In large cities across California, pedestrian accidents are common due to the large population and an influx of tourists. Many people choose to walk, jog, run, or skateboard to overcome the challenges of parking and traffic. As pedestrians interact with motor vehicles, it is common for pedestrian accidents to occur. Pedestrian accidents often occur on sidewalks, crosswalks, at intersections, and on the streets. At times, pedestrian accidents involve children around schools or playgrounds. Pedestrians are at a higher risk of suffering fatal injuries in accidents involving vehicles than drivers or passengers of motor vehicles. If you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident, you could be entitled to compensation under California personal injury laws. San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm can help evaluate your case and seek compensation for your injuries.

Catastrophic Injuries

When a pedestrian accident occurs, the pedestrian is likely to suffer catastrophic injuries. Injuries differ in the extent of severity, with some injuries being more significant and painful than others. A catastrophic injury refers to an injury that has severe, long-term, or life-altering consequences. The majority of catastrophic injuries call for surgical treatment. Most pedestrian accident victims suffer catastrophic injuries like paralysis and traumatic brain injuries. Injuries that qualify as catastrophic injuries are:

  • Injuries that lead to a loss of function or a permanent disability
  • Injuries that hinder the victim's ability to work full-time
  • Injuries that require the victim to seek lifelong care, assistance, or accommodation
  • The victim has to be on medication for life
  • The need for assistive devices and prosthetics; a victim might have to rely on wheelchairs, walkers, and canes
  • Injuries leading to serious disfigurement or scarring
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severe spinal cord injuries
  • Loss of a bodily function; these injuries include acquired blindness or acquired deafness
  • Serious burn injuries and injuries that require amputation
  • Paralysis

When you suffer a catastrophic injury in a pedestrian accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Your attorney will document and evaluate your overall injuries and also determine the impact of the injuries on your life. An attorney will not just focus on how you are after the accident. Instead, an attorney will also focus on how your life will be in the future.

Catastrophic injuries could extend beyond physical injuries. The effects of catastrophic injuries could affect your relationship with your family and your ability to enjoy life. Some types of catastrophic injuries may be more difficult to detect than others. For instance, after suffering catastrophic head injuries in a pedestrian accident, you might appear to be physically normal. However, you could have some lasting disabilities like personality change, memory loss, irritability, mood swings, inability to concentrate, and inability to handle financial affairs. 

If you suffer a catastrophic brain injury in a pedestrian accident, you might have to stop working even after reaching maximum recovery. You may look fine to other people but in the actual sense, you are not well. To prove that you have suffered life-altering conditions, you would have to rely on the testimony of family and friends. The evaluation reports from neuropsychologists would also come in handy in gathering the evidence required to build a strong personal injury case. 

After suffering injuries like paralysis, you could also experience additional side effects like urinary tract infections, skin breakdown, and neuropathic pain. These secondary side effects might not be visible but could be life-altering. Your attorney will take into account all the effects of the catastrophic injury to ensure that you get the rightful compensation. 

The Leading Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Walking or jogging could be a healthier option; however, it is not always a safe option. Pedestrian accidents can occur due to a wide range of factors. Some of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  1. Wrong Lane Use

Most pedestrian accidents take place on the roads while some accidents take place on the streets. Improper lane use is a leading cause of pedestrian accidents. A pedestrian accident can occur while a biker riding on sidewalks hits pedestrians. Riders could also force pedestrians to move from the sidewalks onto the roads making them collide with vehicles.

  1. Poorly Marked Crosswalks

The majority of pedestrian accidents occur at poorly marked crosswalks. It is common for accidents to occur at crosswalks. Properly marked crosswalks minimize the risks of pedestrian accidents significantly. At or near parking lots, it is important to have well-marked pedestrian pathways. When vehicle drivers are focusing on parking, they are less likely to see pedestrians and to allow them right of way. 

  1. Vehicles Turning Left

The majority of pedestrian accidents involve vehicles turning left. Vehicles hit three times as many people while turning left than when turning right. Both pedestrians and vehicle drivers are usually looking elsewhere. For instance, while drivers are busy negotiating and focusing on intersections, pedestrians are often looking ahead. Therefore, while turning left, vehicles might end up colliding with pedestrians. 

  1. Electronics Use

Pedestrian accidents might occur due to electronic use while on the streets or while crossing the road. Most victims suffer injuries in pedestrian accidents while listening to music or texting. While using electronics, pedestrians are likely to be absent-minded and this increases the risk of accidents. Accidents could involve passengers exiting vehicles on the roadway side without realizing the risk involved. 

  1. Hybrids and Battery-Operated Vehicles

Quiet vehicles like hybrid vehicles and battery-operated vehicles help to enhance peace and quiet in a neighborhood. However, quiet vehicles are more likely to cause pedestrian accidents. In most cases, pedestrians detect oncoming vehicles with their ears; therefore, it is hard to detect when a quiet vehicle is approaching. Therefore, quiet vehicles are more likely to strike pedestrians than regular vehicles. The risk is even higher in residential areas where vehicles move at lower speeds and make many turns and stops.

