In California, when a pedestrian is hit outside of a crosswalk, the person at fault for the accident will be liable for the damages. This is often – but not always – the pedestrian. The driver can still be held liable in certain circumstances. In some cases, both the driver and the pedestrian are at fault and therefore, liability gets apportioned between them.
Who is at-fault for a California pedestrian accident if they were jaywalking?
Depending on the circumstances, either the driver or the pedestrian can be at-fault for a pedestrian accident outside a crosswalk.
There are 3 important things to know about this situation:
- how a crosswalk is defined,
- pedestrians outside of a crosswalk must yield right of way to nearby drivers, and
- drivers still owe a duty of care to jaywalking pedestrians.
Who is found to be at-fault will be responsible for the accident. They will have to compensate the victim.
The definition of a crosswalk
In California, crosswalks do not have to be marked with white stripes on the street. Crosswalks can be either:
- the portion of the road that is painted with white lines (a marked crosswalk), or
- extensions of the sidewalk through an intersection where 2 roads meet at approximately right angles (an unmarked crosswalk).
Just because pedestrians are not walking on white lines does not mean they are not in a crosswalk.
Pedestrians must yield right of way to nearby drivers
Pedestrians who are not in a crosswalk must yield right of way to all vehicles that are close enough to be an immediate hazard to the pedestrian.
This means staying out of the way of oncoming vehicles. However, if the vehicle is far enough away to pose no risk of danger, the pedestrian can cross the road. If the driver is not an immediate hazard and the pedestrian can safely cross, they can do so.
Drivers still have a duty of care to jaywalking pedestrians
If a driver breaches this duty of care to a pedestrian not in a crosswalk, the driver can be held liable for the pedestrian accident.
Examples of drivers not providing due care to a pedestrian crossing outside of a crosswalk include:
- driving while distracted,
- driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
- driving inappropriately for the weather or road conditions,
- violating traffic laws,
- running a red light, stop sign, or violating other traffic signals, or
- reckless driving.
For example: Phil is crossing the road 20 yards from the crosswalk at a Los Angeles intersection. Dave careens around the corner at a high speed to beat the changing traffic light. Dave hits Phil. Dave’s reckless driving may make him liable. It prevented Phil from giving right of way because he did not see Dave’s vehicle until it was too late.
Motorists who breach their duty of care and hit a jaywalker may still be held liable or partially liable.
Who is considered a pedestrian?
A pedestrian is not confined to people walking on or near the roadway. Under California law, a pedestrian is anyone who is:
- on foot,
- riding a motorized assistive mobility device because they cannot walk, or
- riding a vehicle propelled by their own efforts, not including a bicycle.
Therefore, pedestrians include:
- people in wheelchairs, including motorized wheelchairs,
- people using rollerblades or roller skates,
- skiers, and
- people using non-motorized scooters.
They do not include:
- bicyclists, or
- anyone using a motorized vehicle, other than a motorized wheelchair.
Vehicle accidents involving these pedestrians tend to be severe. Pedestrians have very little protection from the collision, and even the smallest cars weigh thousands of pounds. Injured pedestrians often suffer severe injuries, including serious brain injuries requiring extensive medical treatment. The medical bills alone can be huge.
Under California personal injury law, if the pedestrian injury proves fatal, the victim’s loved ones can file a wrongful death claim on the victim’s behalf.
What are California’s pedestrian right-of-way laws in a crosswalk?
Drivers must yield right of way to pedestrians who are in a crosswalk. This includes reducing their motor vehicle’s speed to keep the pedestrian safe.
However, this does not mean pedestrians cannot be liable for accidents in a crosswalk. They still have a legal obligation to use reasonable care for their own safety. Pedestrians cannot:
- suddenly leave the curb and jump into the path of an oncoming vehicle so close that it creates an immediate hazard, or
- unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a crosswalk.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence is California’s shared fault rule. It is how courts will handle personal injury claims where both you and the defendant bore some responsibility for the accident.
California uses pure comparative negligence. Under this rule, the jury in the personal injury trial would assign each party a percentage of fault for the accident. The jury may also award you a judgment to compensate you for your legal damages. Your percentage of fault would then reduce your judgment.
Under pure comparative fault rules, you can recover compensation even if you were predominantly at fault.
How can a California personal injury lawyer help for these types of car accidents?
A pedestrian accident lawyer from our law firm can help you recover what you deserve. This often entails:
- fully investigating your accident, and not just accepting the results of the police report,
- gathering evidence that shows that the other person was at fault for it,
- representing you during initial settlement negotiations with the other party’s insurance company, and
- filing a personal injury lawsuit if a fair settlement offer is not made.
While we have found that trials are rare in pedestrian accident cases, we are fully prepared to present your case to a jury if that is what it takes to get you what you deserve.
Seeking the help of an experienced personal injury attorney is often the best way to ensure that your claim case is successful.
 California Vehicle Code 275 VC.
 California Vehicle Code 21954(b) VC.
 California Vehicle Code 467 VC.
 California Vehicle Code 21950 VC.
 California Vehicle Code 21950(b) VC.