Crosswalks are a great invention. There are many case studies that show us that introducing a crosswalk can be a quick and simple way to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents that occur on a particular corner.
But, unfortunately, a reduction in pedestrian accidents is not the same as eliminating pedestrian accidents altogether. Crosswalks may help drivers to notice and avoid hitting pedestrians but accidents of this nature still occur. That’s why we’re going to focus on what happens when a pedestrian is struck at a crosswalk in California.
To do so, we’re going to first have to look at the laws California has relating to crosswalks. These will make it much easier to show negligence on the behalf of the driver later on. Then we’ll look at when a pedestrian may be liable for a crash, as well as what you should do if you are in an accident while crossing at a crosswalk.
How Does California’s Crosswalk Laws Work?
There are actually a number of laws that are important for determining how crosswalks should function, as well as more general laws about pedestrians. Laws like California Vehicle Code 21954, which designates how a pedestrian should cross the street when outside of a crosswalk, or VC 21966, which focuses on keeping pedestrians out of the bike lane.
But of these various laws, the one that will be the most important to our discussion today is VC 21950. This helpful California Vehicle Code provides us with invaluable information about how pedestrians should cross at a crosswalk and how motorists should behave.
But before we dig into that, we should take a moment to ensure that we’re on the same page about what both a crosswalk and a pedestrian are. This may seem straightforward, but the term pedestrian implies somebody walking and this isn’t actually the case.
A pedestrian can be somebody that is walking. But a person in a wheelchair would also be considered a pedestrian. Similarly, those who are riding something that is propelled by their own efforts are considered to be pedestrians. Those riding skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, skis, and ice skates would all be considered pedestrians. However, despite being propelled by the individual’s own efforts, a person on a bicycle does not count as a pedestrian. There are separate laws regarding cyclists.
Most people consider crosswalks to specifically be where white lines are painted to indicate pedestrian crossing. But this is only half of the definition. When two roads meet at roughly a right angle, the sidewalks are considered to become crosswalks extending over the road. So it’s important to remember, not all crosswalks are marked.
So what VC 21950 informs is that motorists are required to yield to pedestrians who are using a crosswalk to cross the street. A pedestrian will always have the right of way, so cars are required to yield to them and never the other way around. This creates a legal duty for motorists to be extremely careful around pedestrians.
Could a Pedestrian Be Liable for a Crash?
It’s important to note that a pedestrian may be liable for a crash depending on their actions, even when that crash occurs at a crosswalk. A subsection of VC 21950 explicitly makes it clear that pedestrians have a legal duty when crossing the street as well.
The law prohibits pedestrians from suddenly leaving the curb. This is a pretty straightforward safety precaution and it can be tied into the classic lesson we all learned to “look both ways before crossing the street.” Pedestrians are also not supposed to walk or run into the immediate path of an oncoming vehicle, nor are they supposed to unnecessarily delay traffic while crossing.
Yet both pedestrians and motorists have a duty to uphold. So what happens if both a pedestrian and a motorist fail in their duty of care, resulting in an accident?
In that case, it becomes an issue of comparative fault. Let’s use an example. A motorist is driving at speed but their attention isn’t fully on the road. Meanwhile, a pedestrian who didn’t look both ways suddenly steps out to cross the street at a crosswalk. The motorist sees them a little too late and slams on the brakes but it wasn’t enough to avoid an accident.
In this situation, both parties may have some degree of the blame. So the question of compensation is going to be dependent upon determining how much blame each party had for the accident. The pedestrian takes the motorist to court for damages and the court finds that the pedestrian shares 30% of the blame. This means when it comes time to award the $10,000 the pedestrian is asking for, it will be reduced by 30%. Therefore, the pedestrian may be able to recover $7,000.
What Should I Do If I’m Injured at a Crosswalk in California?
If you are injured while crossing the street at a crosswalk, the first thing you need to do is seek medical attention. If you are fine, then there probably aren’t damages to be recovered. But if you aren’t, then medical attention addressing any current risk to your health and it creates a record of your injury.
From there, you’ll want to speak to an experienced attorney that will be able to help you with a lawsuit to recover damages for the injuries that you suffered. An investigation will be required, evidence will be discovered, and together you and your attorney will build a case.
Should I Speak to an Attorney Now?
If you’ve been hit by a car while crossing at a crosswalk in California then you should speak to an attorney immediately. There is a limit on how much time can pass before you press a lawsuit, but you’ll want plenty of time to investigate. This means it’s better to speak to an experienced attorney now, explain the details of your unique situation, and see what advice they have on the steps you could take going forward following your crosswalk accident.