If you or someone you love has been seriously injured as a pedestrian walking or biking on or near a Los Angeles public road (or elsewhere), it is important you know your rights and know how to pursue full compensation for all losses you have sustained.
At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we understand California laws governing pedestrians and pedestrian accidents. We have deep experience in handling all manner of pedestrian injury cases in local L.A. courts, and we will fight tenaciously and wisely in pursuit of your rightful injury claim.
Don't just accept the first low-ball, take it or leave it offer from an insurance company and sign away your right to seek any further compensation. And don't wait till the two-year statute of limitations on California personal injury and wrongful death claims expires.
We know how to win you the fullest possible compensation and will give you a free consultation anytime 24/7 if you call us at 424-231-2013.
Most Common Causes of Los Angeles Pedestrian Injuries
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), around five thousand pedestrian fatalities occur every year in car accidents. And over 75,000 pedestrians are injured by being struck by a motor vehicle.
The main, but not by any means only, place where these vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents occur is at crosswalks, where foot traffic potentially intermingles with vehicle traffic. When accidents also occur when pedestrians cross at non-crosswalk locations.
Frequently, the accident occurs due to the driver not seeing the pedestrian in time, perhaps, because he or she was distracted by a cell phone or by talking to someone else in the car. It could also be the driver was simply traveling too fast or did not apply their brakes early enough.
But there are other common pedestrian accidents besides those involving motor vehicles. For example, it may be that a property owner or business owner allowed unsafe conditions to persist on their premises, which then led to a serious trip and fall or slip and fall accident.
It could also be that public sidewalks were poorly maintained, a parking lot where the pedestrian walked was dangerously deteriorated, or a construction site was filled with debris, upward pointing nail spikes, or improperly stored heavy equipment.
Types of Pedestrian Accidents
While we've already covered some of this information above, to go into more detail, here is additional information on some of the leading causes and types of pedestrian accidents:
- Driver Error: A vehicle driver's negligent actions can cause serious injury to nearby pedestrians. He/she may not come to a complete stop at an intersection or not stop at the crosswalk line. Drivers may speed or engage in reckless driving, drive distracted, make an illegal U-turn, or try to illegally pass a stopped school bus. All of this constitutes negligence on the part of the driver.
- Drinking and Driving: One of the biggest reasons why more pedestrian accidents occur on weekends and late at night is because this is the time when drunk driving typically occurs. Large numbers of pedestrian accidents and fatalities occur due to driving under the influence or alcohol or drugs or because pedestrians themselves were intoxicated.
- Faulty or Absent Infrastructure: When traffic lights fail to work properly or crosswalks are unmarked or badly faded, the risk of serious injury to pedestrians is greatly increased.
- Left Hand Turns: When cars are waiting to make a left turn at an intersection, the driver often is so focused on watching vehicle traffic and waiting for his chance to turn that he fails to see a pedestrian. And pedestrians are often so focused on moving straight ahead that they fail to think that car might turn left and right into them.
- Hard to See Pedestrians: At night, if pedestrians wear dark colored clothing or jackets, it makes it very difficult for drivers to detect them. This is especially so if the person on foot or on bike is moving quickly and suddenly shows up in an unexpected location.
- Hard to Hear Vehicles: The quieter engines of modern hybrid cars may make drivers feel more comfortable, but the fact is, such cars are 40% more likely to hit a pedestrian. Intersections in low-speed-limit residential areas have especially high pedestrian accident rates with quiet cars.
- Poor Visibility and Foul Weather: When the sky turns dark and wind, rain, hail, or other harsh weather conditions exist, pedestrians out and about are put at greater risk. Drivers struggling to navigate these more difficult conditions often fail to see pedestrians and react in time.
Proving Negligence in California
In order to recover any damages at all in a pedestrian-vehicle accident case, the injured party must show that the driver was negligent or committed a traffic violation.
If the driver broke a traffic regulation, such as by not yielding to a pedestrian in the crosswalk or speeding or running a red light, it is considered "negligence per se." This means that there is a presumption that the driver was negligent and caused the injury. While the defense can attempt a rebuttal of that presumption, the plaintiff has the clear advantage legally.
The same principle can work the other way as well. For example, if a pedestrian jaywalked out into the road, the driver has a presumption of "negligence per se" in his/her favor. But, the injured pedestrian can still argue that some of the fault rested with the driver and collect a claim reduced only by the percentage of fault the court ascribes to him/her.
Thus, if you are considered to be 25% at fault for your own injury and the total damages are $100,000, you could only collect up to $75,000. This is called a "pure comparative fault rule."
In the case of a pedestrian injured on someone else's property due to dangerous conditions, it depends on whether an "unreasonable risk" existed, if the property owner was aware of the danger, and if the property owner delayed to correct it in a timely manner.
