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West Coast Trial Lawyers Understand Pedestrian Law


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Pedestrian accident causes are varied and tend to create various types of accidents. Whether a driver ran a red light, didn’t stop at a crosswalk, was texting and driving, or was just not paying attention to the road, he or she can be held liable for causing a pedestrian’s injuries. Due to the obvious mismatch between a speeding vehicle and a human being, injuries sustained as a result of a pedestrian accident are often debilitating and sometimes fatal.

The city of Los Angeles is infamous for pedestrian accidents. If you have suffered injuries or property loss after a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to compensatory damages for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Loss
  • Medical Bills
  • Loss Of Consortium

1)What Do I Do If I Suffered A Pedestrian Accident?


The steps to take immediately after a pedestrian accident are crucial. Your health must always be your first priority if you were injured in a pedestrian accident. Please call 911 immediately and request help if you are injured. It’s possible that you may feel fine immediately after being knocked down.

However, even serious injuries may not show any adverse symptoms until the next day, or even several days after. Therefore, it’s always recommended to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, whether you believe you are seriously hurt or not.

The next thing you must do is gather as much relevant information about the accident as you can. Please make sure to include:

  1. Names and contact information for everyone involved
  2. The offending driver's name, driver's license, insurance information, and license plate number
  3. Contact information for any available witnesses
  4. Photos/videos of the accident scene, the offending vehicle, and your injuries

It is crucial that you DO NOT admit fault or even suggest who may be at fault. If possible, DO NOT SPEAK about the accident at all. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset and get caught up in the moment, but discussing the accident -- and especially, apologizing for it -- will not help you and can be used against you.

Finally, it is important to retain the services of a Los Angeles pedestrian accident attorney. Do not attempt to negotiate directly with the insurance company. They are not on your side and will try to pressure you into settling for less money than you deserve. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can deal with the insurance companies for you and will always available to answer any questions about liability or damages owed to you.

1.1 Laws Affecting Pedestrians And Drivers

According to the California Vehicle Code, below are several laws affecting both drivers and pedestrians. Among other considerations, a pedestrian accident lawyer will consider the following laws when determining who is at fault

  • A driver must always yield the right of way to a pedestrian who is crossing a roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
  • A driver must never stop within a crosswalk, as this forces a pedestrian to walk around that vehicle, which can be very dangerous.
  • A pedestrian is never allowed to jaywalk. If a driver is involved in a collision because he or she was trying to avoid hitting a jaywalker, the jaywalking pedestrian would be held liable.
  • A driver must never pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk. The stopped driver could be waiting for a pedestrian to cross safely.
  • A driver can drive on a sidewalk only when entering or exiting a garage or alleyway. However, that driver must still yield to a pedestrian when doing so.

2)Common Pedestrian Accident Causes


The majority of pedestrian accidents are caused by negligent drivers, but that won’t always be the case. There are a variety of circumstances that can cause a pedestrian to be injured when being knocked down to the ground.

Below are several causes of pedestrian knockdown incidents:

  • Skateboarders on a sidewalk
  • Large groups of people on a sidewalk
  • Trucks or buses with large side mirrors that extend into a sidewalk
  • Parked cars suddenly opening their doors
  • Runners on a sidewalk
  • Distracted pedestrians not watching the road
  • Uncontrolled or unleashed dogs
  • Bicyclists on a sidewalk
  • Physical altercations
  • Children running around or rough-housing

3)Who Is Responsible For A Pedestrian Accident?


Many people automatically assume that a driver is always to blame for causing a pedestrian accident. However, it’s possible for a pedestrian to also be at fault, either completely or partially. Just because a pedestrian is careful does not mean he or she has the right of way. It also does not mean they will be exempt from liability if they were involved in a collision with a vehicle.

All drivers and pedestrians have a responsibility to one another: a driver must use reasonable care to avoid hitting a pedestrian and a pedestrian must use reasonable care to safely cross a street.

California has several right of way laws regulating pedestrian safety. The penalty for a driver who does not yield the right of way to a pedestrian is at least $220 when injuries are involved. The penalty for not yielding to a blind pedestrian is more severe: a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in prison, or possibly both.

