Even when you are careful as possible when walking, you are still at the danger of a pedestrian accident. Pedestrian accidents occur when a person on foot knocked down by a vehicle, another person on foot, an object, or even trips and falls. Sadly, these accidents could be severe that they may lead to permanent injuries or even death. However, the good news is that if you sustain pedestrian accident-related injuries, the law is on your side. You can seek compensation from the responsible party that will help you to restore your original health.
To do this, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney will protect you from insurance companies that would want you to settle for as little as possible. He/she will ensure you are rightly compensated for your loss. At San Diego Personal Injury Attorney, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of the injured victims. We help them file injury claims and gather enough proof to guarantee the best possible outcome. This article focuses on pedestrian accidents, liability, and the damages you can recover.
An Overview of California Pedestrian & Crosswalk Laws
Pedestrian laws define who a pedestrian is and where the pedestrian can lawfully walk publicly. These laws play a significant role in personal injury claims after a pedestrian-related accident. Violating any of these rules may change the liability for the accident. For instance, it may lower a pedestrian’s amount of compensation since he/she and the other involved party or parties have to share fault. Sometimes, the pedestrian may be required to take full responsibility for the accident, thereby paying for his/her injuries.
Pedestrian laws are meant to maintain the safety of pedestrians. At the same time, they do not aim to invade so much on car traffic. According to these laws, a pedestrian is a person who is:
- On foot
- Riding a motorized assistive mobility vehicle since they can’t walk
- Riding a machine, apart from a bicycle, which is set in motion using their efforts
People using these devices to move around are also categorized as pedestrians:
- Roller skates
- Scooters (provided it is non-electric)
- Ice skates
- Motorized wheelchairs
People riding bikes, motorized bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, or hoverboards are not classified as pedestrians.
The law, (VC 21966), prohibits pedestrians from walking on bike lanes if there’s an adjacent and adequate pedestrian space they can walk on. This includes walkways or classified walking paths. Though, if a pathway is blocked, pedestrians can use bike lanes to get past the obstruction.
The most crucial pedestrian law is VC 21950. This law deals with crossing streets at crosswalks. It is a general rule that vehicles should give the right of way to pedestrians that are crossing the road at a crosswalk. Yielding involves slowing down as well as taking other measures to maintain pedestrian safety. Also, it creates a legal responsibility for drivers to exercise care for pedestrians’ safety.
However, pedestrians, too, have the legal responsibility to keep themselves safe. For instance, a pedestrian cannot:
- Leave the restraint suddenly
- Delay or stop traffic unnecessarily when crossing the road
- Run or walk into an immediate way of an oncoming vehicle
These contradictory legal duties may cause problems. Due to their conflicting nature, the specific information of a pedestrian accident matters. The details may help to determine liability for the accident.
Reasons for Pedestrian Accidents
Despite all these laws, pedestrian accidents still occur. And apart from cars, there are several other reasons why pedestrian accidents happen, resulting in severe injuries. Common causes include:
- Joggers or runners using the sidewalk- Most people use walkways to exercise to keep away from the busy streets. Most of the runners or joggers will share the pathway, but some can be inconsiderate or reckless to the extent of threatening to knock pedestrians over. If a jogger hits you, his/her force and speed can easily knock you over to the ground, causing injury.
- Uncontrolled or unleashed dogs- Owners of dogs who don’t put them under control can be responsible for severe accidents. Big dogs could jump onto minors, knocking them to the ground. Also, dogs that are on the loose could chase you around, making you fall and sustain an injury. The accident may be the dog’s fault, but the owner of that dog is responsible for the dog’s actions.
- Skateboarding and biking on sidewalks- For a pedestrian, a bicycle on the walkway can be dangerous. Nevertheless, biking on sidewalks is usually the policy of the city. Certain cities may allow biking on sidewalks while others do not. However, if the bicyclist is negligent enough to cause an accident, he/she may be responsible for the injuries even if biking is allowed.
- Groups of individuals who stand on sidewalks and won’t move to give pedestrians way- There might be no law about yielding to other pedestrians on a walkway. However, most people are polite enough to give away to people going in the opposite direction. Other obnoxious individuals may not give way to pass. If these individuals knock you down while walking, they can be responsible for your injuries.
- City trucks or buses that have big side mirrors extending over sidewalks- Trucks and buses have large side mirrors that may extend up to the sidewalk. When the bus pulls over at a bus stop, its side mirrors may be dangerous to anybody standing on the verge of a walkway. A bus that is pulling over may be going at high speed that it could knock you over, leading to head injuries. Bus drivers undergo training on how to manage the buses and know where the side mirrors extend. In case a driver is inattentive or recklessly causes you to be knocked by the mirror, you can claim for damages. Also, if it is the employee that caused the accident, for instance, a driver, you can file a lawsuit against the employer.
