Statistics show that drivers are at fault in more than half of the pedestrian accidents in California, and are almost always at fault when a pedestrian is struck within a crosswalk.
Sometimes pedestrians can be at fault for collisions as well, especially if they are:
- texting while walking, or
In a few cases, the primary cause of a pedestrian knockdown is the local government for having:
- defective traffic signals, or
- unmaintained roads or sidewalks.
Under California personal injury laws, anyone injured in a pedestrian accident can file a lawsuit against those who caused the accident. Typical damages include compensation for
Below, our Los Angeles pedestrian accident lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about pedestrian knockdown accident lawsuits in California:
- 1. Can I sue after a pedestrian knockdown injury in California?
- 2. What do I have to prove to win my lawsuit?
- 3. What are other causes of pedestrian knockdown accidents in California?
- 4. Who is most at risk of a pedestrian knockdown injury?
- 5. What should I do after I get knocked over while walking in California?
- 6. Who is to blame if I tripped on a broken sidewalk in California?
- 7. What damages are available in a California pedestrian knockdown accident lawsuit?
- 8. What if the other person blames me for my fall?
- 9. Who can sue if my child or spouse was killed in a pedestrian accident?
- 10. How common are pedestrian accidents in California?
- 11. Do pedestrians always have right-of-way?
- Additional resources
If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
If you were a pedestrian hit by a car, you may have a personal injury claim and can sue the at-fault parties for compensation. Even if you were partly to blame, you may still be able to recover some damages.
In most cases, pedestrians who sue drivers who hit them have to prove that the driver was negligent. This involves showing:
- That the driver owed you a duty of care;
- The driver breached that duty of care (such as by driving distracted or violating traffic laws); and
- That the driver’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your injury or death.1
Common causes of vehicle/pedestrian accidents where the driver is at fault include:
- Failure to yield
- Driving in a safety zone2
- Going around a stopped school bus
- Running a stop sign
- Texting and driving (a violation of Vehicle Code 23123.5)
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
- Not giving enough room for pedestrians getting into a parked car
Not all pedestrian accidents in California are caused by cars. Non-vehicle related causes of pedestrian knockdowns can include:
- Runners or joggers on the sidewalk
- Other pedestrians distracted by their phones or listening to music
- Unleashed or uncontrolled dogs
- Biking on the sidewalk
- Skateboarding on the sidewalk
- Groups of people who will not move over on the sidewalk
- City buses or trucks with large side mirrors that extend over the sidewalk
- Passengers opening the doors of parked cars
- Fights on the street
- Kids running around a store or restaurant
- Kids rough-housing at a pool
- Crowded street fairs or festivals
Showing negligence in a pedestrian accident for any reason is similar to negligence in an accident with a car. You need to show another person was negligent in causing an accident, or violated California’s pedestrian and crosswalk laws.3
Many people in California use the sidewalks for exercise to stay out of the busy street. Most of these runners are willing to share the sidewalk, but some are either reckless or inconsiderate and threaten to knock over pedestrians.
If a runner hits you, their speed and force could easily knock you over onto the ground or even into the street, causing injury.
If a dog attacks or knocks you over, you generally need to show that the owner was negligent. This may require proving that the dog owner
- knew or should have known the dog could be a threat to pedestrians and
- failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harm.
However, if the dog owner is violating a state or local statute, any injury caused by the dog may make the owner liable under California’s laws on “negligence per se.” This could include having a dog off-leash in an area where dogs are prohibited or are required to be on a leash.4
For pedestrians, bicycles on the sidewalk may seem like a hazard. However, biking on the sidewalk is usually a city-by-city policy.
For example, under Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.15, biking on the sidewalk is legal, as long as it is not done
“with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
If a cyclist was biking on the sidewalk and hit you, causing an accident, you may be able to recover damages by showing:
- the cyclist was negligent in causing the accident, such as by riding too fast; or
- the cyclist was biking with a “willful or wanton disregard for safety.”
In areas where biking on the sidewalk is illegal by city or local statute, a cyclist on the sidewalk who causes an accident may be liable for negligence per se.
If a group of people knocks you over while on the sidewalk, they could be liable for any injuries that you suffer. If the jury found the group
- failed to let you pass,
- violated their duty of care, and
- caused the accident,
you may be able to recover damages.
When a bus pulls up to a bus stop, the side mirror may be a hazard for anyone standing near the edge of the sidewalk. If the bus driver is not paying attention or carelessly causes you to be hit by the bus mirror, you can file a lawsuit for damages.
When an accident is caused by an employee, such as a bus driver, you can also sue the employer. Under California’s “Respondeat Superior” laws, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees.5
Anyone who walks down the sidewalk, through a parking lot, or anywhere in public could be at risk of pedestrian injury. The injuries involved in a pedestrian knockdown accident depend on the cause and location of the accident, as well as the individual involved.
Common pedestrian injuries could include:
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations,
- Broken bones,
- Facial trauma,
- Head, neck, or spinal injury,
- Brain injury, and
- Internal injuries.6
Anyone can be injured in a pedestrian accident. However, some people may be at greater risk for serious injury. Risk factors for serious or fatal pedestrian knockdown injuries include:
- Older adults,
- Use of alcohol,
- Urban areas, and
If you are knocked over while walking in California, do not assume that you are okay. Even low-impact falls can result in head, neck, or back trauma. Seek medical attention right away.
