Pedestrian Knockdown Lawsuits in California


Pedestrians can be knocked down by cars, bikes, or even an unleashed dog. With no protection between them and the ground, even minor knock-down accidents can result in serious injuries. 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 California personal injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about pedestrian knockdown accident lawsuits in California:

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. Can I sue after a pedestrian knock-down injury in California?

Pedestrians can be knocked down because of:

If you were injured because of someone else's negligence, you may have a personal injury claim. You can seek compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you are injured in a pedestrian accident in California, you may be able to recover damages for your:

  • Medical bills,
  • Lost wages, and
  • Pain and suffering.

Even if you are not sure who is to blame for the accident, the negligence or recklessness of another person or property owner may mean they are liable for your injuries. Talk to your California pedestrian injury lawyers about who may be responsible for your accident so you can get compensation for your injuries.

2. What can pedestrians do if they get injured by a car in California?

If a pedestrian is hit by a car in a crosswalk, parking lot, or even in the road, the victim may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Under California negligence laws, if a pedestrian is injured by a negligent driver, the driver may be liable for any injuries caused by the accident.

To recover damages after an accident, the accident victim or surviving family members generally need to prove the driver was negligent. This involves showing:

  1. That the driver owed the pedestrian a duty of care;
  2. The driver breached that duty of care through negligence; and
  3. That the driver's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the pedestrian's injury or death.1

Drivers generally owe a duty of care to all pedestrians. Drivers also owe a duty to other drivers and cyclists and cyclists on the road. Driver negligence can be demonstrated by traffic violations, distracted driving, or other negligent actions.

One of the most common causes of vehicle/pedestrian accidents involves failure to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Under California Vehicle Code 21960 VC, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in any marked crosswalk or at an intersection.2

Note that California Vehicle Code 21709 VC makes it illegal for motorists to drive in safety zones. These are areas set aside for pedestrians with no vehicular traffic. A driver who violates VC 21709 and thereby strikes a pedestrian will almost certainly be held liable. 

However, even if a pedestrian was not in a crosswalk, the driver may still be responsible for the injury. Any driver negligence that caused the accident could make the driver liable for the injuries caused. Other examples of driver negligence in pedestrian accidents could include:

If you were hit by a vehicle in the street or in a crosswalk, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer before you talk to the driver's insurance company. The other driver's insurance company will usually try and get you to settle the claim for as little as possible. Your lawyer will handle the insurance company to make sure you don't get taken advantage of.

3. What are the most common causes of pedestrian accidents?

Not all pedestrian accidents are caused by cars. There are a number of other accidents that could result in a pedestrian getting knocked to the ground, suffering serious injuries. Other common causes of pedestrian knockdown accidents in California 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 won't 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. The injured plaintiff needs to show another person was negligent in causing an accident, or violated California's pedestrian and crosswalk laws. This requires the injured victim to show the following:

  1. The defendant owed the pedestrian a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care through negligence; and
  3. The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the pedestrian's injuries.3

3.1. Jogger on the Sidewalk

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 a pedestrian, his speed and force could easily knock over a pedestrian onto the ground or even into the street, causing injury.

3.2. Uncontrolled Dog Knocks Someone Over

Dog owners who do not have control of their pets can be liable for serious accidents. Large dogs can jump up on children, knocking them over. Dogs on the loose can also chase pedestrians, causing them to fall over and suffer an injury. The dog may have caused the accident...but dog owners are responsible for their dogs' actions.

If a dog attacks or knocks over a pedestrian, the injured victim generally needs 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

Example: Will is walking along Palisades Park in Santa Monica. Carli is out walking her dog “Simon.” Carli takes Simon off his leash so he can run around. Simon runs up to Will and jumps up on Will to be pet. Will is not expecting this and is knocked over, hitting his head on the concrete.

Will is taken to the hospital for treatment and is released after getting stitches. Will sues Carli for causing the accident. Carli claims Simon did not attack Will and only wanted to be pet. Carli also says Simon never hurt anyone before. Carli says she never knew Santa Monica had a leash law because she saw other people with their dogs off-leash.