Other causes of pedestrian accidents include:
- Other pedestrians who get distracted, e.g., by their cell phones
- Crowded street festivals or fairs
- Street fights
- Passengers opening doors of parked vehicles
Just like in car/pedestrian accidents, you must prove the negligence of the party involved in any of the accident causes above. You need to prove that the other party was negligent or violated pedestrian & crosswalk laws, which caused the accident.
Injuries Likely to be Sustained in a Pedestrian Accident
Anybody who walks on the sidewalk passes through parking spots, or any place in public is at risk of sustaining an injury. Injuries you could sustain after a pedestrian accident are based on the location and cause of the crash. An accident as slight as a minor fall can result in severe neck, back, or head injuries. Common injuries that result from a pedestrian accident include:
- Broken bones
- Bruises, cuts, and lacerations
- Facial trauma
- Spinal, neck, or head injury
- Brain injury
- Internal injuries
- Leg and knee injuries
- Nerve damage
- Torn ligaments
Any pedestrian can sustain an injury when involved in an accident. However, certain pedestrians might be at a higher risk of sustaining severe injuries. For instance, older adults and children are most likely to sustain severe injuries than middle-aged people. Risk factors that may contribute to severe injuries include alcohol use, non-intersections, and urban areas.
What to do If You Are Injured By a Car
If you get hit by a vehicle in a parking lot, crosswalk, or on the road, you can seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. According to the negligence laws of California, if a negligent driver injures you, he/she may be responsible for any harm that resulted from the accident. To get the compensation, however, you have to prove that the driver acted with negligence. This involves showing that:
- The driver owed you a duty of care
- He/she violated that duty through negligence
- His/her negligent act was a significant contributing factor to your injury or the death of your loved one.
Generally, drivers owe a duty of care to pedestrians. They also owe the same obligation to cyclists and other drivers using the road. A driver can demonstrate negligence by violating traffic rules, failing to yield the right of way, speeding, or driver distraction when driving. One common factor that leads to a car/pedestrian accident in California is the failure by the driver to give way to pedestrians. Under VC 21960, any driver must let pedestrians go first when at an intersection or a marked crosswalk.
Also, under VC 21709, it is illegal for a driver to drive in any safety zone. Safety zones are areas designated for pedestrians and should not have vehicular traffic. Therefore, any motorist who violates this law and hits a pedestrian in the process will be held responsible for the damages. Even if you were not using the crosswalk, the motorist could still be held liable for your injuries.
If a car hits you on a crosswalk or the streets and you sustain an injury, consult a personal injury attorney first before talking to the insurance company of the driver. This is because usually, the insurance company will try to get you to agree to little compensation. Your attorney may be able to handle the company to ensure it doesn’t take advantage of you.
What to do When Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
If you get involved in an accident while walking, the first step to take is seeking medical treatment if necessary. In case you sustained injuries, call 9-1-1. In case you are unable to call 9-1-1 by yourself, ask someone else to call them for you.
Don’t assume that you’re ok and don’t need medical care. You may not experience any visible injury or trauma immediately after the crash. However, it is good to get checked up since some injuries may be internal and can worsen if you don’t see a doctor immediately. Note that even falls with less impact can lead to back, neck, or head trauma. Any of the injuries have to be assessed by a physician.
The next step to take after an accident is to collect as many details concerning the accident as possible. Among the information to gather include:
- The name as well as the contact details of the at-fault party or parties
- If it was a car that hit you, get the name of the driver, his/her driver’s license, license plate number of the vehicle, and insurance details.
- The contact details of the witnesses present at the scene of the accident.
You can also take photographs and record videos of the scene of the accident using your mobile phone. Also, record the details of the vehicle involved, if possible. You can also take photos of your injury/injuries. This may be of help when proving liability in your personal injury lawsuit.
Whatever you do after a pedestrian accident, you should not admit that you were at fault. Most people go on to apologize after a crash. Unfortunately, when you apologize, the at-fault party can use the apology words against you. In pedestrian injury lawsuits, the fault is determined by the jury. Thus, do not admit to being on the wrong, especially if you are not sure of the cause of the accident.
Instead, you should contact a personal injury lawyer after the accident. Don’t handle the at-fault party’s insurance company by yourself. Let your lawyer handle any questions the company asks about whose fault it was and how to be compensated.
Who to Sue if the Accident was Due to the Poor Condition of the Walking Surface
When you slip on an icy surface, broken sidewalk, or any other dangerous surface and fall, the owner of the property may be responsible for any injuries you sustain. Under the premises liability laws, people who occupy or own property must keep it in a safe state. Premises liability refers to the duty of the property owner to keep the property in a safe condition. This includes walkways and any other area a pedestrian may use.
