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Does the Pedestrian Always Have the Right of Way?

Posted by Siamak Vaziri | Feb 22, 2023 | 0 Comments

When we talk about right-of-way issues, there is often the impression that motorists must always yield the right of way to pedestrians. However, it is important to note that under California law, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. There are several situations when drivers have the right of way under the law, which means there is a possibility that pedestrians who break laws can be held liable for an accident. In some cases, depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular case, they can also be held partially at fault and lose compensation through comparative negligence rules.

pedestrian accidents

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

Pedestrians do not always have the right of way in all situations. While pedestrians, generally speaking, do have the right of way, there are times when they don't. For example, when a pedestrian violates the law by running into an open street, they do not have the right of way. On the other hand, if a pedestrian causes a car accident, they could be held liable. In cases, where they cause the accident, pedestrians can also be found partially at fault and could have their compensation reduced by their percentage of responsibility under comparative negligence rules.

California Vehicle Code Section 29150 states that motor vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are walking in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at a street intersection. However, the same statute also says that pedestrians have a responsibility to cross the street in a reasonably safe manner. For example, pedestrians cannot walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle or delay traffic by stopping in a crosswalk.

Small Exceptions to This Rule

When it comes to right of way, there are small exceptions to when pedestrians have the right of way. California laws also prohibit pedestrians from doing the following:

  • Walking in bike lanes where there is a sidewalk or walking path available on the side of the road.
  • Crossing a street where there is no crosswalk.
  • Walking across an intersection when the light is red or when the “don't walk” signal is illuminated.
  • Walking across a street outside a crosswalk when there are enough vehicles close enough to present an immediate danger.

The laws can become somewhat murky when it comes to pedestrians stepping in traffic. California law states, “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” This law is ambiguous and can make insurance claims challenging for both the pedestrian and driver. Insurance companies may argue that a pedestrian is at fault because they walked into traffic without warning. At the same time, a motorist may deny responsibility claiming the pedestrian stepped off the curb or ran into the street. In such cases, determining fault and liability can be extremely challenging, particularly at a time when victims need insurance to cover medical expenses and other damages. This is why pedestrian accident victims would be well advised to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who can help protect their rights.

Laws for Blind Pedestrians

California law does not consider a “pedestrian” to be someone who is only walking. There are a number of different categories of people on the road who are considered pedestrians under California law including:

  1. Anyone who is using a motorized wheelchair because they are unable to walk
  2. Skateboarders or those on roller skates
  3. People on non-electric scooters
  4. People in wheelchairs
  5. Ice skaters and skiers

However, individuals who are riding bicycles, motorized or electric bikes, electric scooters and hoverboards, are not considered pedestrians under California law.

What is Considered a Crosswalk?

In California, a “crosswalk” refers to the portion of the roadway that does not have a “no crossing” sign and has distinct markings indicating that it is a pedestrian crossing. Crosswalks also connect the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections that are at right angles except where the intersection of a street and an alley. Crosswalks at intersections often tend to have traffic lights, flashing lights, stop signs or other traffic-control devices.

What Happens If the Pedestrian Caused the Crash?

If the pedestrian crossed a roadway unlawfully and got struck by a vehicle, he or she may be responsible for the accident and could also be held financially liable. In such cases, a pedestrian may have to compensate the driver for his or her losses even if the pedestrian suffered the more severe injuries. Often times, pedestrian accidents involve shared fault where the rules of comparative negligence are applied. In such cases, blame for the accident is apportioned and compensation is given out according to the degree of fault. In pure comparative negligence states such as California, the plaintiff would see their compensation reduced by the amount of fault they contributed to the accident.

What Compensation is Available?

Injured pedestrians may be able to seek compensation for damages including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income and loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Permanent injuries and disabilities
  • Past and future pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional distress

If you have lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver seeking compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost future income, pain and suffering and loss of love, care and companionship.

Proving Responsibility For A Pedestrian-Vehicle Accident Requires Evidence

Regardless of whether you are the driver or pedestrian injured in an accident, you will need evidence to prove liability in a pedestrian accident case. Some of the evidence that can help includes police reports, which could have valuable details about the accident. It is also important to obtain as much evidence from the accident scene as possible including photos, video and contact information for anyone who may have seen the accident.

Negligence is Most Commonly The Cause of Pedestrian-Vehicle Accidents 

While there are cases where drivers intentionally hit pedestrians, those incidents are rare. Often, a pedestrian-vehicle accident is the result of negligence or carelessness. You can learn more about the most common pedestrian accidents here. Whether you are a driver or a pedestrian, if you have been injured because of someone else's negligence, you may be able to seek compensation. A successful claim will allow you to seek fair and full compensation for all your losses.

Regardless of your case's specifics, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer in Los Angeles who will carefully examine your case, explain your options and fight hard to protect your rights. Call the Vaziri Law Group Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.

About the Author

Siamak Vaziri

Attorney Siamak Vaziri’s mission is to help make his clients whole by obtaining maximum physical, emotional, and financial recovery. Mr. Vaziri’s clients' needs come first, evidenced by his 98% success rate, more than $1 Billion in client settlements and verdicts, as well as 100+ 5-star reviews. Mr. Vaziri invests every resource to nurture his client and partner relationships and does so with integrity and a relentless work ethic.


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