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: