COMMON PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENT INJURIES
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Pedestrian Accident Attorney Firm in California
Everything you as a victim need to know...
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, California’s pedestrian fatality rate is almost 25% higher than the national average, and no state has more pedestrian deaths on its roadways than California. Pedestrians often sustain permanent and debilitating injuries if struck by an automobile, including fractures, amputations, paralysis, brain damage, and even death.
WHO IS A PEDESTRIAN
The California DMV defines a pedestrian as not only a person on foot but also a person using a conveyance other than a bicycle, including a skateboard or roller skates. A person with a disability using a wheelchair for transportation is also considered a pedestrian.
RULES PERTAINING TO PEDESTRIANS
Vehicle Code § 21956 states the following:
(a) No pedestrian may walk upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district otherwise than close to his or her left-hand edge of the roadway.
(b) A pedestrian may walk close to his or her right-hand edge of the roadway if a crosswalk or other means of safely crossing the roadway is not available or if existing traffic or other conditions would compromise the safety of a pedestrian attempting to cross the road.
In general, therefore, pedestrians are required to walk against traffic, close to the left edge of the roadway, although there are exceptions to this rule.
RULES PERTAINING TO PEDESTRIANS (cont.)
Many pedestrians are injured while using or attempting to use a crosswalk. Vehicle Code § 275 defines as crosswalk as either::
(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.
(b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, there shall not be a crosswalk where local authorities have placed signs indicating no crossing.
A marked crosswalk is the portion of the roadway containing painted lines or other markings to indicate it is to be used for pedestrians to cross the road. An unmarked crosswalk is not marked but exists as a matter of law at intersections where a pedestrian continues walking from a sidewalk or path.
Vehicle Code § 21950 sets out the rules for drivers and pedestrians at a crosswalk:
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
Vehicle Code § 21954 sets out additional rules for pedestrians when using a crosswalk:
(a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard. An immediate hazard exists if the approaching vehicle is so near or is approaching so fast that a reasonably careful person would realize that there is a danger of collision.
(b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.
In addition, Vehicle Code § 21955 states that pedestrians cannot cross the roadway between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers except in a crosswalk. And pursuant to Vehicle Code § 21951, if a vehicle has stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, no driver of any other vehicle may overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
Under California law, therefore, the following rules applies:
- A driver of a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian who is crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
- When a driver is approaching a pedestrian who is within a marked or an unmarked crosswalk, the driver must use reasonable care and must reduce the vehicle’s speed or take any other action that is necessary to ensure the safety of the pedestrian in the crosswalk.
- Pedestrians must also use reasonable care for their own safety and may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and either walk or run into the path of a vehicle if the vehicle is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
- Pedestrians must use reasonable care to cross the roadway and may not unnecessarily stop or delay traffic with in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
- A driver of a vehicle must use reasonable care for the safety of any pedestrian in a marked or unmarked crosswalk even if the pedestrian is failing to use reasonable care.
California courts have held that the law creates a preferential, but not absolute, right in favor of the pedestrian, but the pedestrian is still under a duty to exercise reasonable or ordinary care. All drivers must use reasonable care in driving their vehicles, and this includes keeping a lookout for pedestrians. A driver’s failure to use reasonable care in looking out for pedestrians is negligence.
Vehicle Code § 21955 states the following:
Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.
In addition, Vehicle Code § 21956 states that no pedestrian may walk upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district other than close to his or her left-hand edge of the roadway. A pedestrian who jaywalks can be fined up to $250.
California has enacted laws to protect blind pedestrians. Vehicle Code § 21963 states the following:
A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a predominantly white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way, and the driver of any vehicle approaching this pedestrian, who fails to yield the right-of-way, or to take all reasonably necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both. This section shall not preclude prosecution under any other applicable provision of law.
To further protect blind pedestrians, Vehicle Code § 21946 states that no person, other than those totally or partially blind, shall carry or use on any highway or in any public building, public facility, or other public place, a predominantly white cane (with or without a red tip).
Blind pedestrians rely on the sound of a vehicle, so drivers of electric automobiles should be especially cautious when approaching a blind pedestrian. According to the California DMV, when a blind person pulls his or her cane and steps away from the intersection, this gesture usually means that a vehicle can proceed.
In many pedestrian cases, the driver of the automobile will claim that the pedestrian was not within a crosswalk or ran into the crosswalk at the last minute, or that the pedestrian was jaywalking. In these situations, the law does not prohibit the pedestrian from recovering damages, even if partially at fault. Instead, a jury will be asked to determine the pedestrian’s comparative fault, or the percentage of fault to be placed on the pedestrian. For example, if the jury finds that the automobile driver was 90% at fault, then the pedestrian will be found to be 10% at fault.
If the pedestrian is found to be at fault, the pedestrian’s damages will be reduced by that percentage of fault. For example, if the pedestrian is 25% at fault, the pedestrian’s damages will be reduced by 25%. If the jury awards damages of $1,000,000, that amount will be reduced by 25% and the pedestrian will only be entitled to recover $750,000.
DANGEROUS ROADWAY CONDITIONS
Pedestrians may be injured or killed due to a dangerous roadway condition. These types of claims are made against the governmental entity that owns or controls the roadway at issue, usually the city, county, or state. A “dangerous condition” of a roadway is a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury to members of the general public when it is used with reasonable care and in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
Under California law, a roadway cannot be considered dangerous just because the city, county, or state failed to provide a traffic control signal; however, the lack of a traffic control signal may be considered along with other circumstances on the roadway to determine whether the property was dangerous. Likewise, the city, county, or state cannot be held responsible for harm caused by the lack of a warning device unless a reasonably careful person would not notice or anticipate a dangerous condition of property without the warning device.
The city, county, or state may be held liable for a dangerous condition of a roadway even if the immediate cause of harm is a third party’s negligent or illegal act as long as some physical characteristic of the property exposed the user to some increased danger from the third party’s negligent or criminal act. For example, if a speeding or drunk driver hits a pedestrian, the governmental entity that owns the roadway may be liable for the pedestrian’s damages if the design, construction, or maintenance of the roadway exposed the pedestrian to the increased danger.
DAMAGES FOR PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may have a claim for damages.
Economic damages are ascertainable monetary amounts, including lost wages and medical bills. If injuries are severe, the person may not be able to return to work and therefore may be entitled to the loss of future wage-earning capacity for the remainder of the anticipated life expectancy. In addition, some people injured in a pedestrian accident require medical treatment for the rest of their lives. To calculate the amount that this long-term care will cost, our firm may retain a specialist to prepare what is known as a “life care plan,” which is a plan that sets out medical and medically related care that will be needed over the remainder of the injured person’s life.
Non-economic damages include items such as emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, and humiliation.
In some situations, a pedestrian accident can result in death. In such a case, the deceased’s family members, or wrongful death beneficiaries, may be entitled to recover the medical bills as well as the funeral and burial costs. The deceased’s loved ones can also recover for their own damages due to the loss of love and society of the deceased person.
TIME LIMITS FOR FILING CLAIMS FOR PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS
In California, the statute of limitations for filing most claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. If, however, the claim is against a state or local governmental entity, including a claim for a dangerous roadway condition, the deadline to provide notice of your claim may be as little as six (6) months. For this reason, if you believe you or someone close to you may have a claim for damages, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
 Byrne v. City and County of San Francisco (1980) 113 Cal. App. 3d 731, 742.
 See CA Gov. Code § 830(a).
 See CA Gov. Code § 830.4.
 See CA Gov. Code § 830.8.
 Castro v. City of Thousand Oaks (2015) 239 Cal. App. 4th 1451, 1457−1458.
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