  1. Dark Colored Clothes

Pedestrians wearing dark-colored clothes are not visible to vehicle drivers. The majority of pedestrian accidents occur at night when there is poor visibility. It is easier for vehicle drivers to spot lightly colored and bright clothes especially in areas with poor street lighting. When walking or jogging at night, pedestrians should wear reflective clothes or carry pocket flashlights.

  1. Intoxication

Alcohol use by drivers or pedestrians is a leading cause of pedestrian accidents. Drunk driving often leads to careless driving and makes drivers more likely to hit pedestrians. Similarly, if a pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he/she is not likely to notice approaching vehicles and could end up colliding with them. The majority of pedestrians who suffer injuries in accidents have some alcohol content in their blood. Most pedestrian accidents also involve intoxicated drivers.

  1. Multi-Lane and High-speed Highways

The development of the transport sector has led to the development of arterial roads  like multi-lanes and high-speed highways. These complicated road systems could pose challenges to pedestrians especially in densely populated areas.

  1. Weather Conditions 

Certain weather conditions could increase the risk of pedestrian accidents. For instance, when it is rainy, foggy, or snowy, drivers may fail to see pedestrians and end up striking them. Most drivers do not slow down and exceed the safe speed in extreme weather conditions. This form of reckless driving increases the likelihood of a pedestrian accident.

California Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws

In California, just like drivers, pedestrians have rights and responsibilities. When a pedestrian accident occurs, it could be the fault of a vehicle driver or the pedestrian. Pedestrians should be aware that according to the law, they do not always have right-of-way. The law requires pedestrians to follow some designated routes while crossing the street. However, even if a pedestrian is partly to blame for an accident, there is still some hope of getting compensation. California is a comparative fault state, which divides liability depending on the level of fault. 

Walking offers many benefits; most people walk for leisure, walking is also a friendly means of transportation. Walking is less stressful than driving a vehicle because you do not have to get stuck in traffic. However, it comes with its dangers.

The California law defines a pedestrian as any person who is walking or using roller skates, a wheelchair, a skateboard or any other similar device, which does not qualify as a bicycle. California’s right of way laws provide protection to pedestrians because in case of an accident, pedestrians suffer the most. When riding in a vehicle, the driver and the passengers enjoy layers of protection line airbags, safety belts, and the vehicle walls as well. Usually, vehicles are crash-tested and they have to meet the set safety standards before being used on the roads. However, a pedestrian does not have any layer of protection other than his/her clothing. Therefore, when an accident occurs, most pedestrians suffer catastrophic injuries or even lose their lives. 

The State of California has in place some pedestrian right-of-way laws. However, these laws can only save people’s lives if people are willing to follow them. According to California VC29150, all drivers should yield a right-of-way to pedestrians who could be crossing the roadways. Drivers should follow this law when pedestrians are crossing a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. 

However, this law does mean that pedestrians always have a right-of-way in California. In fact, according to the law, pedestrians should never walk in a street that does not have a crosswalk to avoid colliding with vehicles. On the roads or in other places without marked crosswalks, the law requires pedestrians to yield right-of-way to vehicle drivers.

The California law also has a Basic Speed Law. This law states that drivers should always operate their vehicles at a speed, which is safe depending on the current conditions. According to the California Driver Handbook, the presence of pedestrians or riders is a factor that should make a vehicle driver reduce speed.

California law states that a pedestrian should not step into the street or in the path of a vehicle if there is no crosswalk. However, the law further states that a driver should exercise his/her due duty of care to avoid hitting pedestrians if a pedestrian steps into the vehicle path.

According to the California’s Pedestrian right- of-way laws:

  • Unless it is very necessary, like when crossing the street, motorists should always avoid driving on the sidewalk
  • The law requires pedestrians to abide with the traffic laws; however, even if a pedestrian is not abiding by the laws, a motorist should yield a right-of-way to the pedestrian
  • Whether in a marked or in an unmarked crosswalk, a pedestrian has a right-of-way
  • If a blind person uses his/her cane to indicate to a motorist that he/she intends to enter a crosswalk, the motorist should yield a right-of-way to the person. If a blind person pulls his/her cane backwards, it is a signal that the motorist should proceed
  • To allow pedestrians to cross safely at a crosswalk, a motorist should stop at least 5 feet from the crosswalk
  • At any time, a motorist is approaching an intersection, the motorist should slow down and should be ready to stop

Establishing Liability in a Pedestrian Accident

When a pedestrian accident occurs in California, the standard for negligence and liability is similar to other forms of personal injury cases. For a pedestrian to seek compensation, the pedestrian has to prove certain elements. The pedestrian should prove that the vehicle driver owed him/her a duty of care. In California, drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It should be apparent that the vehicle driver breached his/her duty of care by acting in a negligent manner. The pedestrian has to prove that the negligence of the vehicle driver caused the pedestrian’s injury.

