Pedestrian accidents still happen far too frequently in California. Indeed, California consistently leads the nation in total annual pedestrian fatalities. These serious accidents are by no means evenly distributed throughout the state; a highly disproportionate percentage of pedestrian accidents occur in heavily urbanized areas. This means that many communities in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, are at especially high risk of pedestrian accidents.
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you deserve full and fair compensation from the at fault driver. Though, legal liability for these accidents is certainly not always clear cut. One question that we are commonly asked: What if I’m hit at an intersection crossing the street at an unmarked crosswalk? Here, our experienced Bay Area pedestrian accident attorneys will discuss this question and explain your rights as well as your legal options should you be hit by a car while crossing the street.
Crossing the Street in California: Is the Pedestrian At Fault in a Car Accident?
In some tragic cases, people are struck while walking on the sidewalk or while walking in a parking lot, though the vast majority of pedestrian accidents take place when a person is crossing the street. All pedestrian street crossing accidents will fit into one of the following categories:
- The person was crossing in a crosswalk
The first scenario is the most straightforward. Under Chapter 5 of the California Vehicle code, which outlines pedestrians’ rights and duties pedestrians always have the right of way when crossing in marked crosswalks. This means that California drivers have a legal duty to yield to pedestrians who are crossing in these established zones.
- The person was crossing at an intersection, but not in a marked crosswalk
Contrary to what some drivers believe, this scenario is also relatively straightforward. Under California law, every intersection is a crosswalk, whether marked or not. Obviously it’s safer to cross in a crosswalk. However, the more rural the area, the less likely the intersection is to be painted as a crosswalk. Put simply, there are not enough resources in the state to mark the designated crosswalks at literally every intersection. If you are in a less traveled area, the intersection is unlikely to be marked with a crosswalk. However, that does not mean that the crosswalk is not there, at least in legal spirit. Pedestrians still have the right of way at intersections even if the crosswalk is not marked. Drivers in the state must yield to pedestrians whenever at intersections.
- The person was crossing away from an intersection, not in a marked crosswalk
Finally, the third scenario is the most complex. Unsurprisingly, the harder cases involve a person is crossing in the middle of the street where it’s not an intersection. For these cases, drivers will be cut more slack, but they are by no means immune from liability. Quite the opposite, they still have a duty to operate their vehicle safely and avoid hitting crossing pedestrians to the very best extent that they can. The bottom line for these cases is that every case is different. Each has its own set of facts. Most cases are not 100% black and white.
Pedestrian Accident Liability in California
With the state laws in mind, we will now consider pedestrian accident liability. In California, liability for an accident must be established under the state’s comparative fault rules. This standard has very important implications for pedestrians who were struck by motor vehicles. More specifically, the state standard addresses two key issues:
- How liability is attributed; and
- How liability is apportioned.
First, any party whose unreasonably dangerous actions or inactions (negligence) contributed to an accident should be held liable for any resulting damages. Second, that liability will be divided in direct proportion to a party’s blame for the accident. In some cases, apportioning liability is very simple; if a driver was at fault for 100 percent of the collision, then they will be assigned 100 percent of the liability. Yet, in more complex cases, liability for an accident may be split between two or more parties. This is a big concern in pedestrian accident cases because the big insurance companies often try to pin part of the blame for the crash on the injured pedestrian.
Could an Injured Pedestrian Really Be Blamed for Their Own Accident?
It is possible that a California pedestrian could be held partially (or fully) liable for their own injuries. This will happen if a judge or jury determines that the pedestrian acted in an unsafe manner, thereby contributing to the crash. For example, if you ran across a busy street, while you were away from an intersection, at night, while wearing all black, then the court might decide that you were negligent. Of course, the overwhelming majority of pedestrian accident do not involve a pedestrian doing anything wrong, especially not that unsafe.
If you are held partially liable for your own accident, your compensation will be dramatically reduced. Please do not let this happen to you. Get in touch with the experienced California pedestrian accident lawyers at GJEL Accident Attorneys to set up a free, no-obligation review of your claim. We will fight aggressively to protect you from getting pinned with an unfair share of the accident blame.