Pedestrians face multiple hazards. In a state with a high number of residents, there are many pedestrians and many drivers, making for potentially dangerous situations. However, pedestrian accidents can occur in a variety of settings. Vehicles are not the only causes for pedestrian accidents. Other causes like bicycles or off-leash dogs can also be risk factors.
Pedestrian accidents with vehicles make up the greatest amount of personal injury claims. Under California law, pedestrian accidents fall under personal injury lawsuits and pedestrians can therefore file against the party at fault for the accident.Scenarios for a Pedestrian vs. Car Accident
Typically, these cases come down to two parties: the driver and the pedestrian. When doing an investigation and determining liability, the two sides will be evaluated based on some common scenarios as described below.Driver's Potential Liability
Drivers are expected to demonstrate reasonable care while driving, especially when pedestrians are nearby. Failure to exercise such reasonable care is considered negligence.
Potential factors of negligence:
- Distracted driving
- Unlicensed driving
- Failing to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk or when there is the pedestrian’s right of way
- Disobeying traffic signs or signals
- Failing to signal for a turn
- Not exercising caution in traffic or inclement weather
- Driving while intoxicated under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
A pedestrian is also expected to exercise reasonable care for his or her safety, as well as the safety of others. This care has to be proportional to the danger present, given road and traffic conditions. Sometimes, pedestrians may be viewed as having “contributory negligence.” Contributory negligence may be taken into account against a pedestrian if they did not exercise reasonable care and contributed to the cause of his or her own injuries or the injuries of others.
Examples of Contributory Negligence for a Pedestrian:
- Ignoring the "Do Not Walk" signal at a stoplight
- Entering traffic intrusively such as walking against traffic
- Not walking in assigned walking paths such as sidewalks and outlined crosswalks
- Abruptly walking/running in front of a moving vehicle
Factors such as urban living, walkable communities, high-speed vehicles, and tourists unfamiliar with streets start to weave together into a complex web in the LA area. It is estimated that the residents of California have some of the highest rates of pedestrian deaths and injuries in the country.What to do if You are Involved in a Pedestrian Accident
- Stay at the scene. Never leave the scene of an accident.
- Call for emergency medical help for you or anyone else who may be injured at the scene of the accident.
- Make sure you and the other parties are out of the way of traffic and in a safe location.
- When police arrive on the scene, file an accident report to have on record.
- Document the accident. Try to take pictures of your vehicle and your observed injuries immediately. Additional photos of the full scene may be helpful as well. Take pictures of the damages caused by the accident and the nearby area.
- Get medical attention. Injuries can sometimes take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to show up; it is not always evident at the time of an accident. Even if an injury seems minor, a medical professional can better assess if there is damage to your body that needs further treatment.
- Contact your insurance provider; they will communicate with the other party’s insurance company for you.
- Do not admit to or imply fault, especially if an investigation is currently being done.
- File a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance representative will provide some instructions for the next steps you will need to take.
- Maintain records of everything related to the accident and keep all of your documents.
If the vehicle involved in the pedestrian accident was a government or work vehicle, then complications can rise in pursuing justice. The reason for this is because most businesses and government agencies that involve professional driving services often keep lawyers retained so they can quickly settle any potential cases for as little as possible. You need someone by your side who understands what tricks these companies and agencies might try, so you can get the justice you deserve.
Some scenarios may see the at-fault party pushing for a quick settlement. Beware! It may seem great to have the issue handled quickly, but you will likely be taking a deal that undermines the seriousness of your injuries and continued medical care expenses and potentially lost wages. Consulting with an experienced attorney is your best bet for determining if the settlement being offered is a just one.Important Things to Consider
In order to pursue a legal claim for a pedestrian injury accident, certain criteria must be established.
The three main components are:
- Duty of care
- Negligent breach of care
- Injury caused to pedestrian
If these three factors can be proven, then a personal injury lawsuit can move forward. So let us unpack a little more of what these three factors really mean.
Duty of care: the at-fault party had a duty to maintain a level of care to pedestrians. Examples of this include a driver who approached a crosswalk and therefore had a duty to maintain care of any potential pedestrians in the crosswalk, or a business with a front sidewalk who had a duty to maintain an even and safe walking surface.
Negligent breach of care: this means that the at-fault party should have reasonably been aware of potential hazards and taken care of them. Therefore, a closed business with visibly posted “No Trespassing” signs has a very different level of liability than an open business with regular foot traffic.
Injury caused to the pedestrian: injuries occurred as a direct result of the accident. Evidence must be gathered showing that these three factors were casually related.
Gathering the evidence for these factors is where a lawyer can really help. Instead of you having to handle your recovery, medical care, AND legal case, an experienced law firm can help you remove some of that stress by taking over the details of your case for you. They will collect the evidence for your medical treatment, witness testimonies, photographic evidence of the scene, and so on. Every bit of proof that can be collected helps your case.Important Legislation
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 335.1, a pedestrian who was injured in an accident has two years in which to file a case against the at-fault party or parties.
Under the California Government Code, Section 911.2, a pedestrian who was injured in an accident with an at-fault government entity only has six months to file.
No matter your circumstances, filing sooner is always better!Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Only Have a Case if I was Hit by a Car?
No. Pedestrian accidents can involve any party that caused injury due to negligence where they had a reasonable duty of care to pedestrians. Along with vehicles, this can also include bicycles, off-leash dogs, uneven sidewalks, and more.
What can I do if I was Hit by a Car?
If you were hit by a negligent driver, then you should seek legal advice in order to pursue a claim for your injuries. Generally speaking, drivers maintain a duty to pedestrians at all times; therefore, it is important to seek legal advice on how to approach your case, as well as seeking immediate medical attention.
What can I do If I was Knocked Over by a Dog?
Like with a vehicle accident, you will need to prove negligence and duty of care. If the dog is off-leash in an area with leash laws, then negligence for duty of care can be easily ascertained.
What Steps Should I Take After Being Hit as a Pedestrian in California?
Seek immediate medical attention. Even if you think your injuries aren’t that bad, it’s important to start documenting everything right away. A medical professional might very well find an injury that could become far more serious than what you may be unaware of. Make sure you maintain good records and seek legal counsel to help you win your case.
What Damages are Available?
Damages can be awarded for the various expenses and lost wages that accrue while you are recovering. Amount of damages awarded will vary with the severity of the injuries suffered.
What Happens if the Other Party Blames me (the Pedestrian) for the Accident?
This can be a common tactic for trying to avoid a lawsuit. Fault can get confusing and each party can wind up claiming the other is to blame for the accident. California has a “comparative fault” law that states parties can still be awarded damages even if they are partly to blame for the accident.
Can I Sue on Behalf of a Family Member for a Death Resulting From a Pedestrian Accident?
Yes; however, in the event of a death the lawsuit would fall under wrongful death rather than personal injury.
How Long Will my Settlement Take?
Many variables affect the timeline on settlements. Hiring an experienced attorney will help speed up this process, though, and is your best bet for getting the best settlement within the best timeframe.Protect Yourself Legally With an Expert Attorney
Perhaps the most important step here is getting representation. An insurance company will want to rush through the claim, but your injuries and suffering are not a light matter. Let an attorney advocate for your cause. We can advise on a fair settlement, the best medical treatment for your case and compensating for this disruption to your time and family.
Call us for a free consultation, no risk to you. We will work on a contingency basis; no fee if we do not win for you!