Some people believe that pedestrians cannot be held accountable for traffic accidents and that pedestrians always have the right of way. After all, cars are much bigger and more powerful than pedestrians are, so naturally, the latter is at a disadvantage. However, this understanding is a myth. Though it’s true that many accidents involving pedestrians are the fault of the driver, this is not always the case. Pedestrians can be at fault if they did something illegal or dangerous that caused the accident.
Many times, however, pedestrians are also more heavily affected by auto versus pedestrian accidents. While the driver may be rattled or sustain a small dent or scratch on their car, they are likely to remain uninjured. Pedestrians, on the other hand, face broken bones, lacerations, brain injuries, spinal injuries, and even death.
It is important to understand your rights as a driver and as a pedestrian, so you can respond accordingly if an accident should occur.
You Must Exhibit a Reasonable Level of Care
The basis of pedestrian-vehicle traffic laws is the expectation that all parties must practice a reasonable level of care when they are using the roadways. Though cars have more power to create damage, pedestrians often have an easier time moving out of the way or maneuvering at the last minute. They also can often see cars coming more clearly than cars can see them. The combination of these realities creates the general assumption that everyone should be careful.
A reasonable level of care suggests that all parties should remain aware of their surroundings and take reasonable steps to avoid collisions. If one person fails to properly note their surroundings or follow the rules of road and causes an accident with another person, they are at fault. It doesn’t matter who was driving and who was walking.
This philosophy applies to dangerous situations and reckless maneuvers as well. If a pedestrian runs into the street without checking for cars and a driver does not have enough time to avoid hitting them, the pedestrian will likely need to accept fault for the incident. Similarly, if a pedestrian runs into the road without checking for traffic and a driver has time to see them but would hit other cars if they swerved, the pedestrian would likely still be responsible.
When Drivers Are at Fault
None of this is to suggest that pedestrians are always the cause of accidents. This is certainly not the case. Drivers have the same responsibility to follow road rules as pedestrians do. However, drivers have many more rules to follow, and there is a higher likelihood that a driver will be at fault for an accident with a pedestrian than the other way around.
For example, a pedestrian may use the sidewalks and streets if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .08%. However, a driver may not get behind the wheel of a car if their BAC is above the same level. If an accident were to occur because a driver was under the influence, they must assume fault for not following the rules of the road. The pedestrian would only be at fault if their BAC prevented them from following basic road rules.
It’s important to know that fault does not always lie with one party alone. In California, both parties can be responsible through a concept called comparative negligence. This concept accepts that accidents are often the result of multiple actions, and both the pedestrian and the driver may be at fault. Therefore, the court may assign a percentage of the fault to each individual. This can help to ensure that the paying party only pays for their fair share of the damage.
Comparative negligence can exist in two different forms: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Pure comparative negligence involves assigning an exact percentage of the damage to each party, and both parties may receive compensation even if one is mostly at fault for the accident.
For example, if a driver has a BAC of .09% and hits a pedestrian who runs out into the crosswalk before the timer runs out, most of the fault would be on the driver for driving under the influence and failing to see the pedestrian. However, because the pedestrian did not exercise a reasonable level of care when they ran out into the street, they could be held responsible for some of the damage. In this case, perhaps 90% of the blame would go to the driver and 20% to the pedestrian. If the damages equaled $1,000, then the pedestrian could collect $900 from the driver and be responsible for the remaining 10%.
Modified comparative negligence is more restrictive than pure comparative negligence. There is a standard cap for liability, usually set at 50%. If a victim is determined to be half at fault, they cannot collect any sort of compensation from the other person. For example, if a driver is speeding when a pedestrian jaywalks right in front of their car, the jaywalker is just as responsible as the driver is. In this scenario, the jaywalker could not collect money from the driver, as they were just as much to blame for the damage.
California is a pure comparative negligence state, and pedestrians may receive compensation for their damages even if they are almost totally at fault for the incident.
You Need an Attorney
If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, it is important to secure the services of an attorney right away. Determining fault in these cases is often difficult and involves experience and nuance. In fact, comparative negligence exists because of that nuance—most pedestrian accidents involve fault on both sides. These complexities can make settlements difficult to pursue, and the insurance companies and civil court can be a nightmare to navigate without legal help. When you secure representation from an attorney, you have the advantage of navigating the California legal system with a professional. This gives you the best chance of receiving the settlement you deserve.
If you experienced a car accident involving a pedestrian, it’s time to call Peach & Weathers. Our law firm has developed a strong foundation in car accident law, and we provide the best legal services in the area following a pedestrian incident. We understand what you are going through and will work diligently to achieve a favorable outcome.
For more information about how we can help with a pedestrian accident or any other type of personal injury claim, contact us via our website today.