When a pedestrian is knocked down by a vehicle, the outcome is most likely to be a serious injury or death. In most cases, the driver is usually at fault because generally speaking, pedestrians should have the right-of-way, even though this is not always the case.
Vehicle Code 21950 explains that drivers should be more careful when close to a pedestrian crosswalk and to yield the right-of-way to the pedestrians. Still, there are some cases when a pedestrian is also to blame. What matters is, as a pedestrian you should know your legal options when involved in an accident. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we are well-versed with California personal injury laws; thus, we can fight strategically to uphold your rights and possibly ensure that you are fully compensated for any loss or injuries. We are available to help Los Angeles residents that need legal representation on pedestrian accident injuries.
An Overview of California’s Right-of-Way Law for Pedestrians
If you are a pedestrian, you should know the rights you have when you’re using the road so that when an accident happens, the blame does not fall entirely on you. As stated earlier, VC 21950 requires that if you are crossing the road and you are within a marked or an unmarked crosswalk, then the driver should yield the right-of-way to you.
Also, you should not suddenly leave a safe place and run or walk into the route of an oncoming vehicle that is close enough to be involved in an accident. This regulation is somehow ambiguous because it is not clear what constitutes an immediate accident and how far a vehicle should be for you to cross. Due to this ambiguity, insurance companies find an avenue to contest personal injury claims for pedestrian accidents.
Additionally, it is illegal for a pedestrian to walk on the street without using a crosswalk, according to VC 21954. The Code requires that if you are walking at a place on a roadway which is not within a marked or unmarked crosswalk, then you have to yield the right-of-way to any vehicle on that roadway that is close enough to be involved in an immediate accident. This means that pedestrians don’t always get to have the right-of-way. They should yield this right when they are crossing in a zone that is outside a crosswalk.
It is worth noting that even if you were not crossing the roadway at a crosswalk, the blame will not entirely fall on you in case of an accident. The driver also carries part of the blame because the law dictates that every driver should bear the duty to be extremely careful about the safety of the pedestrians. This implies that even if a pedestrian is illegally crossing a street and an approaching vehicle has ample time to stop or slow down, the driver is obligated to do so.
What Could Cause a Pedestrian Accident?
Most of the time, pedestrian accidents happen due to a driver’s negligence. This doesn’t mean that the victim is completely not-at-fault as we’ll see below. Drivers can cause pedestrian accidents through the following ways;
Turning left without looking out to see if there is an approaching pedestrian
When driving under the influence
Failure to yield the right-of-way at crosswalks
Driving when sleepy or tired
Driving when distracted e.g. while texting, calling or eating
Running a stop sign or a red signal
Driving on the walkway in violation of VC 21663
Pedestrian accidents are not only caused by negligent drivers. Other common contributing factors include, among others;
Bikes, joggers or runners on the walkway who could knock down the pedestrian
Other pedestrians who are distracted e.g. by concentrating on their phones
Tripping on a broken walkway
Crowded street festivals or fairs
Groups of pedestrians who won’t give way to other pedestrians on a sidewalk
Vehicles with big side mirrors which extend to the sidewalk
Common Injuries You Can Sustain in a Pedestrian Accident
Even if you get hit by a slow-moving vehicle, chances are that you will still sustain a serious injury. That is why most surviving victims of pedestrian accidents sustain serious disastrous injuries. Some of the injuries you can suffer include;
Bone fractures. When a vehicle hits you, you will most likely feel the impact on the pelvis and thighs. This could result in several bone fractures. Depending on how severe the injury is, fractured bones could take longer to heal. You may also not be capable of doing normal activities or reporting to your place of work.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). You may sustain brain injuries because you have nothing that will protect you when you hit the ground. Some brain injuries are temporary whereas others are permanent, which could make your normal functioning change completely. TBI often affect your mental and physical health.
Internal body organ damage. Pedestrian accidents involve a vehicle and the human body. This means the chance that your internal organs will be damaged due to the force from the car is higher. This could then lead to internal bleeding and even death if the injuries are not treated immediately.
Head injuries and concussions. When you get hit, the force is usually very strong that you can suffer a severe head injury or a concussion. The vehicle may directly hit your head or throw you over to hit an object when you land.
Amputation injuries. In the event that you suffer fractured bones, it may lead to serious blood vessels and tissue damage that can’t be treated, thus, resulting in limb amputation. This could occur at the accident scene or later when the doctors have assessed the damage and see no possibility of successfully treating the injury.
Recuperating from these injuries could take a long time and there are chances that you may be permanently disabled. In addition to suffering physical injuries, you may suffer psychological trauma. This hinders the ability to carry out normal life duties and to enjoy life. Save for the pain, these injuries also come with high medical expenses that may be a burden for you to cater for. Thus, it is only fair that if the driver or a third party was negligent, they should take full responsibility. With the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you may be able to get full compensation for your injuries.
Who is to Blame for a Pedestrian Accident?
Before you decide on filing a lawsuit, you should first consider the party that was at fault in the accident. Three parties are mainly to be blamed for this type of accident. They include;
Many pedestrian accidents happen because the driver was negligent or inattentive. Under these circumstances, the driver is held responsible for any injury or loss that may occur. Even though you might be at fault to some degree, the driver is still responsible. Apart from filing a civil lawsuit against such drivers, they can also be criminally charged with different counts of negligence and wrongful death in case the pedestrian passes on.
As a pedestrian, it is your duty to be responsible when using a roadway. Ensure you follow pedestrian laws and traffic rules. For instance, you should use walk lights and crosswalks. You should also avoid places with forbidden pedestrian traffic like along the highways. Failure to do this may hold you liable to the accident you get involved in. Also, you may be responsible if you were intoxicated or were distracted.
