Is Jaywalking Illegal in Massachusetts?

Jaywalking is a common occurrence in Massachusetts, especially Boston, and everywhere else where there are streets and pedestrians.  You are jaywalking if you cross the street at an intersection against a green light or Do Not Walk signal, or in the middle of the street where there is no marked crosswalk.  It is illegal though the fines are minimal and hardly offer any incentive to not break the law other than placing yourself in peril of being struck by a motor vehicle.  And the law for jaywalking is rarely enforced!

Currently, jaywalking fines are a miniscule $1 and that only goes up to $2 for a fourth and subsequent offense.  The state legislature is attempting to raise the penalties to $25 for a first infraction and $75 for subsequent offenses.  Don’t worry, we wont keep you posted!

When Do Cars Have to Stop?

A motorist must stop for pedestrians who are crossing in a marked crosswalk or who are already in the middle of a crosswalk, regardless of whether the light is green for traffic.  According to Massachusetts General Law ,Title IV Chapter 89, Section 11, pedestrians have the right-of-way to cross at marked crosswalks with no traffic light devices.  Also, if a pedestrian is already in the intersection, a motorist must stop if the pedestrian is within 10 feet of the driver’s half of the road. 

Right-of-way also exists for pedestrians at school crossings or when a school bus has stopped and its flashers are activated.  A motorist must also stop if other vehicles have stopped to allow a pedestrian to stop, which is unfortunately a situation that does not always signal to an approaching motorist that a person is crossing.  Fines for motorists who fail to stop when other vehicles have stopped for pedestrians or where pedestrians are lawfully crossing with the right-of-way are up to $200.

Jaywalking and Motor Vehicle Injury Accidents

What happens in an injury accident where the motorist claims the pedestrian was jaywalking?  And, this happens all the time in our experience.  It depends on the location of the accident—if it occurred near but outside a marked crosswalk, in a school or construction zone, against a green light, or in the middle of a street.  However, even if a pedestrian was illegally crossing, it may not relieve the motorist of all liability but will usually not permit a pedestrian to collect compensation for all her damages and costs.

For example, if you were jaywalking in the middle of the street, a motorist still has a duty to be cautious and to be aware of road conditions including the presence of pedestrians.  This is especially true in busy areas.  If you were struck mid-street, then the motorist likely should have observed you soon enough to have stopped or taken evasive action and avoided you.  However, this will probably not relieve you of all responsibility for having contributed to the accident. Also, it is illegal to cross the street if you stepped off a curb but were struck by a vehicle that was so close to you as to constitute a hazard when you stepped into the street. 

Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state where claimants can collect compensation so long as their own degree of causal responsibility is less than 50%.  If you and the defendant are equally or 50% at fault, neither of you can collect any compensation.  Also, your degree of liability will reduce your damages accordingly, so if your damages are $100,000 but you are found 40% at fault, you will collect $60,000.

If in a crosswalk when struck, a motorist might allege that you had run or had just walked into the path of the vehicle, and not allowed the motorist sufficient time to have observed you and exercised ordinary care in avoiding you.  If the evidence shows the motorist was exceeding the speed limit or that the point of contact was within 10-feet of the driver’s side of the crosswalk or intersection, then the motorist may be held substantially or completely at fault.  In these cases, having an experienced personal injury attorney representing you may be the difference between your collecting substantial or no compensation at all.

Avoid Becoming a Statistic

Avoid sustaining a serious or fatal injury while crossing the street by following these simple suggestions:

  • Only cross at crosswalks or where there are traffic signals
  • Look both ways before crossing even if you have the light or Walk signal
  • Put your phone down while crossing and keep looking for approaching vehicles
  • If cars have stopped for you to cross, stop and look as you cross in front of the stopped vehicles for approaching cars that are not stopping
  • Be especially cautious at night or in poor weather when visibility is limited 

Retain a Personal Injury Attorney from Burns and Jain 

A seasoned personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain can get you the compensation you deserve, even if you feel your case is so air-tight that you do not need legal representation.  Too often, claimants who handle their own cases find themselves with little or no compensation due to saying something that harmed their case or who failed to adequately prove liability or their damages, or not understanding that their medical insurance company has a lien.  Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.

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