Under Santa Monica Municipal Code 4.04.155, “no person having control, charge or custody of any dog shall permit the dog to be upon any public property, unless the dog is in the custody and control of a competent person” and is restrained by a chain or leash six feet or less in length.

Carli was in violation of the local statute require dogs to be on a leash. Carli may be liable for Will's injuries because she was in violation of the statute and her dog caused an injury which the statute was meant to prevent. Carli may be liable under California's negligence per se laws.

3.3. Biking on the Sidewalk Hits a Pedestrian

For pedestrians, bicycles on the sidewalk may seem like a hazard. However, biking on the sidewalk is usually a city-by-city policy. In some parts of California, biking on the sidewalk is a violation, while in other parts of the state, bicycling on the sidewalk is perfectly legal. However, if a cyclist is negligent in causing an accident, the cyclist may be liable for any injuries caused even if it is legal to bike on the sidewalk.

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 a pedestrian, causing an accident, the pedestrian may be able to recover damages by showing:

  • The cyclist was negligent in causing the accident, such as by riding too fast; or
  • If the cyclist was biking with a “willful or wanton disregard for safety,” such as trying to do a jump over a pedestrian's feet, the cyclist may be negligent per se.

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 any injuries cause. Violating a bicycling on the sidewalk statute may be negligence per se in an accident with a pedestrian.

3.4. Groups of People Who Won't Share the Sidewalk

There may be no specific law about the right of way on the sidewalk. However, most of us are courteous enough to stay to the right or make room for people crossing in the other direction. Sometimes, young people trying to act tough or groups of obnoxious people may not yield to let you pass.

If a group of people knock you over while on the sidewalk, they could be liable for any injuries that you suffer. It would be up to a jury to determine negligence. But 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.

3.5. Bus or Truck Too Close to the Sidewalk

Buses and trucks have side mirrors that extend out beyond the edge of the vehicle. 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. A bus pulling up to a bus stop could be going fast enough to knock a pedestrian over, causing head injuries or other serious harm.

Bus drivers are trained in how to handle their vehicle and understand where the mirrors extend. If a bus driver is not paying attention or carelessly causes a pedestrian to be hit by the bus mirror, the pedestrian can file a lawsuit for damages.

When an accident is caused by an employee, such as a bus driver, the pedestrian 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

4. Who is most at risk of a pedestrian knockdown injury?

Anyone who walks down the sidewalk, through a parking lot, or anywhere in public could be at risk of a 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. Even a simple fall can lead to serious head, neck, or back injuries. Common pedestrian injuries could include:

  • Cuts, bruises, and lacerations,
  • Broken bones,
  • Facial trauma,
  • Head, neck, or spinal injury,
  • Concussion,
  • Brain injury, and
  • Internal injuries.6

Anyone can be injured in a pedestrian accident. However, some people may be at greater risk for a serious injury. Risk factors for serious or fatal pedestrian knockdown injuries include:

  • Children
  • Older adults
  • Use of alcohol
  • Urban areas
  • Non-intersections 7

5. What should I do after I get knocked over while walking in California?

If you are knocked over while walking in California, the most important thing to do after is to seek medical attention if needed. If you are injured, call 9-1-1 or ask someone to call for you.

Do not assume that you are ok, even if you don't notice any obvious trauma. Even low impact falls can result in head, neck, or back trauma. These injuries should be evaluated by a doctor.

Similar to individuals involved in a car accident, you may feel okay right after the accident. However, the next day you may wake up unable to get out of bed. Brain and spinal cord injuries could be made worse if you delay going to the doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry after an injury accident.

After a pedestrian injury accident, you should gather as much information as possible, including:

  • The name and contact information of anyone involved;
  • If a vehicle was involved, get 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, it may be a good idea to take photos or video of the accident scene and record the vehicle information. You may also want to take pictures of your injuries.

Do Not Admit Fault

Some people instinctively apologize after an accident. Unfortunately, the person who caused the accident can sometimes use your words of apology against you. In a pedestrian injury lawsuit, the question of who is “at-fault” is something to be decided by a jury. Don't admit fault, especially if are not sure who caused the accident.

You should consider contacting a California personal injury attorney after your pedestrian accident. Do not try and deal with the insurance company on your own. Let your attorney handle questions from the insurance company about who is at fault and how you will be compensated.

6. Who is to blame if I tripped on a broken sidewalk in California?

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. Under California premises liability law, people who own or occupy property are required to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.

Premises liability in California refers to a property owner's duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, which includes sidewalks and areas where pedestrians may be.8 In most cases, in order to establish premises liability, the injured pedestrian must prove:

  1. The defendant owned, occupied, or controlled the property;
  2. The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
  3. The plaintiff was harmed as a result; and
  4. The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.9

If the sidewalk is on city property, the city may be held liable in a slip and fall lawsuit brought by the pedestrian. The town, county, or city may have known about the dangerous sidewalk conditions and failed to do anything about it. The city may have even known about prior injury accidents that harmed other residents.

Example: After a work event, Jay was walking down the street near the Riverside convention center. Jay did not notice a broken piece of concrete on the sidewalk and tripped on the jagged walkway. Jay fell forward, breaking his wrist as he tried to brace for the fall. Jay had to miss work for a day and was charged thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Jay files a lawsuit against the City of Riverside. Jay's lawyer shows that multiple complaints were submitted to the city about that area of sidewalk because of the poor condition of the concrete. A few months earlier, another pedestrian fell and was injured in the area and filed a claim against the city.

Because the city was aware of the hazard and failed to fix the broken sidewalk, the city may be liable for Jay's damages, including his medical bills and lost wages.

7. What damages are available in a California pedestrian knockdown accident lawsuit?

The damages available after a pedestrian knockdown accident may depend on the extent of the injuries and whether the victim was injured or died as a result of the accident.

In most pedestrian injury accidents, the injured pedestrian can sue for compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are intended to put the injured person back into the same position they would have been if the accident hadn't occurred. This includes:

  • Medical and hospital bills,
  • Counseling,
  • Occupational and physical therapy,
  • Lost earnings and wages,
  • Lost earning capacity,
  • Loss of consortium (of a spouse or registered domestic partner),10
  • Loss of limb,
  • Scarring or disfigurement, and
  • Pain and suffering.

“Loss of consortium” is the loss of the companionship, support, and intimacy between spouses or domestic partners. Damages for a loss of consortium claim allow the plaintiff to recover damages to compensate the spouse or partner for the loss of companionship and intimate relations.

In some cases, the injured pedestrian might be able to sue for punitive damages in California. Punitive damages are rare in personal injury cases in California. In order to get punitive damages, the injured pedestrian generally has to show the defendant acted with extreme or outrageous conduct. In a pedestrian knockdown accident, they may involve a driver intentionally trying to hit a pedestrian.11

Example: Blake's car broke down in on PCH during rush hour. There is a long traffic jam as Blake is trying to get his car out of the lane. Joe is in a hurry and annoyed that Blake broke down. Joe speeds out of his lane, into oncoming traffic to pass the disabled car. Joe miscalculates the amount of time he has to pass the car and swerves, hitting Blake.

Joe panics because he hit someone and speeds off. Blake has serious injuries from getting hit and dragged by Joe's car. Joe is later arrested for felony hit and run with injury. Joe takes a plea deal to avoid jail time and is charged with reckless driving. Blake files a personal injury lawsuit against Joe.

Blake may be able to sue for his medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other compensatory damages caused by the accident. However, because Joe intentionally acted with a disregard of Blake's life, Blake may also be able to sue for punitive damages to punish Joe for his reckless driving.