Sometimes it is neither the driver’s nor the pedestrian’s fault that the accident happened. Nature aspects like weather also play a role. For instance, in case of bad weather, visibility is reduced which means the driver may not notice the pedestrian on time to stop the vehicle. We also have some cases where neither the driver, pedestrian nor nature are liable for the accident, but a third party is. For example, a poorly constructed sidewalk may cause a trip and fall accident for the pedestrian. In this case, you can file a lawsuit against the party responsible for the construction of the sidewalk.
What to do after a Pedestrian Accident
If you have been hit by a vehicle, the most significant step you should take is to see a doctor. If you are seriously injured, you should call 911 or request any nearby person to do it for you. Seeing a doctor is important even if you seem okay because you may have internal injuries. As we stated earlier, even the least of impact falls may cause neck, back or head trauma. It is therefore recommended that a doctor checks you. Just like victims of car accidents, you may seem okay immediately after the accident but after some time the pain will escalate. Injuries of the spinal cord and the brain could worsen if you don’t seek medical attention immediately.
The other thing you should do is gather information. You should either record or note down as much info as you can. Among what you should take note of include the name of the driver, contact information, his/her license, insurance details, license plate number of the vehicle involved and contact details of witnesses if any. You can also take photos or record videos of the scene of the accident and vehicle details using your mobile phone. Also, it is a good idea to take photos of any injury you might have suffered. If you are unable to do all these due to the severity of the injuries, you can ask someone else to do it for you.
Additionally, you should not try to apologize to the other party after the accident because the person may use the apology words against you. Don’t also talk about what events led to the accident or utter anything unnecessary. Anything you say may give the other person an avenue to build a strong case against you. The best thing to do is contact your attorney who will tell you what to do.
In personal injury cases, it is up to the court to decide who was at fault. Therefore, you should not admit fault particularly if you are not certain whose fault it was.
Recovering Damages in Pedestrian Accidents
Victims of pedestrian accidents can file a lawsuit against the party involved so that they compensate them for all the harm they caused. We have two categories of damages: non-economic and economic damages. Economic damages include current and future medical expenses, rehabilitation expenses and current and future lost wages. Non-economic damages are more of the unseen, individual costs you suffered, for example, emotional distress, inability to enjoy life, and the pain & suffering. Non-economic damages cannot be quantified but their impact is compensated for through money.
You have to be able to prove a driver’s negligence or another party’s fault for you to increase the chances of being compensated. You are required to show that;
The liable party owed you the legal responsibility of being careful
The liable party breached that responsibility by being negligent
It was the negligence of the liable party that led to your accident
Many of the cases involving personal injuries entail negotiations between the victim and the insurance provider. The liable party is required to compensate you for the injury costs and any losses you incurred through their insurance coverage. However, the insurance provider may try to limit your claim so that they only have to pay less the amount. Even though they present themselves as being concerned, their main objective is usually to use strategies that will ensure your payout is reduced.
Thus, in case you want full compensation for your loss, you should make sure you involve your attorney in these negotiations. A professional attorney would know what tactics to use when negotiating with the insurance company. Avoid talking directly with the insurance company or agreeing to any deal they might propose in the absence of your attorney.
The Statute of Limitations
There is a timeframe for any victim of a personal injury to file for a compensation claim. The statute of limitations differs across cases depending on the type of personal injury. The timeframe for filing a claim after a pedestrian accident is two years. Filing it after the period elapses will bar you from filing a claim to recover damages for your injuries regardless of how severe they are. In situations where a government or city agency was at fault, the statute of limitations is six months.
Can You File a Lawsuit in a Hit and Run Pedestrian Accident?
There are some cases where a driver hits a pedestrian then flees the scene of the accident. Such a driver violates VC 20002 of California law. He or she can face criminal charges which are usually punishable by serving a maximum of 6 months sentence in county jail or a maximum fine of $1,000. If the driver is caught, you can file a damages claim where they will bear the responsibility of paying for your injury costs. If the driver is not caught or doesn’t have insurance, you may still be compensated from your own insurance plan.
What Do You Do if a Pedestrian Accident Resulted in a Wrongful Death?
Some pedestrian accidents may lead to the demise of your family member or relative. Since the victim is no more, you can file a wrongful death claim to hold the party that was at fault responsible for the loss. Family members allowed to file the lawsuit include children, a domestic partner or the spouse of the deceased. Any member of the family that can legally inherit the deceased property can also file the suit. The damages you can recover include;
Loss of intimacy or companionship
Lost future wages
Loss of monetary support
Similar to a wrongful death claim is a survival cause of action lawsuit. This is filed by the estate of the deceased. For the wrongful death lawsuit, it is the family members that file for compensation while in a survival action lawsuit, the estate files for damages due to the loss suffered by the dead victim as a result of the wrongful action.
In other pedestrian accident cases, the victim can sue for punitive damages. However, these are rare in California. For you to get punitive compensation, you must prove that the liable party acted with outrageous or extreme conduct, for instance, the party intentionally knocked you down.
Finding an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
A pedestrian accident may leave you with injuries that could change your life temporarily or forever. Thus, seeking compensation is a good step to ensure that the responsible party pays for the involuntary change of life you are undergoing. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, our job is to ensure that the compensation you get is what you deserve. If you are in Los Angeles and have been involved in a pedestrian accident or have lost your loved one due to the accident, feel free to contact our Los Angeles injury lawyer at 424-231-2013. Our attorneys have legal expertise in California personal injury law and will work with utmost dedication try and get a favorable outcome for your lawsuit.