Pedestrian accidents are common, especially in the urban areas due to the ever-growing traffic, tourists unfamiliar with the roads, and the walkable community. If you fall victim to a pedestrian accident, acquainting yourself with advice from a personal injury attorney is essential. More often than not, pedestrians are fatally wounded when an accident occurs since they do not have any protection compared to motorists. If a negligent party caused the accident, the victim could acquire compensation under the California personal injury laws as the victim. For this to happen, you or your attorney must establish liability on the defendant’s side.
Furthermore, when establishing fault, both the pedestrian and the other parties involved are considered. If either of them broke the law or acted negligently and caused the accident, they are held liable for the damages. The pedestrian is not spared from any liability. If you or your loved ones are a victim of a pedestrian accident, you should be represented by a pedestrian accident attorney to increase your chances of receiving fair compensation. If you are in the San Diego area, we invite you to contact the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm for legal representation in your case.
Overview of California Pedestrian Accident Laws
To better understand how fault is established after a pedestrian accident, we must first go through pedestrian accident laws. Accidents often occur when one or more road users violate particular rules hence endangering themselves and others. In California, the law requires every person on the road, whether a motorist, rider, or pedestrian, to exercise the duty of care.
The duty of care necessitates all road users to act in ways that any reasonable person would ensure their safety and others’ safety on the road. Therefore both the drivers and pedestrians are responsible for each other. The pedestrians are to ensure their safety on the streets and avoid getting in traffic’s way while drivers avoid endangering the pedestrians.
Furthermore, the California Vehicle Code outlines laws that all motorists should adhere to to ensure all road users' safety. A violation of these laws can automatically have you held liable for causing an accident. Violators of the CVC may also be subject to penalties under civil and criminal law.
Drivers must yield the right of way when a pedestrian crosses the road on a marked crosswalk or an unmarked one at an intersection. Drivers must not stop within a crosswalk as it forces the pedestrian to walk around the car, which exposes them to other traffic. Furthermore, motorists must slow down or take precautionary measures anytime they are approaching a marked crosswalk or intersection; this ensures pedestrians' safety crossing the road or street. Motorists are prohibited from driving on a sidewalk unless when exiting or entering an alleyway or garage.
Even though pedestrians must ensure their safety by not jumping abruptly into oncoming traffic, it does not mean the driver is absolved of the duty of care. The driver is supposed to be keen on the road, and if such a situation where the pedestrian is jaywalking occurs, they should avoid hitting them by all means possible or halt the vehicle. Lastly, the driver is expected to adhere to all other traffic rules and ensure their vehicles are well maintained to avoid mechanical malfunctions on the road.
Moreover, pedestrians are not exempted from traffic rules. The law expects them to exercise safety measures such as ensuring they follow traffic rules and refrain from actions that could endanger them on the streets and roads. Pedestrians should avoid crossing roads or walking in areas where pedestrian traffic is prohibited, such as highways. Additionally, the fundamental law of checking the road appropriately before crossing should be applied.
If a pedestrian is walking on a road with no sidewalk, they must walk on the sides and face oncoming traffic. In this way, they will be able to tell anything unusual and may be able to avoid reckless drivers or any unusual occurrence in traffic that could lead to accidents. At night, pedestrians are advised to wear light clothing so that motorists can easily spot them. Also, walking on the road distracted, for instance, wearing headphones or texting on your phone, will lead you to be responsible if you are hit by a vehicle. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Lastly, when filing claims for a pedestrian's wrongful death in an accident, the same laws of personal injury will apply. Investigations to determine fault are typically carried out in the same way as is done for personal injury. The victim's family can file the lawsuit on their behalf if they are not in a condition to file it themselves.
Jaywalking is when a pedestrian fails to cross the road at a designated crosswalk. Jaywalking is prohibited in California if there are vehicles close enough to pose a pedestrian accident risk. Therefore, jaywalking is not a crime under certain circumstances. A pedestrian can lawfully jaywalk if there is no traffic close by that could present an instant hazard. In case there are oncoming vehicles near the pedestrian, they should yield the right-of-way to the cars on the street or a highway and only cross the road after confirming that it is safe to do so. If you were jaywalking and are hit by oncoming traffic, you would almost always be blamed for causing the accident.
However, pedestrians involved in accidents while they were jaywalking are not defenseless. Even if a pedestrian was not on a demarcated crosswalk when the accident occurred, they could still acquire compensation if the driver failed to exercise the duty of care. Often, if the patient is fatally injured, the insurance company will always pay them off even if they were partly liable.
