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Settlement for a Pedestrian Hit by a Car in a Crosswalk

Despite California laws aimed at protecting pedestrians, crossing the streets of California can be a dangerous business.

In 2019, pedestrian deaths in the U.S. hit a 30-year high. According to the most recent data from the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 228 pedestrian deaths in Kern County in 2020—112 of them in Bakersfield.

When two cars collide, the drivers are at least somewhat protected by seat belts, air bags, and their cars’ crumple zones, which are designed to absorb the impact of a crash. A pedestrian in a crosswalk has no such protection. Consequently, pedestrian accidents often result in devastating injuries.

If you or a loved one were hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk in California, it’s important to be familiar with California’s pedestrian laws, the steps you should take after a crosswalk accident, and what you can expect from a pedestrian crosswalk accident settlement.

California Pedestrian Laws

As of January 1, 2023, California police are no longer ticketing pedestrians for jaywalking, but there are still detailed sections of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) covering the rights and responsibilities of drivers and pedestrians.

Who Is a Pedestrian?

First, CVC Section 467 defines a pedestrian as:

  • A person on foot
  • A person using a human-powered device other than a bicycle—for example, a skateboard, in-line skates, or a foot-propelled scooter
  • A disabled person using a self-propelled (electric/motorized) wheelchair or scooter

What Is a Crosswalk?

Next, the law (CVC Section 275) defines a crosswalk in two ways:

  1. Marked: A section of a road clearly marked for pedestrian crossing, usually by white lines.
  2. Unmarked: The portion of a road that’s between two opposite sections of sidewalk, whether or not it is marked by white lines.

It’s important to know this second, less familiar definition of a crosswalk because pedestrians have specific legal rights when crossing in a crosswalk. The legal definition of crosswalk includes unmarked crossings when you are proceeding from one sidewalk across a street to where the sidewalk continues.

Who Has the Right of Way at a Crosswalk—a Vehicle or a Pedestrian?

California law specifies who has the right of way—pedestrians or vehicles—in several situations:

  • Per CVC Section 21950, cars must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked. However, pedestrians still have a legal duty to act reasonably with regard to their own safety. In other words, you can’t run suddenly into a crosswalk in front of an oncoming car and claim that you have the right of way. In addition, pedestrians are not allowed to “unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.”
  • Per CVC Section 21952, cars crossing sidewalks must yield to pedestrians. In other words, if you are turning from a road across the sidewalk into the parking lot of a shopping center, you must yield to a pedestrian on the sidewalk.
  • Per CVC Section 21954, pedestrians must yield to vehicles if they’re crossing a street anywhere other than at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
  • Per CVC Section 21955, pedestrians must cross at traffic lights when they are present. As of January 1, 2023, this code now says that officers should not ticket anyone for not crossing at a traffic light. However, pedestrians still must exercise a “duty of using due care for their safety.”
  • Per CVC Section 21970, cars should not block marked or unmarked crosswalks or sidewalks. A car blocking a crosswalk may force a pedestrian to cross the road outside the crosswalk and, therefore, in a more dangerous path.
  • Per CVC Section 21451, cars turning on a “circular” green light must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. However, pedestrians must yield to cars turning on a green arrow.
  • Per CVC Section 21456, pedestrians are required to follow lighted “Walk,” “Wait,” and “Don’t Walk” signals at intersections.
  • Per CVC Section 21453, pedestrians should not cross an intersection on a red light unless instructed to do so by a lighted “Walk” sign.

Although CVC Sections 21950, 21954, 21955, 21451, 21453, and 21456 all now state that a pedestrian shouldn’t be ticketed for violating these statutes, following the law may be an important factor in determining the at-fault party when a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

What Happens When a Car Hits a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk in California?

If you or a loved one were hit by a car while crossing the street in a crosswalk on a California street, the top priority is to get immediate medical attention for any injuries the victim sustained.

In addition, take the following steps:

  1. Call the police and get a copy of the police report for the accident.
  2. Get a full medical evaluation as soon as possible, even if you think you aren’t injured. You may have internal injuries, or it may take some time (hours or days) for symptoms of your injuries to manifest.
  3. Get contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
  4. Document your injuries with photos, if applicable.
  5. Keep detailed records of any expenses related to treating your injuries—doctor’s bills, ambulance bills, and even the cost of transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
  6. Avoid talking to the driver’s car insurance provider. Insurance companies may use statements you make to decrease the amount of any settlement they offer you.
  7. Contact a reputable crosswalk accident lawyer like the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark.

How Can a Crosswalk Accident Lawyer Help Me?

California’s detailed laws on the interaction between cars and pedestrians at crosswalks can make it complicated to sort out who’s at fault in a pedestrian accident.

A pedestrian accident attorney can use all the information you collect to start building a case to get you the best settlement possible or, if necessary, go to trial.

Talking to a lawyer as soon as possible will also help ensure your claim or lawsuit is filed within California’s two-year statute of limitations on initiating a civil action for personal injury.

Every personal injury case hinges on proving who was at fault—or negligent—in the incident in question. California courts use a legal doctrine called pure comparative fault in civil cases. 

Comparative fault means multiple parties can share responsibility for an accident. For example, a driver might be partially to blame for hitting a pedestrian who was jaywalking. But a jury might determine that the pedestrian was also somewhat at fault.

Pure comparative fault means that the damages you can collect for your injuries are reduced by whatever percentage of the blame you bear for an accident. For example, if a jury decides you were 10% at fault, you can only receive 90% of whatever damages are awarded.

What Kind of Settlement Can I Get for a Pedestrian Crossing Accident?

If you were hit by a car as you crossed the street in a crosswalk, you may be able to collect economic and noneconomic damages and, in extraordinary cases, punitive damages.

  • Economic damages are compensation for expenses related to your injuries. This includes payment for your medical expenses, the cost of physical therapy or rehab, and reimbursement for lost wages if you were unable to work because of your injuries.
  • Noneconomic damages are compensation for harm caused by an accident that isn’t tied to a specific expense. This includes payment for your pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life or activities you previously engaged in, and loss of consortium (loss of the enjoyment of a relationship).
  • Punitive damages are awarded to punish those who act intentionally, with malice, or with “a willful and knowing disregard of the rights or safety of another.”

Experienced California Crosswalk Accident Attorneys

Recovering from being hit by a car in a crosswalk is hard enough without the added pressure of dealing with insurance claims or a lawsuit on your own. The Bakersfield crosswalk accident lawyers of Chain | Cohn | Clark can relieve you of this burden, hold the at-fault driver accountable, and get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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