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:
- The driver owed the pedestrian a duty of care
- The driver breached his or her duty of care through negligence, and
- 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:
- 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:
- The dog owner acted negligently
- The dog owner already knew about or should have known their dog was a threat to pedestrians
- 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 onto 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:
- The bicyclist’s negligence caused the accident, or
- 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 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.