Determining Fault in a Pedestrian Accident
In determining fault in pedestrian accidents, many variables are taken into consideration. Firstly, after an accident occurs, there is typically a police report on the incidence, which is done by the highway patrol, the local police, or the sheriff's department. The police carry out quick investigations on the accident scene. They determine what led to the accident, persons involved, who seemed to be at fault, property damaged, and whether anyone was injured. Consequently, if you file a lawsuit against the liable party, the police report always comes in handy as evidence. However, it should be noted that the police report is not used solely, but in addition to further investigations, evidence, and, if applicable, eye witness accounts.
Once a claim is filed, investigations commence. The main focus of the investigators is in determining three aspects: was the duty of care breached? Was the negligence portrayed? And lastly, was there significant property damage or fatal injuries caused?
Persons Who Can be Held Liable After a Pedestrian Accident
The party held liable for a pedestrian accident depends on the specifics of that particular accident, such as where it occurred, how it happened, and who was involved. A single individual, company, or multiple parties can be held responsible for the accident and be required to compensate the victim. If the victim was also accountable, other laws such as comparative negligence are put into action to determine whether compensation is due and how much it should be paid to the victim.
In determining fault, the following parties are considered.
1. The Motorist
The driver of a vehicle or a cyclist (bicycle or motorcycle cyclist) can be held liable for a pedestrian accident if, after the investigation and with supporting evidence, he/ she is found to have exhibited negligence or violated rules of the California Vehicle Code. In California, it is a requirement that all vehicles have insurance to cover them in case an accident occurs. If the driver is found at fault, the insurance company covering them will pay the pedestrian's financial compensation.
To prove the driver was responsible for the accident, your attorney should prove they were negligent. Negligence is portrayed in situations where the driver did any of the following:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving for an extended period without rest
- Over speeding
- Driving without a driver's license or with an outdated one
- Failed to yield right of way to the pedestrian
- Driving while distracted, whether they were on the phone or any other form of distraction
- Failed to signal when making a turn appropriately
- Breached a traffic rule
- Failed to adhere to exemplary requirements during lousy weather
Moreover, a driver's employer could be held responsible if the driver was over speeding to meet a deadline instructed by their employer. If an employer denies their employees time off to rest or allows them to drive while they have not had any sleep and thereby cause an accident, the employer can be held liable. Employers must ensure they give realistic deadlines for their driver employees and allow them enough time to rest by ensuring there are working shifts; this way, they will not be an endangerment to other road users.
Additionally, an employer can be held liable if the pedestrian accident occurred due to the vehicle's mechanical problems caused by a lack of maintenance. The law requires all property owners to maintain their property to ensure they do not harm other people. If the driver's employer is held liable, they will be required to compensate the pedestrian for injuries they suffered and any other claims filed.
Lastly, an accident can be caused by product liability. An example of product liability is when a vehicle, bicycle, or motorcycle fails to function correctly, causing the pedestrian to be knocked down. If a mechanic had serviced the car, bike, or motorcycle before the accident, they are held liable if it malfunctions.
If the defect were present when the product was bought, the manufacturers would be held liable. Investigations must be done to ascertain that a mechanical malfunction indeed caused the accident.
2. The Pedestrian
Under certain circumstances, you are held liable for a pedestrian accident if you violate traffic rules or act recklessly on the roads. As mentioned earlier, even if you were the victim of the accident and sustained injuries, you are not absolved of liability. For instance, suddenly crossing the road outside a marked crosswalk or jumping in front of an oncoming vehicle is seen as negligence. If you are hit by a car while crossing the road at a red traffic light, you will be at fault. The same case applies if you fail to walk in assigned sidewalks or paths instead of walking on the main road.
Ensure you are well represented when you file a compensation claim. The defendant may try to pin all the blame on you to escape responsibility. Even if you suspect you are solely responsible for the accident, be sure to consult a personal injury attorney for a professional legal perspective. You will also be guided appropriately, and the attorney will help out in the investigation process.
Comparative Negligence Law
California law applies the comparative negligence law to determine if a plaintiff can recover compensation if they are also partly at fault. The law works by establishing the percentage fault of each party. For instance, if you, as the victim, had 20% fault and the defendant had 80% fault for causing the accident in which you suffered damages, you can recover 80% compensation from their insurance company. You will lose 20% of the due payment because you were partly liable for the damages you suffered.
Supposing you were jaywalking when you got hit by an over-speeding vehicle or a driver who was intoxicated. In that case, you can acquire compensation for the injuries you sustained through California's comparative negligence law. The jury or the judge will assign percentage responsibility based on the actions leading to the accident, and you can recover a suitable amount depending on the defendant's percentage fault.
