The law is often criticized for being too dependent on technicalities, and on the minute details of the meaning of every word to the extent that common sense is thrown out the window. Often, that is not true; laws often follow common sense and are interpreted squarely with fairness and justice. But every now and again, there is a law that is so poorly written, that the correct legal decision is often an incorrect decision when it comes to fairness.
Technicality Prevents Prosecution
Such is the case with a law that has recently been changed in Maryland when it comes to the obligations that drivers have towards pedestrians. The change was spurred by the death of a man who was on a bicycle and was hit by a car. The bicyclist was legally crossing the street in the right place. One car stopped at the intersection legally, but in the other lane, a speeding car hit and killed the cyclist.
The safety of the area in which the cyclist was killed became the topic of heated debate, especially after another person was hit and killed by a car at that same intersection.
Criminal charges were brought against the driver, and it looked like it should have been an open and shut case. The problem was that under Maryland’s strict interpretation of a pedestrian, the bicyclist did not qualify. In fact, people on rollerblades, skateboards, even children in strollers, did not qualify as a pedestrian under the word’s meaning under the law, even though most agreed that the intent of the law was to protect them, as well. As one state attorney pointed out, if a mother was pushing a baby in a stroller and was hit by a car, charges could only be brought for her death, not the baby’s.
Because of this technicality, charges against the driver were thrown out.
Legal Changes in Definition of Pedestrian
The prosecutor, sensing the injustice, worked to change the law, which has now been enacted by the governor. Under the new law, anybody who is crossing a street who is not in a car, is considered a pedestrian, with the same protections.
That even includes those in electric wheelchairs, scooters, or any other device whatsoever so long as it has two or more wheels.
Of course, everybody still has an obligation to cross a street at marked crosswalks, but the law does not require someone to get off a skateboard or take off rollerblades before crossing the road.
However, in civil court, a jury would be allowed to consider if a pedestrian’s injuries were made worse by failing to do so. In other words, if a pedestrian could have avoided an accident, or lessened injuries by getting off of whatever they were riding on, a civil court could consider that evidence in a lawsuit against a driver who hits the pedestrian.
Make sure the law is on your side if you are hit by a car or involved in an auto accident. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your injury or liability case.