Pedestrian crashes are widespread in our surroundings. A report compiled by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), estimates that about 13,500 pedestrians get injured in accidents in California each year. Most of the pedestrian collisions can be avoided if proper care is exercised. All drivers in the state have the legal duty to watch out for the pedestrian’s safety.
A vehicle hitting you or being in any other form of an accident as you are up and about your daily chores can be a traumatic experience. Unfortunately, even if you are walking on the sidewalks every day, an accident can still happen. We invite you to contact us at the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney if you are injured in a pedestrian accident to help establish liability, depending on the accident’s cause.
Right of Way Laws for California Pedestrians
Both motorists and pedestrians must understand their responsibilities as outlined under the law. Our attorneys review the pedestrian laws set to protect the people on foot in the state, so you know what to expect as a pedestrian and what is required of drivers.
The law dictates that drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the road at either marked or unmarked crosswalks, regardless of where they are. They can even be in the middle of a block. This law also encompasses the crosswalks that are located at intersections, which aren’t regulated by traffic lights.
Drivers are not allowed to stop in crosswalks or overtake an auto that’s stopped at a crosswalk. They are also not allowed to drive on sidewalks except if the sidewalk is part of an intersection, and they must cross it to get to the other side of the road. If a driver comes to an intersection that doesn’t have a stop or yield sign, he/she should slow their vehicle in preparation to come to a stop in case he/she sees a pedestrian. A driver must stop for any person on foot who’s already in a crosswalk or ready to enter the intersection.
In California, most of the crosswalks are marked in white. A few of those located in school zones are marked with yellow paint, while most of those found in residential areas aren’t marked at all.
The bottom line is, drivers have the legal duty to operate with due care for the pedestrians’ safety. Beyond yielding the right of way to pedestrians at intersections, they have an overall obligation to act with reasonable care and also to watch out for the pedestrians’ safety. They should always pay their maximum attention to what is happening on the road all the time.
On the other hand, a pedestrian also has legal duties. California doesn’t place the whole burden of the safety of pedestrians on drivers. Pedestrians also have the legal obligation to act with reasonable care. The law categorically states that pedestrians aren’t relieved of acting with care for their safety. For instance, if you suddenly leave the curb that’s not close to an intersection and create an immediate hazard, you may be held accountable for any crash that arises.
As a pedestrian, you should also use your common sense. For instance, you should never assume that motorists will always yield. You should take appropriate safety precautions at all times to protect your wellbeing. Also, you should never, at any point, assume that the motorist can see you, or he/she will drive safely.
Note that contrary to what most people believe, neither a pedestrian nor a driver has a superior right of way. Each party has to exercise the care required of a prudent and reasonable person under the circumstances. Even when the driver is allowed the right of way by law, the right ought to be yielded if need be to prevent injury to other parties.
For example, when a walker is already in a crosswalk, the vehicle has to yield. However, if a walker in a crosswalk unexpectedly darted in front of an auto, it is unlikely that the driver would be considered negligent. On the other hand, the entire blame for the crash would likely be placed on the pedestrian, the fact that the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and technically had the right of way notwithstanding.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Drivers have to comply with traffic rules and act with reasonable care, particularly in looking out for less visible walkers. When motorists do not obey these laws, tragic accidents often occur. Pedestrians have to be equally careful and responsible when walking and crossing the road. The most common reasons why pedestrian crashes occur include:
Many pedestrian-related accidents occur between dawn and dusk, where factors like smog, rain, or fog can cause reduced visibility. Also, pedestrians that are walking when there is low visibility and with no reflective clothes are at a higher risk of being involved in a collision. If you are planning on walking in the dark, ensure you wear bright clothes and carry with you a pocket flashlight that you can turn on while crossing the road or a street.
Even though streetlamps and flashing lights illuminate most crosswalks and intersections, it can still be difficult for motorists to recognize walkers who blend in with background darkness. At the same time, motorists should note walkers and expect walkers to be along the streets during the night.
Drug or Alcohol Use
Motorists who operate their vehicles while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs have a reduced capability of judging depth, distance, and speed, all of which drive up the likelihood of a collision with pedestrians. Their reasoning, reaction time, and general operation skills will be impaired. In this situation, a driver could easily miss noticing a pedestrian, particularly at night or in bad weather. The Highway Loss Data Institute reports that intoxicated drivers cause about 13 percent of pedestrian crashes nationally.
Making left turns for drivers can lead to pedestrian accidents because the pedestrian and driver are usually looking in different directions. Also, arterial/multi-lane roads present a danger to walkers. Motorists have to deal with the other drivers that are speeding, changing lanes, tailgating, or making unsafe lane changes. When doing this, they don’t make a point of watching out for walkers or even concentrating on traffic signals.
