How Common Are Pedestrian Accidents in California?

Pedestrian accidents are quite common. California has the highest number of fatal pedestrian accidents in the United States, and Los Angeles has the second-highest number of fatal pedestrian accidents of all U.S. cities. According to the Governors Highway and Safety Association, 85 pedestrians were killed in Los Angeles in 2015. According to a report published by the California Department of Public Health, 20% of all traffic accident deaths between 2007 and 2013 involved pedestrians, and almost one-third of all children killed in traffic accidents during those years were pedestrians. One-third of all pedestrian accident deaths during that time involved adults 65 years of age and older. In 2014, almost 700 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in California, out of about 4,700 pedestrian deaths nationwide. According to the CDPH, pedestrian fatality rates in California increased 11% between 2007 and 2013 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.

Walking in a Crosswalk

Liability of a motor vehicle driver who strikes a pedestrian will often turn on whether the pedestrian was walking in a marked or “unmarked” crosswalk. California Vehicle Code Sec. 21950 VC, entitled “Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties,” provides that “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.”

We handled a classic case involving a driver who failed to yield to a pedestrian and killed the pedestrian in the middle of a crosswalk. An elderly gentleman was walking on his way to Catholic mass, within a marked crosswalk, on a WALK sign, when another driver failed to yield and struck the pedestrian with his car, causing the pedestrian to strike the pavement. We obtained a $7,000,000 judgment against the driver in that case. Make sure you retain the best pedestrian accident lawyer in your area.

Can I Still Sue if I was Not Walking in a Crosswalk?

If the pedestrian is walking on a WALK sign in a marked crosswalk, the case is cut-and-dry. But what if you were not walking at a crosswalk? California Vehicle Code Section 21950 VC, provides that a pedestrian is not relieved “…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.”  So you cannot just dart out into the street in front of a car and expect that the driver will be responsible for your injuries. However, even though you have a duty of care as a pedestrian, there are scenarios where both the pedestrian and the motor vehicle operator were at fault. If you are a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle crossing a road at a point other than a crosswalk, you should still consult an experienced pedestrian accident attorney. That is because drivers still have a duty to make sure they are operating their vehicle safely, by not texting while driving, by not driving drunk, by driving defensively, and by keeping a careful lookout. If the driver fails in any of those duties, he or she can be liable. Remember that even if you are partially responsible for your own accident, you can still recover damages in California if the other party was negligent. We once handled a case in which a karate instructor ran across a road to get to his parked car, when he was hit by a woman speeding down the road. We were able to prove that the woman was negligent in speeding and failing to keep a careful lookout. While the jury attributed some fault to the karate instructor for crossing at a point other than a crosswalk, they nevertheless determined that the woman driving the car was mostly at fault for the accident.

Other Types of Pedestrian Injuries

And cars are not the only thing that can strike a pedestrian walking down a sidewalk. Pedestrians can be hit by unleashed animals, cyclists, and even other pedestrians who are not paying attention. You can also recover if you are injured due to a fall from a defect in the sidewalk, such as a missing piece of concrete or a loose manhole cover.

What Damages are Available in a Pedestrian Accident Case?

If the pedestrian is killed in the accident, then the governing law would be California’s wrongful death and survival statutes. See our Tab called “Wrongful Death” for an explanation.

If the pedestrian is injured, then the pedestrian can sue for compensatory damages. These type of damages are designed to compensate the injured person for their injuries and losses, and include:

  • Reimbursement of medical and hospital bills
  • Counseling
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Lost earnings and wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of limb
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Interference with enjoyment of life

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. Punitive damages are an additional amount of money designed to punish the Defendant and deter the Defendant and others like the Defendant from engaging in similar reprehensible behavior in the future.

If you have a case in California or near any of the following cities & communities, we can help. Call us now for a FREE, no-obligation case review

Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Coto de Caza, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, La Palma, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Las Flores, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, North Tustin, Orange, Orange County, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, Rossmoor, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda