California crosswalk laws give pedestrians the right of way in an unmarked crosswalk. However, you – as a pedestrian – still have to take due care for your own safety.
You cannot jump into traffic in a way that creates an immediate hazard. You also cannot unnecessarily delay traffic.
If you are a victim in a pedestrian accident, you can hold the driver who hit you liable and recover compensation.
Do pedestrians always have the right-of-way in an unmarked crosswalk?
Generally, yes, pedestrians or bicyclists have the right-of-way over vehicles. This includes in:
- sidewalks, even if you are crossing a driveway or dirt trail,
- marked crosswalks, and
- unmarked crosswalks.1
Whenever you are in one of these areas, vehicles have to wait for you to move on. As the driver of a vehicle approaches you in these areas, they have to slow down and take care to keep you safe. If a driver fails to comply with this traffic law and hits and hurts you, the driver can be held negligent per se.
However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Under California Vehicle Code 21950 CVC, you still have a duty of care to preserve your own safety. This means that you cannot do any of the following if it would create an immediate hazard:
- suddenly leave the curb,
- walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, or
- unnecessarily stop or delay oncoming traffic.2
If you do this and get hit in a car accident, you can be held liable or at least partially to blame.
If you are jaywalking and not in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, you have to yield the right-of-way to any motor vehicle that is close enough to you to constitute an immediate hazard because pedestrian laws do not give you a legal right to be in the street away from the crosswalk.3
What is an unmarked crosswalk?
An unmarked crosswalk is the portion of a street that is in between sidewalks at an intersection. In order to be an unmarked crosswalk, the intersecting roadways have to be at approximately right angles. The portion of a street between an alley and the sidewalk at the other side of the street does not count.4
However, if there is a sign that says “no crossing,” then there is no unmarked crosswalk.5
Unmarked crosswalks are contrasted with marked crosswalks. These are portions of the roadway that are distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossings, often with painted surface markings and traffic control signs.6
How does negligence per se work?
Negligence per se is the rebuttable presumption that the defendant behaved negligently if they violated a statute and hurt someone that the statute was designed to protect.
Generally, in order to win a personal injury claim, you have to show 3 things under California law:
- the defendant behaved negligently,
- you were harmed, and
- the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your harm.7
Negligence per se satisfies the first element. Motorists have a legal duty to comply with traffic laws and the rules of the road that aim to preserve your safety in crosswalks. If a driver hits you while you were in a crosswalk, they have breached that duty of care.
What damages can I recover?
You are entitled to recover your legal damages in a pedestrian injury lawsuit. These include all of the losses – financial and otherwise – that you have suffered and that stemmed from the auto accident.
The most prominent type of legal damage that you suffer in one of these incidents is your medical expenses. Were it not for the driver’s negligence, you would not have gotten hurt and accumulated medical bills. Therefore, you are entitled to financial compensation for them.
However, your damages are not limited to the costs associated with your medical care.
If you missed work because of your injuries, you can recover compensation for your lost wages. If the accident was disabling or your ability to earn a living is reduced, you can also recover compensation for your lost earning capacity. If your personal property was damaged in the crash, like if you were carrying a laptop or wheeling your scooter when you were hit, you can recover compensation for those losses, too.
Not all of your losses are so easy to quantify. Just because they are hard to state in a dollar amount, though, does not mean that you did not suffer them. You are also entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering that you have been put through by the driver’s negligence. Even your family is entitled to compensation for the loss of consortium and companionship that they have suffered from the accident.
What if I was partially at fault in California?
If you were partially at fault for a pedestrian accident in California, then your compensation will be reduced.
California uses the doctrine of pure comparative negligence to resolve accidents where fault is shared.8
Under this rule, the jury at the personal injury trial would assign a percentage of fault to each party in the accident. Then they would state how much compensation you deserve. The amount of your compensation would be reduced by your percentage of fault.9
For example: Mary is not paying attention while strolling down a pathway and crosses the street in a marked crosswalk while the pedestrian signal says “don’t walk.” Jordan is driving and is also not paying attention and hits her. The jury determines that Mary suffered $100,000 in damages, but was 35 percent at fault because she crossed against the traffic signal. Mary would still receive $65,000 from the verdict.
How can a pedestrian accident lawyer help me?
A pedestrian accident attorney can help you by:
- informing you of what you are entitled to receive,
- gathering evidence favorable to your case, including eyewitness accounts and street camera footage,
- negotiating for a fair settlement offer on your behalf, and
- filing a personal injury lawsuit if no fair offer is made and the statute of limitations is approaching.
If the accident proved to be a fatal one, a lawyer can help the victim’s family members file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Most importantly, if the motorist’s insurance company calls you, do not speak to them. Hire an attorney to be your go-between. The insurance company will try to get you to admit fault or will pressure you into accepting a lowball offer.
A skilled personal injury attorney will fight for the maximum compensation possible in your case to cover all your costs and expenses.
- California Vehicle Code sections 21950 and 21952 VEH.
- California Vehicle Code 21950(b) VEH.
- California Vehicle Code 21954 VEH.
- California Vehicle Code 275(a) VEH.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 400.
- Li v. Yellow Cab Co. (1975) 13 Cal.3d 804.
- CACI No. 405.