In many cases, to prove premises liability, you must show that:
- The defendant occupied, controlled, or owned the property
- He/she was careless in the maintenance or use of the property
- Due to his/her negligence, you were injured
- The carelessness of the defendant was a significant factor that contributed to your injuries
If the walkway belongs to the city, then the city will be held responsible for your injuries. The city, town, or county may have been aware of the dangerous conditions of the sidewalk and failed to take any action. Also, the city might have even been knowledgeable about previous accidents that injured other pedestrians.
Damages You Can Recover in a Pedestrian Accident
You recover damages after you file a personal injury claim. The damages you can recover may be based on the degree of your injuries. In most of the pedestrian accidents, you can claim compensatory damages by suing the at-fault party. These damages are meant to put you back to the same health condition you would have been, were it not for the accident. They include:
- Hospital and medical bills
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Lost wages and earnings
- Lost future earning capacity
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Pain & suffering
In certain cases, you can be awarded punitive damages. Though rarely awarded in personal injury lawsuits, it is not impossible to recover these damages. To recover these kinds of damages, you generally have to prove that the party at fault acted with outrageous or extreme conduct. In pedestrian accidents, an outrageous act may include a driver deliberately trying to knock down a pedestrian.
What Happens if You too Share Liability for Your Accident?
In certain cases, a driver or any other liable party may blame you for the accident. For instance, the at-fault driver could claim that since you were not using the sidewalk, it was your fault that you got hit. Although, just because you were not using a crosswalk doesn’t mean the motorist was not negligent. Pedestrians, just like cyclists or drivers, have the responsibility to exercise due care to maintain their safety.
After a pedestrian accident, the pedestrian may accuse the other party of the crash and vice versa. As we mentioned earlier, even if the other party blames you, do not take the blame. The fault isn’t always evident, especially if one does not know for sure what happened. Accepting the blame could mean that you have to cater to your medical expenses all by yourself. You may also be required to compensate the other involved party for any damage caused.
Under the comparative fault laws, you may still be able to recover damages in case you were partially to blame for the crash. If you and the other involved party share the fault, the judge can divide out fault and the damages. By this, it means you may have your damages reduced depending on your degree of responsibility.
Wrongful Death Claims in Pedestrian Accidents
In a more severe accident, you can sustain fatal injuries. An accident victim that passes away cannot file a personal injury claim. However, he/she leaves behind members of the family who can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. This type of claim allows members of the family to recover damages after their loved one succumbs to pedestrian accident-related injuries. The damages they can recover include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of consortium, which includes loss of support and companionship the deceased would have provided
- Loss of monetary earnings the dead would be earning if he/she was alive
Only specific individuals are allowed to file a wrongful death claim in California. Surviving members of the family who can seek compensation include:
- The children of the deceased
- A spouse
- Grandchildren (in case the deceased’s children are all dead)
- A registered domestic partner
- Any other person who is eligible to receive the deceased’s property as per California succession laws
Additionally, a deceased victim's estate can sue for compensation for all the losses the deceased incurred immediately before he/she died. This is according to the Code of Civil Procedure 377.30. Instead of a wrongful death claim, the estate will file what is known as a survival action.
Statute of Limitations in Pedestrian Accidents
If you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may want to know how much time you have before you are locked out of filing. In California, the statute of limitations to file a claim for pedestrian accidents is two years. This period is counted from the date the accident took place. After filing the lawsuit, how long it takes for your case to be resolved depends on several factors. For instance, it may depend on how severe your injuries are and how complex the legal issues in the case are.
If you sustained severe injuries, the at-fault party or his/her insurance provider may long to settle before the case proceeds to trial. This is because they expect when the case goes to trial, the damages you will be awarded will be great. In case the insurance company offers you a settlement deal before trial, your attorney will assist you in determining whether the offer is fair. He/she will determine if what you are receiving caters for your injuries as well as other losses.
In case the case proceeds to trial, the process to resolve it may take several months or years. Your attorney can help you to understand better about the period your case will take after he/she starts working on the case.
Get a Competent Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney gives you the best chance of winning your pedestrian accident lawsuit. A lawyer will collect proof that will enable him/her present the best lawsuit possible. He/she will relieve you of the stress of dealing with the insurance company of the liable party. You should seek the services of an attorney you trust and who has a record of winning lawsuits and obtaining fair settlements for his/her clients. At San Diego Personal Injury Attorney, we have lawyers who go out of their way to help clients get their rightful compensation. If you are involved in a pedestrian accident in San Diego, call us at 619-478-4059, and we will start working on your case right away.