Failure to Yield or Stop
Drivers who pass through an intersection or run a stop sign or those who fail to give way to the pedestrians that have the right of way are a common cause of pedestrian-related crashes.
When motorists do not slow down to safer speeds in ice, snow, fog, or rain, they may easily fail to notice pedestrians or be incapable of slowing down or stop in time on slippery or slick roads.
Driving While Distracted
Distracted driving is one of the leading reasons why pedestrian crashes occur. With the ever-advancing and expanding technology in the mobile industry, more drivers and pedestrians get distracted with mobile phones and other electronic devices. Making calls, texting, surfing the internet, or listening to music may result in collisions if one isn’t aware of his/her surroundings. Other behaviors that can cause distraction include eating, drinking, looking out through the window, talking to passengers, reading, applying makeup, combing hair, etc.
These behaviors shift drivers’ eyes and minds away from driving. In places that have high levels of pedestrian traffic, careful vehicle operation is critically important. This is because an unsuspecting walker who has the right of way could dash out in front of a vehicle in a split second.
Autos Making Left Turns
Just because crosswalks have signals does not mean motorists will pay full attention to them. Sometimes, the motorist’s attention is surveying the intersection and negotiating the turn rather than a walker who is lawfully crossing the roadway. This means that even if you are using a crosswalk to get across the road, you can easily be knocked over by the autos making left turns.
As we mentioned earlier, pedestrians generally have the right of way in California. If a walker doesn’t see a vehicle and begins to cross the road against the light, that walker still has the right of way. Impatient motorists don’t watch out for walkers or attempt to drive around walkers walking in a crosswalk. These kinds of drivers cause several pedestrian accidents.
Nowadays we have many electric cars on the roadways. Electric autos operate on batteries rather than combustion engines. Consequently, they are much quieter compared to traditional gas-powered automobiles.
Even though they are ideal for peace in the neighborhood, NHTSA report estimates that these kinds of vehicles are 40% more likely to hit walkers, who detect approaching traffic with their ears and eyes compared to gas-guzzling autos. The risk increases to 50% in residential settings where the speed limit is below or at 35mph, and turns and stops are more frequent.
Drivers driving quiet cars should keep their headlamps on all the time so that they are visible to walkers even if pedestrians can’t hear them approaching.
Most people are aware of the inconveniences that arise due to road construction. However, most people may fail to realize that road construction may force pedestrians to walk in places where motorists don’t expect them to be.
When a driver speeds, they violate traffic rules and are considered to have driven recklessly. If you are hit by a speeding vehicle, you can sustain life-changing injuries or even die because of the crash’s impact.
The Negligence of the Pedestrian
Unfortunately, it’s not only the negligence of motorists that cause pedestrian accidents. Intoxicated pedestrians, for instance, can also contribute to or cause their injuries. Additionally, cases of walkers causing crashes by engaging themselves in distracted walking like texting and talking on their cell phones have become more widespread. The issue is significant enough that the National Safety Council listed cell phone use while walking as a category in its report about unintentional deaths and injuries.
Safety features, such as walk signs and crosswalks, are meant to keep pedestrians safe when properly utilized. Pedestrians also place themselves and drivers at a higher risk for a crash if they cross the road without using a crosswalk, or quickly dash in front of vehicles without waiting for a signal to cross.
Biking on the Sidewalks
For a person on foot, bikes on the sidewalks may be hazardous. If a cyclist is not careful enough when cycling on the sidewalk, they may end up knocking a pedestrian. Usually, cycling on the sidewalks is a city-by-city policy. In California, biking on sidewalks is a violation in certain cities, while in others, it is legal. But suppose the negligence of a cyclist causes a pedestrian accident. In that case, they will be held accountable for any resulting injuries regardless of whether or not it’s legal to bike on the sidewalk.
Roads that Do Not Have Crosswalks
At times, roadways do not have crosswalks where they should. Consequently, walkers are left to cross the streets at their own risk. Even if you cross the roadway where there’s no crosswalk, still a driver has to use reasonable care to avoid knocking you over. Even if you are partially to blame for the crash, you can recover damages for your injuries.
Autos Driving in Reverse
A few of the most tragic crashes can occur at people’s homes, whereby they back up their cars over a minor they can’t see. Walkers are also at a higher risk of being knocked over by an automobile backing up when in parking lots, particularly when there’s much traffic.
Generally, motorists are required to look behind them when they are backing up. But walkers should never, at any point, assume that a motorist is fully attentive as they back up. Often, motorists will depend on rearview mirrors to guide them. The mirrors provide a partial view at best. Thus, it is best to remain cautious. Drivers always have to turn around completely whenever they are engaging the reverse gear. Mirrors aren’t to be trusted.
Rubbernecking refers to looking to the side or behind you while moving forward. This is a bad practice when walking and even worse if you are driving. A motorist or pedestrian ought to not rubberneck. They should pay maximum attention to whatever is in front of them.
Several pedestrian-related accidents occur at intersections. However, using crosswalks will lower the likelihood of this happening. When a crosswalk is marked clearly, the chances of a crash significantly decrease.
Who is at a Higher Risk of Getting into a Pedestrian-Related Accident?
Whereas any walker is at risk of getting knocked over by an automobile, specific groups of individuals are at a higher risk. As per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the following people are highly at risk of these kinds of accidents:
Male walkers are most likely to sustain injuries in pedestrian accidents compared to women
Young adults and teenagers aged between fifteen and twenty-nine years old are most likely to get treated for injuries as a walker in emergency rooms as compared to the other age groups
34% of walkers who die due to pedestrian accidents have a 0.08% BAC level or higher
As people get old, they are most likely to pass away from injuries they sustain in a pedestrian crash
Minors are at an elevated risk of getting killed if knocked down as a walker. One in five road accident fatalities of minors who are fourteen years old or below is a result of pedestrian accidents.
Pedestrian Accident Liability
Knowing what caused your accident will enable you to know which party you ought to seek damages from. It is not only the driver’s negligence that causes an accident. The likelihood of other factors also contributing to the crash cannot be overlooked. More than one party can be at fault for the injuries you sustain in a collision. Apart from the driver, other parties that can be liable include:
The vehicle (bus, taxicab, or truck) company when the truck, taxicab, or bus is operated or maintained negligently.
A private or public entity when a dangerous condition of private or public property is determined to have contributed to or caused an accident, such as inoperative traffic lights, improperly maintained roadways, lack of sufficient lighting, etc.
A repairer of any automobile that’s involved in the collision
A vehicle manufacturer of any auto that’s involved in the crash
In a situation where the pedestrian who’s hit is an incompetent or minor, any party that didn’t fulfill their duty to ensure the incompetent or minor’s safety when crossing the road can be faulty.
When determining liability, you have to prove that the at-fault party was negligent. There are four main elements involved in proving negligence. They include:
The at-fault party owed you a duty of care
They breached that duty
Their violation of the duty of care caused the accident that led to you sustaining injuries
You suffered damages and losses as a result of those injuries
Damages You Can Recover in a Pedestrian Accident
Whichever the cause of your crash, you are entitled to recover damages for your injuries as long as it is not entirely your fault. The amount of compensation you get will depend on the extent of your injuries. You can recover compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to put you back into the same state you would’ve been were it not for the collision. They include:
Medical and hospital bills (past, present, and future)
Costs for physical and occupational therapy
Loss of future earning capacity
disfigurement and scarring
Pain and suffering
Loss of enjoyment of life
In other cases, a pedestrian accident victim may pass away due to the injuries they sustained. In this case, the surviving family members of the deceased can bring a wrongful death claim where they may be able to recover the following damages:
Loss of consortium
Lack of support
Statute of Limitations in Pedestrian Accidents
Statute of limitations is the law that limits the period within which an accident victim can file a lawsuit to seek damages. If you are involved in a pedestrian collision California, you generally have two years from the accident’s date to file a lawsuit. But if you are seeking compensation from a government entity, you will have only six months to bring a claim.
In other cases, however, the courts will allow the tolling of a Statute of Limitations depending on several factors affecting the accident victim. Tolling of the Statute of Limitations means stopping the period a complainant has to bring a claim against the defendant. Your Statute of Limitations can be tolled if:
You are physically or mentally incapacitated.
The injuries manifested way after the accident.
You are a minor. If you are injured in a pedestrian crash and are below eighteen years at the time, the Statute of Limitations doesn’t begin to run until your eighteenth birthday. Once you reach eighteen years old, you will then have two years to bring the claim.
Find a Pedestrian Accident Attorney Near Me
Pedestrian injuries are almost always very severe. Unfortunately, insurance companies usually try to offer lower settlements to victims by claiming it was the pedestrian’s fault that the crash happened. Most times, there aren’t any witnesses to attest that the driver was indeed at fault. In other situations, the negligent driver may flee the accident scene. If this is what happened in your case, you may wonder how you will ever be capable of convincing the insurance provider that you were not at fault. At the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we will investigate your case thoroughly and prove you were not to blame for the crash. We will do all we can to find evidence that will change the mind of the insurance adjuster, and if not, we will gladly take your case to trial. Contact us today at 714-876-1959 to schedule a cost-free initial consultation and case evaluation.