By law, drivers and pedestrians must be aware of their immediate surroundings. Following right of way laws may help absolve a driver of criminal wrongdoing, but this will not minimize his or her degree of fault. Even if a person walks across the street and does not use a crosswalk when a driver has a green light, that driver still has a duty of care to avoid hitting that jaywalker.

Likewise, a pedestrian cannot suddenly step off the curb when a car is near, or stop in the middle of an intersection, or block traffic even when they have the right of way. As mentioned, both drivers and pedestrians must be aware of their immediate surroundings and act in a safe manner.

Let’s consider an example: Say that Terrance is walking down Sunset Boulevard while slightly intoxicated on a legally purchased cannabis cookie. Terrance is not particularly careful about where he is going and jaywalks several times, interrupting the flow of traffic. Fortunately, most drivers, despite their annoyance, wait for him to cross the street even though he is not using a crosswalk.

Meanwhile, Randy is driving down Sunset Boulevard. Randy is not speeding. However, Randy is not paying attention to the possibility that a pedestrian may be where he or she is not supposed to. In fact, Randy is doing a bit of texting.

Terrance suddenly walks across the middle of the street and is struck by Randy, who was momentarily looking down at his phone. Terrance suffers horrific injuries, including paralysis and brain damage.

However, consider the circumstances. In this example, both individuals were at fault. Terrance shouldn’t have been intoxicated and he should have used a crosswalk. On the other hand, Randy should have been more careful, because even though Terrance didn’t use a crosswalk doesn’t mean he still isn’t entitled to a duty of care.

In conclusion, a pedestrian who is hit by a car while in a crosswalk, parking lot, and sometimes even in the middle of a roadway, may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit if driver negligence was involved. However, it is possible, as the above example illustrates, for a pedestrian to share some responsibility for causing an accident, as well.

4)When Can I Sue For A Pedestrian Accident


As with most personal injury accidents, in order to be entitled to damages a pedestrian accident victim must prove that the offending driver was negligent. In summary, this means that:

  1. The driver owed the pedestrian a duty of care
  2. The driver breached his or her duty of care through negligence, and
  3. The driver’s negligence was the primary cause of the pedestrian’s injuries

In general, if a driver acted in a negligent manner while behind the wheel, he or she could be found liable for causing harm to a pedestrian. A few examples of driver negligence include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Running through a stop sign
  • Hitting another driver who was in an emergency lane
  • Texting and driving
  • Not allowing sufficient space for a pedestrian who is entering a parked car
  • Failing to yield

According to California’s Vehicle Code 21960 VC, a driver must yield the right of way to a pedestrian in all marked crosswalks or at an intersection. Failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or intersection will likely cause the driver to bear liability for the accident.

California Vehicle Code 21709 VC also makes it illegal to drive in a safety zone. In summary, any driver who hits a pedestrian in a safety zone will most likely be found liable.

4.1 Can I Sue Someone Who Didn’t Control Their Dog?

An irresponsible dog owner who loses control of his or her dog can be held liable for causing harm to a pedestrian. If a dog knocks over or attacks a pedestrian, the victim must show that:

  1. The dog owner acted negligently
  2. The dog owner already knew about or should have known their dog was a threat to pedestrians
  3. The dog owner did not take any or enough reasonable steps to prevent harm to pedestrians

Let’s consider an example: Say that Jorge is out on a walk through downtown LA. Meanwhile, Sammy is walking her puppy on a leash. Sammy’s puppy is very energetic and Sammy must work hard to restrain him. While waiting for a street light to change, Sammy momentarily loosens her grip on the leash. In that split second, Sammy’s dog runs off and jumps into Jorge, knocking him down.

Jorge badly sprains his wrist from the fall and suffers minor cuts to his face. Sammy immediately apologizes to Jorge and says that her dog was just being friendly and didn’t mean him any harm. However, Jorge is furious and threatens legal action.

In this example, Jorge does have a personal injury claim against Sammy because Sammy knew her dog could cause someone harm, even without meaning to. Sammy was not careful enough to prevent her dog from injuring anyone, and as a result of her negligence Jorge suffered injuries.

