Crosswalk and Pedestrian Laws in California
California's crosswalk safety laws are designed to protect pedestrians from car accidents. They provide rules for where people can legally walk in a public place and are designed to keep pedestrians safe.
One of the most fundamental laws is Vehicle Code 21950 VC which requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the road within any marked or unmarked crosswalk.
Crosswalk laws are crucial to personal injury cases after a pedestrian accident. When someone breaks the law, it will often change who is liable for the accident. It can also reduce a pedestrian's compensation through the comparative fault rules in California.
When drivers or pedestrians don't follow the rules, it can lead to severe injuries or death. California has specific rules regarding pedestrians, vehicles, and who has the right-of-way.
Suppose you have been injured in a crosswalk accident in California. In that case, you may be eligible to recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit, known in this case as a “pedestrian knockdown lawsuit”.
However, proving liability and negligence is not cut-and-dried in pedestrian accidents, and in some instances where the rules weren't followed, the pedestrian may even be found at fault.
It's essential that pedestrians in California understand the laws and how they protect them—especially when it comes to personal injury claims. Our California personal injury attorneys will review the relevant laws below.
Crosswalk Laws in California
California has numerous laws defining the relationship between pedestrians and vehicles on the roadways and who has the right-of-way.
A pedestrian is defined under vehicle Code 467 VC as anyone who is walking, riding a motorized device to help them walk, and anyone who is using other devices to get around, such as a:
- Roller skates,
However, people are not considered pedestrians if they ride a bike, e-bike, or an e-scooter.
A crosswalk is defined under Vehicle Code 275 VC as either a section of the road painted with distinctive white lines that people or where two streets meet at approximately right angles.
A pedestrian can cross at an intersection even if no painted white lines are on the pavement. The most relevant rules pedestrians need to know are as follows:
Vehicle Code 21950 VC pedestrian crossing the street at the crosswalk. It gives pedestrians the right-of-way when crossing the road at any marked or unmarked crosswalk and requires vehicles to yield to them.
This law also details the duty of care for motorists and pedestrians. Section (b) says that even while crossing legally, pedestrians must not lunge unexpectedly into the crosswalk, rush into the path of an oncoming vehicle, or delay traffic unnecessarily while crossing.
Section (d) says motorists still have a duty of care to protect pedestrians even if they violate their duty of care in section (b).
Vehicle Code 21955 VC pedestrians have to use crosswalks at an intersection. Requires pedestrians to use the crosswalks when crossing the street with traffic lights. This statute is often used for jaywalking tickets.
Vehicle Code 21456 VC lays how are pedestrians are supposed to use the crossing lights. These are the electronic signals pedestrians use to cross an intersection and will show green or red letters or pictures and include a countdown clock.
Vehicle Code 21954 VC describes when pedestrians can cross the street outside of a crosswalk. If the pedestrian is not at a marked crosswalk or intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, they may still cross the street, but they must yield the right-of-way to vehicles near enough to present a potential hazard to them.
Vehicle Code 21970 VC car drivers stop their cars and block a crosswalk. Vehicles aren't allowed to block or obstruct crosswalks unnecessarily, which is an essential point because it might force pedestrians outside the crosswalk and jeopardize their safety.
Vehicle Code 21952 VC whether vehicles have the right-of-way when crossing a sidewalk. Cars don't have the right-of-way when they cross over a sidewalk; instead, they belong to pedestrians. Drivers must stop and let walkers first pass by.
Vehicle Code 21966 VC says no pedestrians in bike lanes. This law prohibits pedestrians in a marked bike lane when there is an adequate pedestrian facility, including a sidewalk.
Pedestrians Don't Always Have the Right-of-Way in California
Contrary to public belief, the State of California does not give pedestrians the right of way in all circumstances. As mentioned above, for example, pedestrians must yield to vehicles when crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.
If a pedestrian is not hit by a car while in the crosswalk, they may still have a valid personal injury claim; however, the burden will be on them to prove that the car driver was negligent.
A few factors that could contribute to negligence on behalf of the driver and the severity of the resulting injuries could be:
- If the driver was speeding;
- If the driver was texting; or
- If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Recovering Damages in a Crosswalk Accident
These laws listed above could impact a lawsuit in a pedestrian accident because they might determine who was liable for the vehicle accident.
In California, liability for an accident is usually connected to who was being negligent. The liable person could be ordered to pay compensation to the victim.
Suppose a pedestrian is struck by a car and injured while crossing the street legally in the crosswalk. In that case, they can file a personal injury claim to recover significant damages as compensation for their losses. Damages may include:
- Medical bills,
- Rehabilitation (e.g., physical therapy),
- Loss of income,
- Lost earning capacity (if the accident causes permanent damage that prevents the victim from working),
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of consortium.
Comparative Fault and Negligence
In some instances, if the pedestrian did not have the right-of-way or was violating the rules, lawyers for the motorist may successfully argue that the pedestrian was partly or entirely at fault in the accident, undermining any personal injury claims on the part of the pedestrian.
This can happen in one of two ways discussed below.
Claiming comparative fault. California is a “comparative fault” state, meaning that if both parties share responsibility in an accident, the plaintiff's personal injury claim may be reduced by the percentage of fault they shared.
In crosswalk accidents, for example, if the pedestrian lunged into the road or was attempting to cross against a “Don't Walk” sign, lawyers for the defendant or their insurance company may claim the pedestrian was partly at fault for the accident reduce the amount of the claim.
Negligence per se. This is a legal doctrine using laws to establish somebody's negligence. In some cases, when a person is in clear violation of the law, lawyers can argue they are negligent per se, meaning they don't have to prove further details of the person's negligence.
In some cases, a pedestrian breaking the rules could be found completely at fault for the accident through negligence per se.
If you were injured in a crosswalk due to someone's negligence, then you could be edible to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages and financial compensation.
Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we serve victims throughout Southern California, including Ventura County, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Call us at (818) 781-1570 for a free case evaluation or fill out our contact form.