If you suspect you were partly at fault for the accident, you want to consult your attorney. Refrain from admitting any guilt before receiving legal guidance, as this could ruin your chances of recovering the maximum possible compensation.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Supposing your accident was caused by a slip and fall on the sidewalks, street, or road. In that case, you can still file a lawsuit to recover financial compensation. You may ask who can be held liable in such a situation. Depending on the conditions that led to the slip and fall accident, different parties can be at fault. For instance, if the sidewalks were uneven, then the authority in charge of designing or maintaining the sidewalk can be responsible. Also, suppose a slippery floor caused it, and there were no signs installed to warn pedestrians. In that case, the property owners or the authority in charge can be held liable for any injuries you suffer due to their negligence.
All property owners, including government agencies, are bound by law to ensure their premises are maintained accordingly. Anything that poses a danger to other persons is removed or warning signs are installed to warn others of imminent danger. Therefore, if an accident occurs in a poorly maintained property, and the victim suffers injuries. The property owner will be responsible and, therefore, will be required to pay financial compensation.
Determining Fault in Hit and Run Pedestrian Accident
Unfortunately, if the driver who hit a pedestrian flees, it may be hard to track them, let alone determine fault and acquire financial compensation. However, all hope is not lost for you getting your justice served if you are a victim of such a situation. You want to hire a top-notch attorney to handle your compensation lawsuit after a hit and run. Your attorney will work with the police and search for the culprit using information such as CCTV camera footage, eyewitness accounts, and any other available evidence. With sufficient data, hit and run drivers can be pinned down.
However, if there is no one to take the fault, your insurance company can pay financial compensation for the damages suffered. Your attorney will guide you on the right steps to take in recovering the pay. Furthermore, some homeowners and renters provide insurance coverage for hit and run pedestrian accidents. They could kick in if the driver who hit you or your loved one cannot be identified or located. Sadly, if you hold no insurance coverage and no one is found to take fault for causing the accident, you may be unable to compensate for your injuries.
What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident
The actions you take after a pedestrian accident can significantly help in establishing fault during your compensation case. In some cases, you could be limited if the accident's impact fatally injures you. However, if you are in a position to, there are several things you can do to help in your well-being and acquisition of evidence from the accident scene.
- Seek medical assistance by calling for an ambulance or any other emergency service provider.
- If the accident scene does not pose further harm to you, you want to remain there until the police arrive. People can tamper with evidence at the scene, which could affect determining fault later on.
- Inform the police of the accident so that the investigations can promptly begin. Ensure you give an account of the events leading to the accident so that your side of the story can be included in the police report. The police report acts as critical evidence in the compensation lawsuit.
- Gather contact information of the parties involved in the accident. The information you gather should include their phone numbers, names, and insurance company covering them. You also want to take the vehicle’s registration number for easier identification.
- Take photographs of the accident scene and the injuries you sustained. Such pictures are concrete evidence and can be analyzed to determine the liable party. Furthermore, photos of your injuries help ascertain that the accident's impact indeed caused the injuries. If your injuries are treated, ensure you keep the medical report and bills too.
- Contact a personal injury attorney.
- Do not accept fault. You want to avoid engaging other parties involved in the accident. Confronting them or apologizing for what occurred can be used against you by the defendant’s attorney and be taken as acceptance of fault. If you are partly liable for the accident, first consult your attorney before accepting any responsibility. Similarly, as the victim, you may be lured into settlements that may seem attractive while they are less than the compensation you deserve. Obtaining a legal perspective will help you make informed decisions.
- Refrain from talking to your insurance company without your attorney. You can notify them of the accident but do not offer any written statements as they could attempt to find fault on your part to escape compensating you.
When to Contact an Attorney
You want to contact an attorney as soon as you decide to file a compensation lawsuit for the injuries or damages you obtained from the pedestrian accident. Additionally, if you are threatened into admitting fault at the scene of the accident, or the responsible party tries to deny guilt, ensure you talk to a lawyer for professional guidance.
If private companies or federal agencies are involved in your pedestrian accident case, ensure you hire a top-tier lawyer. Most companies will have experienced attorneys representing them. If you are not well litigated in court, you could receive low settlements or no settlements at all. Therefore, in such a situation where quality litigation matters most, safeguard yourself by settling for the best attorney.
Lastly, if you are unsure how to deal with your insurance company or any other insurance company involved in your case, be sure to consult your attorney. A professional perspective is critical before you agree to any settlements or offer any insurance companies' written statements. Overall, it is advisable to involve an expert personal injury attorney in your case as early as possible.
Find A San Diego Pedestrian Accident Attorney Near Me
Pedestrian accidents are not the same. Thus, each case is handled differently, especially in terms of determination of fault. Consequently, you should equip yourself with guidance and quality legal representation from a top-notch personal injury attorney. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have proved our expertise in dealing with individual injury cases over the years. Our attorneys are diligent in fighting for our clients, and we endeavor to provide satisfactory results in each case we handle. Our law firm serves individuals filing personal injury claims in the San Diego area. Contact us at 619-478-4059.