4.2 Can I Sue A Bicyclist?

Yes, a negligent bicyclist who causes a pedestrian accident may be held liable for the resulting injuries suffered by that pedestrian, even if that bicyclist was legally riding on the sidewalk. According to Los Angeles’ Municipal Code 56.15, a bicyclist can legally ride on the sidewalk.

However, this cannot be done “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” In other words, a bicyclist who chooses to ride on a sidewalk can do so, but must be very careful. Failure to do so can result in liability.

If a pedestrian is hit and injured by a bicyclist while on the sidewalk, he or she is entitled to damages by proving that:

  1. The bicyclist’s negligence caused the accident, or
  2. The cyclist displayed a “willful or wanton disregard for safety”

Finally, if a pedestrian accident occurred in an area where bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal, the bicyclist will likely be found liable for the accident.

4.3 Can I Sue The City For Poorly Maintained Roads?

Yes, as long as the sidewalk is on city property, the city can generally be held liable for a slip and fall accident. This is especially true if the city was previously aware of the dangerous sidewalk yet did nothing to address it. Worse, is when a city is aware of prior injuries caused by a dangerous sidewalk and still does not take reasonable measures to address the issue.

Under California premises liability law, all property owners — including the city — are required to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. This of course includes maintaining sidewalks and any areas where a pedestrian may be in good condition.

In order to establish premises liability, a pedestrian needs to prove that:

  • The defendant occupied, owned, or controlled the property where the accident took place
  • The defendant was negligent in relation to property maintenance
  • The plaintiff was harmed as a result of the defendant’s negligence
  • The defendant’s negligence was the significant factor that caused a plaintiff harm

It is also possible for a city to be held liable for losses and injuries caused by faulty traffic signals, as well.

5) Available Damages After A Pedestrian Accident


Due to their violent nature, injuries suffered as a result of a pedestrian accident may require costly medical care. It’s likely that an accident victim will have to miss work/school for a long period of time. Sadly, many pedestrian accident victims may never work or live a full life again.

An injured pedestrian is typically entitled to sue for compensatory damages. Compensatory damages after a pedestrian accident may include:

  • Counseling
  • Occupational and Physical Therapy
  • Lost Earning Capacity
  • Scarring or Disfigurement
  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Loss
  • Medical Bills
  • Loss Of Consortium

Due to the negligent nature of many pedestrian accidents, a victim may also be entitled to punitive damages. However, a pedestrian accident victim must be able to prove that the other party deliberately tried to cause them harm. Punitive damages are only awarded at the court’s discretion and are meant to punish a wrongdoer for his or her deliberate acts of malice.

An obvious example of a pedestrian accident claim that would almost certainly qualify for punitive damages is when a driver deliberately tries to run over a pedestrian.

6) Types Of Pedestrian Accidents


  • When Environmental Conditions Cause A Pedestrian Accident

    All drivers and pedestrians have a responsibility to one another: a driver must use reasonable care to avoid hitting a pedestrian, and a pedestrian must use reasonable care to safely cross a street. This applies regardless of weather conditions

  • Pedestrian Hit By Car -- No Injuries

    Just because you don’t feel hurt doesn’t mean you aren’t. We strongly recommend waiting until you have been checked out by a doctor before you make any statements or sign anything an insurance company places in front of you. The insurance adjuster’s job is to make sure you settle for less money than you deserve.

  • What Happens When A Pedestrian Hits My Car On Purpose?

    It is entirely possible for a pedestrian to share some degree of liability for a pedestrian-car incident, especially if a pedestrian deliberately hit a vehicle.

  • Construction Site Injuries

    A general contractor has a basic duty of care to maintain their construction site in reasonably safe conditions, or at the very least provide enough warnings about any potentially hazardous conditions. Failure to do so may result in liability.

  • Left Hand Turn Pedestrian Accidents

    Anytime a driver fails to follow right of ways and causes a pedestrian accident, he or she may be held liable. In large part, left hand pedestrian accidents are so common because many drivers do not abide by safe driving laws.

  • Hitting Someone With A Car On Purpose

    In the majority of all pedestrian accidents, negligence on behalf of either the driver or pedestrian will play a significant role in causing a pedestrian accident.

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