The answer to the question is that it depends, particularly in the case of a pedestrian accident. For instance, if you’re jaywalking because you really didn’t want to go to the crosswalk to get back to the office and a speeding vehicle hits you, the query shifts from “if someone is liable” to “how much is someone liable.” Depending on the type of illegal activity and the circumstances, you may or may not be able to make a claim.
As a pedestrian, you typically have the right of way on the road. However, you’re responsible, under Texas law, for following the rules of the road. You can’t step out into traffic just because you want to; you need to cross at a crosswalk if one is available. Let’s say you jaywalk in a busy part of town because everyone else does it, too, except this time a drunk driver hits you in the process. You suffer catastrophic injury, and the driver walks away with barely a scratch. You were both doing something technically illegal, but the vehicle operator was acting far more dangerously.
Under Texas’s comparative fault laws, the court will assign a percentage of the blame to each party. The amount of compensation you can receive as a result of the accident is based on that percentage of fault. However, when the amount of fault meets or exceeds 50%, that individual cannot claim any damages after the accident. So, if you were 20% responsible for the accident but the drunk driver was 80% responsible, he or she could not collect any damages. 20% of your compensation would be taken away.
In very limited circumstances, you could still make a claim if you’re doing something illegal and get injured. Trespassing provides a good example of when you might be able to make a claim. Generally, a property owner isn’t responsible for anything you do to injure yourself on his or her property. However, if that property owner had a serious safety hazard on the property, the property wasn’t properly marked as private, and you suffered a severe injury as a result, you might be able to hold the owner liable for your injuries.
Similarly, if the property owner shot you as you were obeying his or her request to leave, you might be able to hold that person accountable. Technically, you were engaged in an illegal activity, but unless you were actively trying to cause harm or continued to engage in the illegal activity after confrontation, the property owner does not have a right to injure or kill you.
There are very limited circumstances in which you can file and successfully win a claim if you were engaged in an illegal activity at the time, but it’s not unheard of. Many factors will come into play, including whether the other party was also engaged in an illegal activity, if someone owed you a reasonable duty of care, or if you should have reasonably known you were engaged in an illegal activity.
The only way to determine for sure if pursuing a civil claim against the individual who injured you is right is to sit down with an attorney to review your case. Federal, state, and local laws may all play a role in each case determination, and only an experienced Dallas personal injury attorney can offer the advice you need to make an informed decision about pursuing a case. For more information regarding any injury claims, regardless of whether you were engaged in an illegal activity at the time, contact our Dallas office today.