According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the annual number of pedestrian fatalities is nearly 25% higher than the national average. As cities in California grapple with growing populations, inadequate infrastructure, and budget allocation, the number of pedestrians hurt or killed in vehicle-involved accidents continues to rise. Over the last 10 years, fatal pedestrian accidents in California have increased by 46%, earning the 5th highest pedestrian fatality rate in the U.S. with 2.5 deaths per every 100,000 people annually.
While California is known to protect the right-of-way of pedestrians, there are a number of California laws that also protect drivers from pedestrians who interfere with traffic in a dangerous manner. The California OTS recognizes that pedestrian safety is a two-way street. Cars have the responsibility of following traffic laws and staying alert, but pedestrians must also act within a reasonable level of safety - walking on the sidewalk, crossing at a crosswalk, and also staying alert and aware of traffic flow.
As a pedestrian in California, it is important to understand how liability may be determined and the legal rights that are provided to all pedestrians.
Determining Liability in Different Scenarios
Determining who is at fault in a pedestrian accident in California can be challenging. In many cases, there is shared responsibility meaning both the driver and the pedestrian acted with negligence that could have prevented the accident. Often, evidence including surveillance footage, eyewitness testimony, and damaged property are key components of deciding who is at fault. The following scenarios may help you understand the nature of determining liability in a pedestrian accident:
- If the injured person was in a location where he or she was not supposed to be or was somewhere where the activity that cause the accident was expected, the person who caused the accident might not be held liable. For example, if a person jumped into the roadway from the sidewalk in a non-crosswalk area and was hit, the driver would not have had a duty of care for that person at that time.
- If both the injured person and the driver were careless, the amount of damages may be reduced in relation to their part in the negligence that caused the accident. This is considered comparative negligence.
- If a negligent driver injures a pedestrian while on the job, the employer may also be held responsible for any negligence. For example, if a delivery driver hits a pedestrian while parking illegally, the company can also be held liable.
- If an accident occurs on a property that is dangerous or poorly maintained, the property owner can share responsibility for negligence even if they were not involved in the event itself. For example, if a parking lot is not lit at night and that factor contributed to a pedestrian accident, the property owner can be held responsible for careless maintenance.
- If the accident is caused by a defective product such as breaks, steering control, or tires, both the product manufacturer and the distributor of the product can be held responsible.
Rising pedestrian accident numbers are not a new issue. The rate of pedestrian deaths has been on the climb in the United States since the early nineties. In 2020 alone, the Governer’s Highway Safety Administration reports that 6,236 pedestrians were killed in vehicle-involved crashes, accounting for 16% of all traffic fatalities that year.
Throughout California and the U.S., there are many programs in place to reduce the number of vehicle-involved pedestrian accidents through public outreach, community engagement, and safety demonstrations. The Southern California Association of Governments and The State Transportation Agency collaborate with the California OTS to build safer streets for both pedestrians and drivers.
If you are injured in a vehicle-involved accident the best course of action is to seek medical treatment and contact an experienced attorney right away. The pedestrian accident attorneys at Bostwick & Peterson can assess your case and help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries. Contact our San Francisco office today by filling out this online form or calling 888-831-8448.