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Legal Rights for Pedestrians in California

Pedestrian accidents caused by road violence are an increasingly significant issue in California. Los Angeles is especially infamous for being labeled as one of the worst cities for pedestrian fatalities in the United States. Luckily, there are legal rights and state laws that protect victims who’ve suffered pedestrian accidents in California. 

Everyone is a pedestrian on California’s dangerous roads at some point. In 2020, an estimated 6,516 pedestrians were killed, and 55,000 were injured nationwide. Fortunately, California offers many legal protections for pedestrian accident victims. 

California VC 21950 states that a careless driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or intersection is most likely to bear liability for the accident.

When a pedestrian accident is caused by a careless driver, the driver and their insurance company are both responsible for the victim's full recovery and compensation.

Sidewalk Rights as a Pedestrian

In California, pedestrians have the right of way in most situations, including the right to walk on sidewalks and crosswalks without having the fear of being hit by a vehicle. Drivers must always be aware of their surroundings and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, intersections, and any areas where they’re present.

VC 21950(a) states that vehicles must yield to pedestrians who are crossing the street in a crosswalk, giving pedestrians the right of way. This requires drivers to slow down and exercise caution to keep the pedestrian safe, creating a legal duty for drivers to exercise due care and responsibility.

CVC §21954 states that pedestrians can still cross the street when they’re at an intersection or marked crosswalk and also requires them to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles that are close to becoming an “immediate hazard” to them.

Under VC 21963, California gives special protection to blind pedestrians, who use a cane and/or service dog. Drivers must yield to blind pedestrians or take extra precautions to keep them safe - not doing can carry up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

California Crosswalk Laws 

California’s pedestrian and crosswalk state laws govern when and where people can legally walk in public. California’s Vehicle Code § 21950 CVC requires drivers to yield to pedestrians crossing a roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Pedestrians have the right-of-way in both marked or unmarked crosswalks. If there is a limit line before the crosswalk, stop at the limit line and allow pedestrians to cross the street. Some crosswalks have flashing lights; however, you should still stop and check for pedestrians regardless if they’re not flashing.

California’s crosswalk laws are rules that dictate when and where people can legally walk in the state, created to keep pedestrians safe.

Some California state laws that protect pedestrians include:

  • VC 21966, states where pedestrians can legally walk
  • VC 21950, protects pedestrians crossing the road at a crosswalk
  • VC 21955, requires pedestrians to use crosswalks at intersections
  • VC 21954, informs pedestrians who cross streets outside of a crosswalk to yield the right-of-way to vehicles
  • VC 21970, forbids drivers from blocking and/or stopping at a crosswalk
  • VC 21456, states when pedestrians can cross the street using a crossing light
  • VC 21952, protects pedestrians who are crossing a sidewalk while a driver is pulling into a driveway (that need to cross a sidewalk in order to get there)
  • VC 21963 – §21965, focus on special circumstances for blind pedestrians

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

Pedestrians don’t have the right of way when they violate their state’s pedestrian and crosswalk laws.

In some cases, pedestrians can be held liable and partially at fault for an accident. They can also lose compensation through comparative negligence rules.

In most cases, pedestrians do have the right-of-way; however, if they violate any of California’s crosswalk laws, they can legally lose their ‘right-of-way.’ If a pedestrian caused a car accident without having the right of way, they may be held liable, found partially at fault, and receive reduced compensation based on their level of responsibility.

Under California law, motor vehicles have to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are crossing the street in a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Other California laws prohibit pedestrians from the following:

  • suddenly leaving a curb or place of safety
  • creating an immediate hazard by running into the path of incoming vehicles
  • unnecessarily stop in a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • walking in bike lanes where a sidewalk or path on the side of the road is available
  • going outside the crosswalk at an intersection
  • crossing at an intersection against the traffic signal or ‘don’t walk’ signal
  • crossing outside of a crosswalk, intersection, or pedestrian crossing when/where vehicles are close enough to be an immediate hazard

Pedestrian Safety if No Sidewalks Are Present 

Under CVC §21954, pedestrians may still cross even if they aren’t at a marked crosswalk or intersection; however, they must also yield the right-of-way to all vehicles close enough to become an “immediate hazard.”

CVC 21963 states that pedestrians who are using a predominately white cane, with or without a red tip, have the right-of-way at any crosswalk. Punishment for any driver who fails to yield to this particular right-of-way includes up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Starting January 1, 2023, pedestrians who are jaywalking in California will no longer be prosecuted – as long as they cross safely, and without oncoming traffic nearby.

Responsibilities as a Pedestrian

Duty of care is essential for ensuring pedestrian safety. Under all circumstances, all pedestrians must be responsible and act in a safe manner when crossing a roadway.  

Some responsibilities & safety tips pedestrians should follow include:

  • Following the road rules and obey signs and signals
  • Walking on sidewalks if or when available
  • Walk facing and as far from if or when there’s no sidewalk traffic
  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections
  • Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
  • If or when there’s no crosswalk or intersection, locate a well-lit area with the best traffic view 
  • Watch for cars entering/exiting driveways, or backing up in a parking lot

Talk to a Pedestrian Accident Attorney at WCTL

If you were involved in a pedestrian accident and need legal assistance, our qualified California pedestrian accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are readily available and happy to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. 

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a pedestrian accident, you have the legal right to hold the guilty party responsible. Our trusted pedestrian accident attorneys can help you recover maximum financial compensation for the losses you’ve suffered including your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering.

Victims who have been injured in pedestrian accidents should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after to ensure their rights are protected. To schedule a free consultation with our experienced legal team, don’t hesitate to contact us today at 213-996-0790 or [email protected].

If you need dedicated legal representation or want to learn more about obtaining fair compensation for your pedestrian accident injuries, contact our pedestrian accident attorneys today.

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