Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way in California?

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While car accidents are common in California and pose a serious risk to those on the road, traffic accidents involving pedestrians can be particularly catastrophic. In fact, pedestrian deaths account for a quarter of all traffic fatalities in the state.

Oftentimes, traffic accidents involving pedestrians are the result of misconceptions over who has the right-of-way at any given time.

While there is a commonly held belief that pedestrians always have the right-of-way, this isn’t the case. The fact is that pedestrians have a responsibility to follow traffic laws at intersections and along roadways just like motorists do, and in some cases, a pedestrian may even be held liable for a traffic accident resulting from their negligent actions.

If you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian traffic accident and you believe that another party may be liable for your injuries, contact a California pedestrian accident attorney at AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers to protect your right to compensation

California Pedestrian Traffic Laws

There is a common misconception that pedestrians always have the right-of-way and drivers must always yield to them, however, this isn’t the case. According to California Vehicle Code § 21950, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk, or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Drivers also have a duty to exercise care for the safety of pedestrians and should watch out for people walking along the roadway or crossing the street and reduce their speed as necessary to avoid an accident.

However, pedestrians still have a duty of care to ensure their own safety. If they suddenly leave a curb and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, they may be considered negligent if an accident occurs.

Additionally, California Vehicle Code § 21954 specifies that pedestrians trying to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right-of-way to vehicles on the road near enough to them to constitute an immediate hazard. This means that while pedestrians do have the right-of-way at crosswalks and intersections, a pedestrian who crosses the middle of the road directly in front of traffic may be deemed negligent.

Pedestrians in California are also prohibited from crossing the road at a traffic signal if the opposite direction has a green light and/or if the “do not walk” sign is on.

Determining fault in pedestrian traffic accidents isn’t always as obvious as one might think, as a pedestrian may share partial or full liability if they crossed a roadway in a way that could constitute an immediate hazard.

However, the driver of the vehicle may still be found partially or fully at fault if the pedestrian had the right-of-way or if they had enough time to notice a pedestrian illegally crossing the street and failed to slow down or stop.

Do Blind Pedestrians Always Have The Right-of-Way?

Of course, there is an exception where a pedestrian may always have the right-of-way, as blind pedestrians are given more protection under the law than other pedestrians.

In California, totally or partially blind pedestrians who have a white cane or a guide dog have the right-of-way, and drivers approaching these pedestrians must take all necessary precautions (within reason) to keep them safe and avoid hitting them.

Failing to yield the right-of-way to a blind pedestrian is a misdemeanor in California and can result in a driver facing up to six months in county jail and/or a fine between $500 and $1,000.

Comparative Negligence in Pedestrian Traffic Accidents

If a pedestrian did not have the right-of-way when they walked in front of traffic, they may be found responsible for the resulting accident. However, oftentimes when a pedestrian causes an accident, this results in a shared fault accident where both the pedestrian and the driver are found partially responsible under California’s comparative negligence laws. This is often the case if the driver had enough time to slow down after the pedestrian steps into traffic.

California uses comparative negligence when determining fault following an accident. Under comparative fault, each party can be assigned a percentage of the blame for an accident, and they would then be responsible for a percentage of the damages and injuries resulting from the accident.

Consult An Experienced Pedestrian Injury Attorney in California

Determining liability after a pedestrian traffic accident in California can be complex, as the driver, the pedestrian, or even both parties may be found liable for the accident. This is why it is so important that you work with an experienced personal injury attorney if you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian traffic accident and you believe that another party’s negligence is to blame.

A professional at AttorneyJeff can assess the facts of the case and help you collect evidence proving that the other party’s negligence was at least partially responsible for your injuries.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about pedestrian traffic laws in California as well as to find out if you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries following a pedestrian traffic accident.

Pedestrian Accident FAQs

Who is considered a pedestrian in California?

Under the California Vehicle Code, a pedestrian is anyone who is walking on a street, riding a mobility device, or riding a device propelled by their own efforts (other than a bicycle) such as a skateboard, roller blades, a non-electric scooter, or a wheelchair. Those riding a bike, electric scooter, or hoverboard are not considered a pedestrian by California law and must follow a separate set of rules.

Do drivers have to wait for a pedestrian to completely cross a street?

As long as a pedestrian is safely out of the way of a driver’s path, a vehicle can start driving again.

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