8. What if the other person blames me for my fall?

The driver may blame the pedestrian for the injury accident. A driver may claim that because the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk, it was the pedestrian's fault that he or she got hit. However, just because a pedestrian is not in the crosswalk does not mean the driver isn't negligent. Pedestrians, like drivers or cyclists, have a duty to use due care for their own safety. 12

After an accident, each side may blame the other for causing the accident. If a driver blames you for the accident, do not admit fault. Fault is not always very clear, especially if you don't know exactly what went on. Admitting that you might have caused the accident could mean you will have to pay for your own medical expenses and even have to pay for the driver's damages.

Under California's “comparative fault” law, you can still recover damages if you were partly at fault for the accident. If more than one party shares in the fault for an accident, the jury can apportion fault and damages. This means that an injured pedestrian may have their damages reduced based on their own level of fault.

Example: George runs out between two parked cars before looking for cars coming. Jerry is driving and is about to hit George. Jerry tries to hit the brakes. But some fast food wrappers on the floor of his car get in the way and he slows down but still knocks George over. George is injured and has to get medical treatment.

George files a lawsuit for damages based on his $10,000 medical bills for his injuries. The jury determines George is 40% at fault for the accident because he ran out in the road without looking for cars. The jury finds Jerry is 60% at fault because he did not clean up the floor of his car which made it so he couldn't break in time. Based on the comparative fault, the jury may award George $6000 based on Jerry's 60% fault in the accident.

9. Who can sue if my child or spouse was killed in a pedestrian accident?

In the most serious pedestrian accidents, the victim can suffer fatal injuries. The victim who passed away can't file a lawsuit. However, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California.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 he or she had survived; and
  • Compensation for the loss of companionship and support for the surviving family members.

Only certain people can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Surviving family members who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • A spouse;
  • A domestic partner;
  • Children;
  • 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.

A "survival" cause of action is similar to a wrongful death lawsuit. Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30, a survival cause of action is brought on behalf of the victim's estate. In a wrongful death case, the family files for damages. In a survival action, the estate sues for damages for the losses suffered by the deceased victim from the wrongful act.14

10. How common are pedestrian accidents in California?

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), from 2007 to 2013, pedestrian fatality rates in California increased 11% from 1.8 deaths per 100,000 to 2.0 fatal pedestrian accidents per 100,000 California residents. In 2013, there were more than 225,000 total pedestrian injuries.15

California has the highest number of fatal pedestrian accidents in the country. Los Angeles has the second highest number of fatal pedestrian accidents of all U.S. cities.

Los Angeles has the second highest number of pedestrian fatalities, following only New York City. In 2015, 85 pedestrians were killed in Los Angeles alone.16

Over 1/5th of all deaths in traffic accidents between 2007 and 2013 were pedestrians. Almost 1/3rd of all children killed in traffic accidents during that time were pedestrians. One-third of all pedestrian accident deaths during that time involved adults 65 years of age and older.17

California has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities of any state in the country. In 2014, almost 700 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in California, out of about 4,700 pedestrian deaths nationwide.18

Call us for help.

For questions about pedestrian accident injury lawsuits in California or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California car accident attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Please see our page on pedestrian knockdown lawsuits in Nevada for cases in Nevada. 

We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

Legal References:

  1. See, e.g., 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.”)
  2. 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.”)
  3. California Civil Code section 1714(a), see footnote 1 above.
  4. 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.”)
  5. 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.”)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”)
  8. California Civil Code section 1714(a), see footnote 1 above.
  9. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements.
  10. California Family Code 297.5 gives registered domestic partners the same legal rights and remedies as spouses.
  11. California Civil Code § 3294
  12. 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.”)
  13. 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.”)
  14. Code of Civil Procedure 377.30
  15. California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Traffic Safety Reports: Pedestrian Injuries in California 2007-2013, June 2017.
  16. Governors Highway Safety Association. Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety.
  17. California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Traffic Safety Reports: Pedestrian Injuries in California 2007-2013, June 2017, see footnote 15 above.
  18. Governors Highway Safety Association. Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety, see footnote 16 above.

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