Also you should gather as much information as possible, including:
- The name and contact information of anyone involved,
- If a vehicle was involved, the driver’s name, driver’s license, insurance information, and license plate of the car, and
- Contact information of any witnesses.
If you have your phone or mobile device, take photos or videos of the accident scene and record the vehicle information. You may also want to take pictures of your injuries.
Also, do not admit fault! Some people instinctively apologize after an accident, but such words of apology can be used against you in court.
Finally, contact a California personal injury attorney right away. They can handle questions from the insurance company about who is at fault and how you will be compensated.
When you trip and fall on a piece of broken sidewalk, icy surface, or another dangerous surface, the property owner may be liable for your injuries.8 Under California premises liability law, people who own or occupy property are required to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.9
If the sidewalk is on city property, the city may be held liable in a slip and fall lawsuit brought by you. The town, county, or city may have known about the dangerous sidewalk conditions and failed to do anything about it.
In most pedestrian injury accidents, you can sue for compensatory damages for all the losses you incurred, such as:
- Medical and hospital bills,
- Occupational and physical therapy,
- Lost earnings and wages,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Loss of consortium (loss of companionship of a spouse or registered domestic partner),10
- Loss of limb,
- Scarring or disfigurement, and
- Pain and suffering.
You might be able to sue for punitive damages if you can show that the defendant acted with extreme or outrageous conduct. In a pedestrian knockdown accident, they may involve a driver intentionally trying to hit you.11
Note that drivers are required to carry at least the following car insurance minimums under Insurance Code 11580.1b:
- $15,000 for injury/death to one person,
- $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person, and
- $5,000 for damage to property.
If your damages exceed what the at-fault party’s insurance covers, you can sue for the difference.
Make sure you speak to a personal injury lawyer before you talk to the driver’s insurance company, which will try and get you to settle the claim for as little as possible. Your lawyer will handle the insurance company to make sure you do not get taken advantage of.
If a driver blames you for the accident, do not admit fault. Even if you were jaywalking, the driver could still be negligent.12
Under California’s “comparative fault” law, you can still recover damages if you were partly at fault for the accident. Your damages will just be reduced based on your own level of fault.
Example: George is jaywalking when Jerry – who was texting and driving – slams into him. George sustains $10,000 in damages from his injuries. The jury determines George is 40% at fault, and Jerry is 60% at fault. Therefore, the jury may award George $6,000 based on Jerry’s 60% fault in the accident.
In California, surviving family members who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- A spouse;
- A domestic partner;
- Grandchildren (if the deceased victim’s children are deceased); or
- Anyone else who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by California intestate succession laws.13
A wrongful death lawsuit allows family members to seek damages after the death of a loved one to cover:
- Burial and funeral expenses;
- Financial earnings the deceased victim would have earned if they had survived; and
- Compensation for the loss of companionship and support for the surviving family members.
A “survival” cause of action is different from a wrongful death lawsuit. It is brought on behalf of the victim’s estate and seeks damages for the losses the deceased victim suffered from the wrongful act.14
Of all the states, California ranks one for pedestrian deaths.
In 2022, 1,100 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in California. The pedestrian fatality rate is 2.82 for every 100,000 people.15
You have the right-of-way when crossing at marked and unmarked crosswalks. Starting in 2023, jaywalking is no longer against the law as long as there is no immediate danger of a collision.16
For more information, refer to the following:
- U.S. pedestrian deaths reach a 40-year high – News article by National Public Radio (NPR).
- Pedestrian Safety – Statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Pedestrian Safety – Statistics and tips by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians – Analysis of 2021 data by NHTSA.
- Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2022 Preliminary Data – Statistics by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
- See, for example, California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
- California Vehicle Code 21950 VC, Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties. (“(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.”)
- California Civil Code section 1714(a), see footnote 1 above.
- Delfino v. Sloan, Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. No. A059646. First Dist., Div. Five. Dec 13, 1993. (“We will hold, inter alia, that a local ordinance, penalizing an owner whose dog is allowed to roam public streets unleashed, is an animal control law enacted to protect public health and safety and imposes strict criminal liability, regardless of the absence or presence of mens rea in the dog owner; and that violation of such a regulatory law, which requires a given level of conduct and imposes liability on those who, regardless of intent, do not comply, is negligence per se.”)
- Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. (1986) 41 Cal.3d 962, 967 (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s torts committed within the scope of the employment.”)
- Pedestrian Injuries: Emergency Care Considerations. Bharath Chakravarthy, MD, Shahram Lotfipour, MD, MPH, and Federico E. Vaca, MD, MPH. Cal J. Emerg Med 2007 Feb; 8(1): 15-21.
- Same. (“Age as a Risk Factor. Children, older adults and those of lower socioeconomic status are most vulnerable to being struck by a motor vehicle.”)
- California Civil Code section 1714(a), see footnote 1 above.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements.
- California Family Code 297.5 gives registered domestic partners the same legal rights and remedies as spouses.
- California Civil Code § 3294
- California Vehicle Code 21950 VC, Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties. (“(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.”)
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
- Code of Civil Procedure 377.30
- Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2022 Preliminary Data, Governor’s Highway Safety Association. Erin Heft, Pedestrian deaths account for over 25% of all California traffic fatalities, officials say, KCRA (October 17, 2022). Pedestrian Safety, California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). Sarah Polus, Pedestrian fatalities hit 4-decade high in 2021; CA recorded most, KTLA (). California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Traffic Safety Reports: Pedestrian Injuries in California.
- California Vehicle Code 29150 VC. California Vehicle Code 21955 VC.