Many Californians, particularly in urban areas, choose to walk or ride their bikes in lieu of driving to their destination. Commuting by foot or bike can save money, provide convenience, and save time on the hassle of heavy traffic. However, some pedestrian conduct raises important questions about liability following an accident. Do pedestrians always have the right-of-way in California? Who will be liable for injuries a pedestrian sustains in an accident? Here’s everything you need to know but if you have additional questions, reach out to a skilled Bakersfield pedestrian accident lawyer.
When a Pedestrian Has the Right-Of-Way
You may have heard that the pedestrian always has the right-of-way. This statement, however, is exactly that: a saying, not a matter of law. In reality, the law is more complex than that.
In the most obvious cases, the pedestrian does have the right-of-way. This applies, for example, when a pedestrian is crossing at a crosswalk at a red light. One of the most common kinds of pedestrian injury – for which a driver is at fault – is when a driver turns right or left into a pedestrian who has the right-of-way. Here, liability for the accident is clear: a motorist will be responsible for the injuries that the pedestrian incurs since he or she was crossing at a crosswalk with a stop sign or traffic signal.
What about less obvious circumstances? What happens when a pedestrian sustains an injury while crossing at an unmarked crosswalk? Or while walking in the middle of the street? This is where the law becomes less clear.
California Laws Regarding Pedestrians
The California Vehicle Code sets basic rules for pedestrians and drivers who navigate around them. The law states a few things:
- The driver must yield to any pedestrian within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
- The driver must also use reasonable care and diligence to prevent pedestrian accidents and safeguard anyone who walks or rides their bike around them.
These laws have a few implications following a pedestrian accident. Here are some examples:
- A motorist may be liable for a pedestrian accident that occurs on the roadway, even if it’s not a crosswalk. For example, a motorist will likely be liable for striking and injuring a biker who is riding on the shoulder, since he or she has an obligation to prevent an accident. If the driver was speeding or distracted, he or she will likely be responsible for the cyclist’s injuries, even if not on a crosswalk.
- A motorist must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks that are not at intersections. Ultimately, if a pedestrian uses a marked or unmarked crosswalk, he or she has the right-of-way.
On the other hand, pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way. According to the California Vehicle Code, pedestrians cannot leave a place of safety, such as a sidewalk, to run into the path of a moving vehicle such that it constitutes an “immediate hazard.” But what does this mean, exactly?
- Pedestrians may be liable for their own injuries if they jaywalk. Running out into the street without a crosswalk is against the law, and a driver may not be civilly responsible for any damages he or she causes.
- Pedestrians must use extra caution at late night crossings. They must remain as visible as possible and keep to crosswalks. A pedestrian should never assume right-of-way at night and allow plenty of time to cross.
Both pedestrians and motorists have certain rights and responsibilities on the roadways. Motorists have a high duty of care to pedestrians and must take steps to reasonably assure their safety. At the same time, pedestrians must also follow all traffic laws, avoid jaywalking, and stick to crossing at crosswalks.