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California’s Pedestrian Accident Laws

Pedestrian Versus Driver at Fault for Causing an Accident: Free Legal Insight from the Top Pedestrian Accident Injury Attorneys

According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County led the nation as the most dangerous place for pedestrians between 2013 and 2015, with at least 700 people killed annually throughout that three year period. The most recent data from 2017 is just as alarming, as 134 pedestrians were killed. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) also noted that pedestrian deaths climbed by 16% throughout the country in 2016, which suggests the problem could be nationwide. 

For Los Angeles residents, these numbers are not surprising. This data only reinforces what many of us already know: the city of Los Angeles is a dangerous place for a pedestrian, especially at night. Hit and runs are an especially serious safety issue within the city, with nearly 20,000 hit and runs reported every year. In short, pedestrians account for about a third of all traffic fatalities, a shocking number that is almost triple the national average.

Fortunately, the state of California offers protections for pedestrians who are injured after a pedestrian accident. If you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian accident in Los Angeles, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The experienced team of Los Angeles pedestrian accident lawyers at West Coast Trial Lawyers will recover all the compensation you are entitled to so that you can focus on your recovery and on the ones you care most about.

What are California's Pedestrian Laws?

Whenever the topic of pedestrian accidents comes up, people will automatically assume the driver was at fault. Which makes sense. A human being is simply no match for the oncoming rush of a heavy, metallic vehicle. However, just like the popular phrase “the customer is always right” isn’t necessarily true, neither is the phrase, “the pedestrian always has the right of way” from a legal standpoint. When it comes to pedestrian accidents, it’s entirely possible for a pedestrian to be at fault, either completely or partially.

Just because pedestrians are careful does not mean that they have the right of way, and it also does not mean they will be exempt from any liability if they are involved in a collision with a vehicle. All drivers and pedestrians have a responsibility to each other: drivers must exercise reasonable care to avoid hitting pedestrians, and pedestrians must use reasonable care to safely cross streets.

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

Drivers and pedestrians need to be aware of their immediate surroundings. Right of way laws can absolve a driver of criminal wrongdoing when these laws are followed, but they will not minimize fault. Even if someone 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, pedestrians cannot unexpectedly step-off a curb when cars are near, or stop in the middle of an intersection, or block traffic even when they do have the right of way. Again, it comes down to the fact that both drivers and pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings and act safely

According to the California Vehicle Code, below are a few laws that affect both drivers and pedestrians:

Fault in a Pedestrian Accident Case

Even in instances where the pedestrian is partially at fault for an accident, the driver of the vehicle can still be at fault. For example, if a pedestrian was jaywalking and the driver was driving too fast for road conditions, that would place some of the blame on the driver, regardless of whether the pedestrian was jaywalking.

The big question becomes: what happens if both the pedestrian and the driver share some degree of fault? It depends on the state. Different states will follow different rules, but those rules will be based on either: comparative negligence or contributory negligence.

Comparative Negligence

The majority of states, including California, follow an interpretation of the comparative negligence rule when an injured person shares a degree of fault for causing or contributing to an accident. Under this rule, an injured person is entitled to compensation, but available damages will be reduced by a percentage equal to their share of responsibility in an accident.

Let’s consider the following example. A pedestrian enters an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection while texting on their phone. A drunk driver then hits that pedestrian, causing injuries. Both parties will share some degree of fault. The pedestrian has a right to sue that driver, but a jury may determine the pedestrian was 10% responsible for the accident, while the driver was 90% at fault. What is the reasoning? An alert pedestrian would have seen the driver coming and avoided the collision. A pedestrian’s total damages would therefore be reduced by 10%.

Contact us to find out how we can help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a pedestrian accident, an attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at (888) 341-9802 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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