According to California law, a driver has the responsibility to be careful and to take care of the people around them. A vehicle driver can act in a negligent manner in many ways. Negligence could entail speeding and failing to yield at traffic or a stop sign. Failing to give pedestrians ample space to enter or exit parked vehicles is a form of negligence. It is also negligent for a driver to engage in distracted driving including texting while driving. Failing to slow down or move over for a pedestrian in the breakdown lane is a negligent conduct. It is also negligent for a driver to operate a vehicle while intoxicated.

Extra Care While Dealing with School Children

California laws require vehicle drivers to be extremely careful especially while operating vehicles in areas with schoolchildren.  While operating a vehicle within 500 to 1000 feet from school or when children are crossing the street or playing outside, drivers should not exceed a speed of 25 miles per hour. A driver should adhere to this speed limit if there are children in a school or playground even if the children are not entering the street. When driving a vehicle near a school, a driver should always be alert, look out for a safety patrol or a school crossing guard, and follow their directions. 

Vehicle drivers have to be careful while driving behind school buses. If a driver notices that the bus is flashing the yellow lights, it is a sign that the bus is preparing to stop. Therefore, the vehicle driver should also prepare to stop as well.

Whenever a school bus flashes red lights, a vehicle driver should first stop and allow the children to cross the street safely. A driver should only move when the school bus turns off the red flashing lights. If a vehicle driver fails to stop when a school bus is flashing red lights, it is a sign of negligence because the driver could end up hitting schoolchildren. This form of negligence is punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000. A driver could also lose his/her driving privileges for up to one year.  

When is the pedestrian at fault? When a pedestrian accident occurs in California, the driver’s insurance company might be quick to blame the pedestrian. The insurance company could do everything to prove that the pedestrian is at fault for the accident.  However, because California is a comparative fault state, liability is split among all the liable parties. If a pedestrian is partly to blame for the accident, he/she will receive compensation less the degree of fault. 

Steps to Take after a Pedestrian Accident

After suffering injuries in a pedestrian accident, a pedestrian has to take some critical steps. What you do after a pedestrian accident could determine the amount of compensation you receive. Here’s what you should do after a pedestrian accident:

Move Out of Street and Remain Calm

If you are able to, you should move out of the street and remain calm after a pedestrian accident. Immediately after an accident, you are likely to experience feelings of fury and confusion as you get a rush of adrenaline. You might even feel tempted to express range to the vehicle driver. However, being hysterical and loud won’t help you. It is advisable to try and control your emotions by breathing in and remaining calm. This will enable you to communicate with the vehicle driver and the police. If you can manage to move, you should move from the street to a driveway or the sidewalk to avoid colliding with other vehicles.

Don’t Let the Driver Leave the Scene

California law requires all the parties involved in an accident to remain at the accident scene. If a vehicle driver moves from the scene of the accident, he/she could be charged with hit-and-run charges. You should request the vehicle driver to remain at the accident scene until the police arrive. You might release the driver and dismiss your injuries as minor, only to realize later that you suffered extensive injuries.  Due to the rush of adrenaline and numbness immediately after an accident, you might not notice the extent of your injuries.

Call the Police and Wait for them to Arrive

You should call the police immediately after a pedestrian accident. If you are not able to call the police, you should request another person to call the police on your behalf.  When the police arrive at the scene of an accident, they will come up with an accident report. An accident report will come in handy as you make a personal injury claim. You should not sympathize with the driver or feel as if you are incriminating the driver. Instead, you should focus on getting compensation for your injuries. 

Record the Driver’s Information and Take Photos

As you wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident, you should ensure that you take some photos and note the driver’s details. For instance, you should note a driver’s license plate number, insurance information, and driver’s license. Ensure that you also take photos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any other detail that could be important. These photos could be useful and could help your personal injury attorney to build a strong case for you. 

Inform the Police about What Happened

When the police arrive at the scene of the accident, you should not be afraid to give the police an account of what happened. You could even request to check the police’s facts to ensure that it contains the right information.

Seek Medical Attention

You should also seek immediate medical care for your injuries. You should seek medical care even if your injuries seem minor. Ensure that you request your doctor for a copy of your medical record. Your doctor should outline all the injuries suffered and the cost of treatment. This information will be crucial as you make a personal injury claim.

Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney  

It is advisable to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you involve an attorney in your case, the more likely you are to get the compensation you deserve. Your attorney will gather all the facts of your case to help you seek compensation.

Some of the available damages for pedestrian accidents include medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress among others.

Find a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

The compensation you receive after a pedestrian accident will depend on factors like the extent of injuries and the impact the injuries will have on your life. You need a competent attorney to help prove the loss you have suffered. San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm can help you get a fair compensation. Reach us at 619-478-4059 and speak to an experienced attorney.