pedestrian is approaching the vehicle. Drivers must also yield when approaching a yield sign to any pedestrian crossing the road legally. Examples of this in Indianapolis include sections of the Pennsy and Monon trails where traffic must yield to trail users crossing the road.

It can be tempting to just cross the street at the first opportunity instead of waiting for a crosswalk. But pedestrians only have the right of way on crosswalks. You do not have the right of away if you choose to cross the street wherever you please. When crossing at a place with no traffic signs, pedestrians must yield to traffic.

In addition, you must use the sidewalk if it is available, and if there is no sidewalk you must stay on the shoulder.

Just like drivers use defensive driving to protect themselves on the roads, pedestrians can use defensive walking strategies to keep themselves safe while walking on or near a road. Defensive walking strategies include:

  •   Watching for cars before crossing the street
  •   Listening carefully for oncoming traffic
  •   Staying off your cell phone while crossing the street

You probably know that cell phone usage endangers drivers. It also endangers pedestrians. If your full attention is on your cell phone, you can’t keep an eye on traffic or pay attention to where you are walking. You can’t guarantee that other people will stay off their phones, but you can protect yourself by staying alert and focused.

Pedestrians May Share Fault


Being a pedestrian does not always grant you immunity from being at fault for an accident. A pedestrian can share fault for a car accident by:

  • Jaywalking
  • Walking in the street instead of the sidewalk
  • Crossing the street when the “Don’t Walk” sign is on
  • Failing to pay attention to oncoming traffic
  • Wearing dark clothing at night
  • Wandering into traffic while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Distractions like operating a cell phone while crossing

If a driver fails to yield at a crosswalk and hits a pedestrian with their car, they will typically be at fault. However, if the pedestrian was jaywalking or was distracted by their phone, the pedestrian might not be able to recover all damages because they may share fault for the collision. This is called comparative negligence. 

Pedestrians who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also share blame. Depending on the circumstances, impaired pedestrians may have the majority of fault for causing a car accident. 

What if I Was Hit by a Car While Walking?

If you were struck by a vehicle while walking or riding your bike, call the police so they can file a police report of the accident. Your top priority is prompt medical care: some injuries like deep tissue injuries may not be noticeable until the adrenaline wears off. When it does, you should seek treatment.

An Indiana personal injury attorney will work with you to make sure you recover money for your medical bills. However, the amount awarded will depend on the circumstances of your accident

If you are hit and injured by a car, it’s in your best interests to consult with an Indiana personal injury attorney. Insurance claim adjusters will try their best to prove you were negligent to avoid paying damages. They are generally concerned with their bottom line, and paying insurance claims isn’t part of their ideal plan. Having an experienced, qualified attorney on your side will greatly help your case and prove that you were not at fault for the accident.

You shouldn’t have to go through this alone. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or contact Hensley Legal Group online for a free conversation about your injury personal claim.