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What is "comparative negligence" in pedestrian accidents?

Some Seattle residents may think that the city is not very pedestrian friendly. Due to the geographic limitations of the urban center being sandwiched between the sound and the lakes, many road junctions and other interchanges are awkwardly constructed and designed. Further, the growing number of people living in the area has created traffic volume that makes being a pedestrian even more dangerous.

Even so, there are things people on foot in Seattle can do to decrease their likelihood of being in a pedestrian accident. Obeying the rules of the road, such as crossing at designated points and waiting for the proper signal before crossing streets will help lower the risk. However, there are places and times when it may not be feasible or practical to use a crosswalk or other designated area. So, what happens if a pedestrian is hit outside one of these crossings?

Drivers in Seattle have a duty to exercise reasonable care when navigating the city's streets. This means they need to be careful of pedestrians even if they are not in a crosswalk. When an accident like this occurs, the law in Washington State says that the court can assign a certain percentage of fault to each party, a policy known as "comparative negligence." Unlike the older "contributory negligence" rule, if the pedestrian is at fault for some portion of the accident, the pedestrian will not be completely barred from recovery. Instead, the plaintiff's damage recovery will be reduced by the amount of his or her own negligence. For instance, if the pedestrian is found to be 20 percent at fault, that pedestrian would receive only 80 percent of the damages otherwise awarded.

It is important to note that whether or not a person was comparatively negligent can be a complicated and tricky question. Whether or not simply crossing outside a crosswalk will be negligent so as to reduce recovery will depend upon the facts of the specific case.

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