If the accident took place on a private property, like a driveway or walkway, the owner is liable. But if it occurred on a public sidewalk or road, the city or state will be liable. One exception is that sometimes a business can be liable for accidents occurring on public sidewalks used almost exclusively by their own customers.
The above covers some special rules related to negligence, but you also need to know the legal definition of negligence in California. Negligence is an act or omission that a reasonable person would avoid based on foreseeable risks such course of action would pose to others.
A pedestrian injured in an accident must prove that:
- The defendant had a legal obligation to perform certain duties to protect the safety of the injured party.
- The defendant did not carry out said duties, whether by act or omission.
- The negligent act of the defendant was the direct cause of the accident and injury.
Note that there are a number of different parties who may be responsible for your injury. It may be there are multiple negligent parties to the very same injury, in fact. These can include:
- The driver of a vehicle that hit the plaintiff.
- The owner of a property where the plaintiff was injured.
- A government entity that failed to properly maintain public infrastructure.
- A manufacturer of auto parts or bicycles, if defective or dangerous products contributed to the accident.
- The pedestrian himself, if he was negligent to follow proper safety precautions.
Exercising "Reasonable Care"
Drivers or motor vehicles and pedestrians (on foot or riding a bike) both have a legal obligation to exercise "reasonable care" to protect themselves and others from harm.
Reasonable Care as to Pedestrians
When you walk on public sidewalks, use public crosswalks, or ride your bicycle in a bike lane, you must take care to protect yourself from any harm foreseeable. The level of caution exercised must be proportional to the kind and degree of danger that exists.
If a pedestrian jumps out in front of an oncoming vehicle, jaywalks when crossing points are clearly marked, weaves in and around traffic on foot or on a bike, or does not wait for the WALK light at a crosswalk, he/she has failed to exercise reasonable care. In such cases, contributory negligence, at least, exists. A claim for damages would be lessened, and in extreme cases, could be eliminated.
Reasonable Care as to Drivers
A driver is required to take care for the safety of pedestrians anywhere near where he or she is driving. Speeding, distracted driving, not yielding to pedestrians when required to do so, running red lights or stop signs, not using a turn signal, driving too fast for conditions, or driving while intoxicated with drugs/alcohol all constitute acts of driver negligence and a failure to exercise reasonable care.
Besides the general duty of care, drivers also have a "special duty of care" when it comes to small children. If a driver sees children on a sidewalk or in a yard he is about drive past, he must take great caution. If by a playground, school, or other area where children are likely to be present, he must also exercise that extra degree of care to avoid an accident. Understanding that children under 10 are less visible than others and more likely to wander out into the road should put every driver on high alert.
Crosswalks and Jaywalking
The intersection of public walkways and public roadways is impossible to avoid, other than by certain pedestrian bridges occasionally used in big cities. And yet, the intermixing of vehicle and foot traffic is inherently dangerous.
Thus, the rules and city ordinances governing crosswalks are of great importance. City governments have a duty to clearly mark all crosswalks and to keep cross signals functional. Pedestrians have a duty to utilize these safety devices and not interfere with the flow of traffic. Crosswalk signals must be used in all business districts, while cross lanes must be marked in all residential zones (though signals are not required).
While crossing the street, pedestrians are required to stay to the right side of the crosswalk lane, so people can move from both directions in an organized manner. If no cross lanes or signals exist, you must cross at intersection curbs at right angles.
A special case exists, in some California cities, for the blind or lame. They are sometimes allowed to carry canes with small stop signs attached to them, and traffic must stop when that person crosses the road and shows the cane-and-stop-sign.
Be aware the "jaywalking" is against the law in California. You are only allowed the right of way as a pedestrian at designated crosswalks or at right angles where crosswalks "would be" if they were present. Otherwise, vehicle traffic has the right of way and you are required to stop and wait for a same time/place to cross.
Nonetheless, if a pedestrian is already in a crosswalk, even when the WALK signal is not on, drivers must still yield to them. And it is never "allowed" to run into a pedestrian in the street when reasonable actions could have prevented it, even if that pedestrian was jaywalking.
If you have been injured as a pedestrian, don't assume because you jaywalked or because the defendant wishes to assign some or all blame to you that you cannot win your claim. Be diligent to gather names and numbers of possible witnesses in your favor and be quick to call your attorney.
Contact Us Today For Help
At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we stand ready, willing, and able to handle your pedestrian injury case and win you the maximum compensation.
Our deep legal expertise in California personal injury law and our undying commitment to the best interests of each and every client set us a step above the competition — and we have a long track record to back that claim up.
To learn more or to avail yourself of a free consultation, call us anytime 24/7/365 at 424-231-2013.