Who is at Fault When a Car Hits an Intoxicated Pedestrian?

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Drunk pedestrians often can’t accurately determine how fast a vehicle is approaching. So, especially if the intoxicated pedestrian crosses against the light, the comparative fault defense usually comes into play.

Contributory negligence shifts the blame for an accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. Initially, the insurance company must convince the judge that the victim’s alcohol impairment substantially contributed to the crash. One or two drinks might not be sufficient. Then, after jurors hear the evidence, they must divide fault between the two parties on a percentage basis. The effects of this division vary in different states, as outlined below.

If a St. Louis pedestrian accident lawyer refutes the faulty comparative defense, full compensation is usually available. This compensation typically includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.


For these following three sections, assume that the judge allows the jury to consider the comparative fault defense. Further, assume that the victim’s damages were $100,000.

Missouri is a pure comparative fault state. The court reduces the victim’s damages according to the percentage of his/her fault. Therefore, even if the victim was so drunk that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was only 1 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is entitled to a proportionate share of damages.

Some advocates, mostly insurance company lobbyists, harshly criticize this rule. So, only about a half-dozen states have a pure comparative fault law.


Like most other jurisdictions, the Prairie State is a modified comparative fault jurisdiction. Victims are entitled to compensation if they are no more than 49 percent responsible for a wreck.

So, if jurors in our hypothetical case divided fault 60-40 in favor of the victim, s/he would receive $60,000. If jurors divide fault 50-50, the victim will receive nothing.


The Natural State is a different kind of modified comparative fault state. It has a 50 percent bar. Therefore, if the jury divides fault 50-50, the victim would receive $50,000.

One percent might not seem like much of a difference, but it’s often significant. Frequently, if the evidence is close, juries throw up their hands and divide fault 50-50.

Even if the pedestrian was drunk, compensation is usually still available. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Louis, contact Schultz & Myers, Personal Injury Lawyers. After-hours visits are available.


How does a jury divide fault between two parties?

Jurors listen to the evidence and determine for themselves how to divide fault.

What if I was drunk and I was in a crosswalk with the light?

Typically, drivers are fully responsible for damages in these cases. Alcohol impairment and other facts are usually irrelevant.

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