Suppose that a car is going fast towards an intersection right when a pedestrian decides to cross it on a red light. The driver, out of reflex, steers away from the pedestrian to avoid hitting him. Unfortunately, this causes the car to hit a person who was walking on the sidewalk.

Can the pedestrian who crossed on the red light be found guilty of something like manslaughter?

What if instead, the person who was hit was also illegally crossing the street (but would not have been killed if it had just been him)?

What if the pedestrian intentionally jumped in front of the car in an attempt to kill himself?

  • 1
    Is the driver going straight or turning? If they are turning, is it a Left Hand Turn or a Right Hand Turn? If Left Hand Turn, do they have a Green Arrow? Also can I assume this is the United States or are you asking for another country?
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 14:10
  • And a final note, in your last scenario, is the pedestrian who jumped in front of your car the same one who was killed, or was the driver of the car swerving and hit a third pedestrian while avoiding the suicidal one. Also, is the driver traveling at the posted speed limit at time of impact?
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


Non- answer

In most parts of the world, the driver is at fault.

For example, in , this is caught by s117 of the Road Transport Act 2013:

(1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a road negligently.

"Negligently" takes its common law meaning and the case law establishes that unless the pedestrian appears suddenly (such as dashing out from behind a parked car) so that a collision was unavoidable the duty of care required by a driver is not to run into pedestrians (or anything else for that matter).

The fact that the pedestrian was also negligent/at fault (by crossing against the signal) does not exonerate the driver. Likely, both would be charged and, in a civil suit, contributory negligence would apply.

  • There was a very recent decision in the U.K. where both a pedestrian crossing on a red light (with other pedestrians crossing as well) was hit by a cyclist, and both were ordered to pay half of the medical treatment of £15,000. Importantly, it was not the taxpayer paying. “Driver at fault” doesn’t necessarily mean “pedestrian not at fault”.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 8:54

Your first scenario is a little difficult to answer without details but for the sake of an answer, I will take some assumptions into consideration: In all scenarios, the driver is not speeding (traveling at a speed above the posted speed limit). If the light is green and the driver is not turning, this will likely be a no fault accident at best and a possible misdemeanor homicide at worst. This assumes that the initial pedestrian is crossing in front of the forward motion of the car and the light is green or yellow (and the drive cannot safely stop). A misdemeanor homicide occurs when a person dies as a result of another person's lawbreaking when the law that was broken was a misdemeanor offense (it's the Misdemeanor version of Felony Murder). It's the same as a manslaughter, which is a felony crime.). If the Driver is turning left, it depends on the signalling. Dedicated turn cycles (Green Arrow Left, Red Light Straight) than the Pedestrian must wait until it is Green Light Straight to enter the intersection. If left turns are unsignaled, or are permitted when Green Light Straight, then the driver must yeild to oncoming traffic and pedestrians crossing with the light, so the ped he missed would be off the hook.

Similarly, unless sinage has different rules, Right hand turns are always after yeilding to pedestrians, even on green. In all scenarios, traffic in the process of clearing an intersection has the right of way if the light changes from Yellow to Red and new Green Light traffic may not proceed until the intersection is cleared.

In scenario two, this would likely be a no fault to the driver no matter what, as the person who was hit was also jaywalking. THe specifics of the incident may cause the surviving ped to have some trouble but this is not open and shut as to whether a driver is at fault. He would hit a ped no matter what he did.

In scenario 3, assuming it was a proven suicide attempt, the suicidal pedestrian would likely be liable for manslaughter.

  • 1
    What jurisdiction is your answer based on? This is the first I've heard of "misdemeanor homicide" and I would like to see some references. Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 3:20
  • Several of the few google hits the term gets ar in Georgia Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 6:07

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