Who's at Fault if a Pedestrian Is Hit While Jaywalking?

Caught in the Middle: Who’s at Fault When a Pedestrian is Hit While Jaywalking?

Car accidents involving pedestrians usually result in serious injuries because pedestrians have no seatbelts or airbags to protect them against the speed and size of a vehicle. According to one study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, impact speeds as low as 16 mph can result in severe pedestrian injury and the risk of fatality increases exponentially with speed.

When do pedestrians have the right of way? What counts as jaywalking? If a car collides with a pedestrian who is jaywalking, who’s at fault and liable for paying compensation? These cases can be extremely complex with millions of dollars in damages on the line – it’s crucial to consult with a pedestrian accident lawyer who can help you with your specific circumstances.

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in California?

California law places significant emphasis on pedestrian safety. Generally, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing streets at marked or unmarked crosswalks.

A marked crosswalk has painted lines or markings indicating a designated pedestrian crossing area. An unmarked crosswalk, on the other hand, is any intersection with approximate right angles that does not have these designated pedestrian markings. If an intersection has a “no crossing” sign, then it is not a crosswalk.

When a pedestrian is within any crosswalk, drivers are legally required to yield the right of way. This means that drivers must stop and allow the pedestrian to cross safely.

If you’re a pedestrian who’s been hit by a driver, you could file a lawsuit for damages. A personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve after a crash.

However, having the right of way does not give pedestrians the unchecked right to cross recklessly or negligently. Pedestrians still have a legal responsibility to exercise reasonable care for their safety and the safety of others on the road.

Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way While Jaywalking?

Jaywalking happens when pedestrians cross a road at a location other than a crosswalk or against a traffic signal – for example, when a crosswalk crossing sign is red. As of January 1, 2023, pedestrians can only be ticketed for illegal jaywalking in California if they cross the road when there’s an imminent chance of a collision with a car or bike.

In other words, pedestrians who cross the street outside of designated crosswalks or against traffic signals must do so cautiously, which also means yielding to oncoming traffic.

While jaywalking might seem like a minor offense, it can be extremely dangerous with major consequences in an accident. If you’re jaywalking when a car collides with you, you could share some responsibility – or fault – for causing the crash.

Who Is at Fault If a Pedestrian Gets Hit While Jaywalking?

Determining fault is the first step to deciding who pays for damages after a car accident. Whoever is at fault for causing the accident is also legally responsible for paying for the consequences – that includes medical bills and other losses for the injured.

  • Driver’s Responsibility – California drivers have a duty to use reasonable care while operating their vehicles. That means following traffic rules, being aware of your surroundings, and being prepared to stop or take evasive action if a pedestrian unexpectedly enters your path, even if they’re jaywalking. However, if the pedestrian’s actions were truly reckless or unforeseeable, the driver may be less at fault.
  • Pedestrian’s Responsibility – Pedestrians also have a duty to exercise reasonable care for their own safety and the safety of those around them. If you jaywalk recklessly into multiple lanes of oncoming traffic, you could be held partially at fault for causing the accident. The degree of your fault will depend on the recklessness of your actions and how visible you were to drivers when the crash occurred.

California law follows the rules of comparative fault, where each person involved in an accident is legally and financially responsible based on how much they were responsible for causing the accident. This means that multiple people can share the fault.

For example, an analysis of a collision finds that the pedestrian was 30% at fault for jaywalking and the driver was 70% at fault for not reacting quickly enough. In a lawsuit, the pedestrian would receive 30% less compensation for their damages because their total recovery would be reduced by their percentage of fault.

In certain exceptions, a driver may be held fully responsible even if a pedestrian was jaywalking. For example, if the driver was speeding, driving under the influence, or texting while driving at the time of the accident, they could be fully liable for any injuries that result.

Can You Recover Compensation Even if You Were Jaywalking?

Yes. Even if you were jaywalking, drivers are responsible for following the speed limit, stopping fully at intersections, and paying attention to possible dangers on the road. By filing a legal claim such as a lawsuit, you can get compensation for your damages such as medical bills, lost work income, and any other out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries from the crash.

Unfortunately, pedestrians often suffer significant injuries and even death when struck by cars because they’re so vulnerable on the road without a car or airbags for protection. Whoever is responsible for hitting you should also be responsible for the consequences.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself after a pedestrian collision is to talk to a personal injury lawyer with experience handling these types of cases. A good attorney can help you gather evidence, reconstruct what happened in the accident, guide you with legal advice, and protect your rights throughout the entire process.

No two accidents are the same – every case has unique circumstances that affect who’s responsible and why. Pedestrian safety is a major concern in Southern California, with many jurisdictions like Los Angeles passing traffic laws with greater pedestrian protections.

If you’ve been hit by a car as a pedestrian – jaywalking or not – Sepulveda Law Firm can help. Contact us now for your free consultation. We take cases on a contingency fee basis so you can get the legal representation you need without paying out of pocket.