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Is the driver of a car always at fault for a pedestrian accident?

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2022 | Pedestrian Accidents

When a pedestrian and a motor vehicle collide, there is no question about which one is in greater danger. This, combined with the fact that cars can travel significantly faster than pedestrians, would lead most of us to assume that pedestrian accidents are always the fault of the vehicle driver.

In reality, things don’t always work this way. California law lays out specific rules and protections for both pedestrians and vehicle drivers, the gist of which is that both parties need to be aware of their surroundings and act in ways that minimize the risk of a collision. Therefore, fault for a pedestrian accident largely depends on the facts of a given case.

Drivers owe a duty of care

When it comes to assessing “right of way,” laws favor pedestrians. For instance, one state statute notes that drivers need to yield right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the street at an intersection, regardless of whether there is a marked crosswalk. Even if the light is green for traffic, drivers who see a pedestrian trying to cross are required to slow down and “take any other action” necessary to ensure the safety of the pedestrian.

Laws also address the need for vehicle drivers to work together to protect pedestrian safety. Another statute states that if a vehicle has stopped at an intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross, it is illegal for another driver to “overtake and pass” the vehicle that has stopped (until the pedestrian has made is safely through the intersection).

Pedestrians must act reasonably to protect their own safety

The laws cited above do favor the rights of pedestrians, but they also require pedestrians to take common-sense safety measures. For instance, even though drivers must yield right-of-way to pedestrians at an intersection, pedestrians cannot just dart out into the street when it is clear that an approaching car is nearby. Pedestrians are also not allowed to “unnecessarily stop or delay traffic” while they are crossing at an intersection.

Both parties can share fault for a pedestrian accident

There are instances in which drivers are 100% to blame for pedestrian accidents. There are also rare instances when pedestrians act in a manner that makes it impossible for drivers to avoid hitting them, meaning the pedestrian would be considered solely at fault for their own injuries.

Much of the time, however, pedestrians and drivers might share fault for a crash (even if the percentage of fault is unequal). As just one example, a driver might be primarily at fault because they were speeding and not keeping a lookout, while a pedestrian might be partially at fault because they were jaywalking.

In these types of cases, California’s comparative negligence laws make it possible for pedestrians to hold negligent drivers accountable even if the pedestrians were also partially at fault. Their compensation would simply be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them. If they were deemed 20% at fault, for instance, they could recover 80% of their total damages if they won their case.

Contact us to discuss your rights and your legal options

Pedestrian accidents can be complex, and both drivers and insurance companies frequently try to blame pedestrians for their own injuries. If you were struck and seriously injured by a negligent driver, you need the help of a skilled attorney like those at Woods Williford, P.C. We have decades of experience advocating for injury victims in California. Reach out today to take advantage of a free initial consultation.