Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in Illinois?


    According to data collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation, in 2020, there were 3,148 pedestrians injured in accidents involving motor vehicles, as well as 175 pedestrians killed. Any time a person is on foot around motor vehicles, the risk of personal injury exists. When determining whether or not a pedestrian is entitled to compensation for their injuries due to a driver’s negligence, an important factor to consider is whether or not the pedestrian had the right of way when the accident happened. Read on for information on when pedestrians have the right of way in Illinois and how car accidents with pedestrians are handled.

    Who is Considered a Pedestrian in Illinois?

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    Although we all likely have a good idea of what qualifies as a pedestrian, Illinois calls special attention to this term. For example, people walking, using a wheelchair, or even people using roller skates are all pedestrians in Illinois, but bicyclists are not. Cyclists are considered vehicles that share the same rules of the road as other motorists. Individuals working construction or other maintenance duties on foot near roadways or other traffic sites are typically considered pedestrians, as well.

    Defining the Right of Way in Illinois

    Pedestrian law in the state dictates who must yield in a given traffic scenario involving both pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers. Therefore, in personal injury cases that go to court, the judge and jury have to determine who was abiding by the traffic signs, signals, and crosswalks in the events leading up to the accident.

    According to Illinois state law, when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a motor vehicle shall stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the road as to be reasonably in danger if the driver does not yeild.

    Limitations on Pedestrians’ Right of Way

    Do pedestrians always have the right of way? It’s vital for pedestrian safety that Illinois residents are aware of the limitations on pedestrians’ right of way. Under most conditions, pedestrians are assumed to have the right of way (i.e., cars should yield) when they are walking across marked crosswalks. However, according to Illinois right of way laws, every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection should be expected to yield the right of way to all passing vehicles.

    Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided should be expected to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway. Pedestrians are not allowed to cross an intersection diagonally unless they are authorized by official traffic-control devices. When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only per the official walk signal via traffic-control devices that pertain to such crossing movements. When in doubt, don’t walk unless you know for sure that you have the right away.

    Common Causes of Accidents Between Pedestrians and Cars

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    When an accident occurs between a pedestrian and a motor vehicle, the root cause can typically be associated with negligent behavior on the part of either the driver or the pedestrian. Common examples of negligent driver behavior include:

    • Distracted driving: Using electronics such as cell phones or car radios can distract the driver from what is happening on the road. Other passengers within the vehicle can also distract the driver.
    • Driving under the influence: Drugs and alcohol can impair a driver’s reaction time and impulse control, impairing them from maneuvering their vehicle out of danger.
    • Failure to notice crosswalks and other traffic control devices: This can lead a driver to assume they have the right of way when in fact, they should yield to the pedestrian.

    On the flip side, pedestrians can also be responsible for the events leading to an accident. Pedestrians who are distracted, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or fail to notice whether they have the right of way can all be held responsible for causing an accident between themselves and a driver of a vehicle.

    Pedestrian Personal Injury Cases: Proving Negligence

    If you want compensation after suffering an injury in a pedestrian accident, your legal team has to prove that the driver was negligent in the events leading to the accident. For example, if the driver is distracted by their cell phone and failed to yield in the moments leading to the crash, your lawyer may be able to prove that this was negligent behavior, showing that the driver was liable for the accident. If this can be proved, there's a good chance you can receive compensation.

    Illinois state law uses a doctrine of fault determination called modified comparative negligence. This means that when an injured party can only recover damages if they are less than 50% responsible for the events that ultimately lead to the accident and subsequent incursion of personal injury. If that party is found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident, then they cannot receive compensation from the defendant for any accident-related costs.

    Another important consideration is that the amount of financial compensation the victim can receive is related to the proportion of fault assigned to them by the court and judge overseeing the personal injury case.

    Let's say the court says they are 30% at fault for an accident that resulted in personal injury (perhaps the plaintiff was shown to have been speeding at the time of the accident), then this person is still eligible to be awarded compensation by the court. However, whatever final award amount the court determines is appropriate, given the extent of the damages, will be reduced by 30% to reflect the plaintiff’s role in the accident. If the plaintiff, in this case, were eligible for $10,000 in compensation, they would receive only $7,000 in damages.

    Examples of Compensation in Cases Involving Pedestrian Accidents

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    In terms of compensation for pedestrian victims in accidents involving motor vehicles, there are several possibilities. Common types of damages include:

    • Medical bills: Injuries lead to costly medical expenses. If you paid for any treatment such as a hospital stay, surgery, rehab, or pain medication, you may be able to get this money back.
    • Wages: Victims of pedestrian accidents often have to stop working to make time for the recovery period of their injuries. If you lost wages because of your injuries, you might be able to win those funds back in court.
    • Pain and suffering: It's easy to overlook the emotional pain and suffering involved in a pedestrian injury, but it's very real for victims. Courts sometimes award damages to compensate this suffering.
    • Damaged property: If any personal property was damaged in the accident, it's possible your compensation could include funds for repairs.

    At the end of the day, your compensation will depend on many factors, such as the severity of your injuries, the extent of your damages, and the laws in your municipality. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the types of compensation that may be available to you and fight for the full amount of damages that you deserve.

    Get Legal Representation with Palermo Law Group

    If you or your loved ones have been impacted in a pedestrian accident due to negligent driving, it is essential that you seek the services of an experienced local personal injury attorney. Legal professionals can help accident victims to better understand how negligence laws operate concerning their case, and they can help plaintiffs build a strong portfolio of evidence that proves the motor vehicle driver’s negligence.

    For years, the attorneys at the law firm of Palermo Law Group have been working with accident victims in Oak Brook and throughout the Chicagoland area as they fight for fair compensation for their injuries. Contact Palermo Law Group today for a free consultation.



    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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