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As an extension of this question, I am wondering about occurrences I see often on my street.

I live on a one way street that is relatively quiet so people have no qualms about stepping off the curb and jaywalking to the other side of the street. At the same time, many drivers think that if they drive fast enough the wrong way down the one way, that they can get to the end and turn.

My question is, how would the law treat a case in which a pedestrian stepped off the curb suddenly so that they moved into the path of a car going the wrong way and was subsequently injured or killed.

Obviously both are breaking the law in terms of "moving" violations, but would there be a chance of the driver not being charged with manslaughter? How would this most likely play out?

Would like to hear answers for any jurisdictions in any country because it would be interesting to hear how they differ from the US.

  • What jurisdiction (at least country)? – YviDe Oct 15 '15 at 17:32
  • @YviDe Any state within the US or any country. Its a hypothetical so I am interested to see how people think this would differ. – mlegge Oct 15 '15 at 17:46
  • My "haunted New Orleans" tour guide asserted that Louisiana with it's Napoleonic code history is sufficiently different than all other states, and if we did not stay on the sidewalk, in the event of a collision the full fault is on the pedestrian. I am curious if this is true or part of the patter. – user662852 Oct 16 '15 at 1:36
  • @user662852 perhaps you should post that as a new question. – phoog May 30 '18 at 6:39
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See the 1996 Wisconsin Supreme Court case State v. Lohmeier for how an analagous situation was handled in Wisconsin. A driver was drunk, and two pedestrians were walking on the right side of the road instead of the left side (which is against Wisconsin statute 346.28.) The pedestrians were struck (some evidence showed that they had stepped into the traffic lane) and died.

According to the opinion:

...§ 939.14 provides that a defendant is not immune from criminal liability simply because the victim may have been negligent as well.

However, this rule does not mean that evidence of a victim's negligence is irrelevant in a criminal proceeding. It was relevant here to the affirmative defense, and it is often relevant on the issue of causation.

And another case is cited in which:

the victim's negligence was relevant to determining whether the defendant's intoxicated driving was a substantial factor in causing the victim's death.

This is important because the laws in question punish someone who "causes the death" of another by their intoxicated (or negligent) operation of the vehicle. According to the courts, if that wasn't at least a "substantial factor" in the death, you can't be guilty of vehicular homicide. It's really up to the jury to decide whether that's the case. In this case, the jury convicted, and the conviction was upheld by this decision.

You can make a plausible claim that the negligence inherent in drunk driving is not the cause of a particular accident if someone abruptly steps in front of the car (although the prosecution can argue that a sober driver might have been able to react to the situation.) But the negligence inherent in driving the wrong way will usually be the very reason the pedestrian steps in front - the pedestrian isn't expecting someone from that direction. So, in the case of a wrong-way driver, I think it is extremely likely that the driver would be found criminally negligent.

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