Anyone who’s crossed a busy intersection in Los Angeles knows how intimidating it can be. And if you think drivers are acting more aggressively, you’re right. In 2022, data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association revealed there were 504 pedestrian deaths caused by vehicle-related accidents in California. That’s about 10% higher than in 2019. Even worse, pedestrian accident deaths have increased by a staggering 70% over the last ten years nationally. Sadly, the Golden State has been a major contributor to this spike.
What’s clear is that pedestrian safety must become a priority. Making sure motorists obey traffic signs and speed limits is the obvious first step. Improving municipal infrastructure so it’s more pedestrian-friendly can also help. And yes, ensuring pedestrians are alert to their surroundings when crossing can also play a part.
The Dominguez Firm has put together this guide to provide you with the latest information on pedestrian accidents, why they happen, what to do if you’re involved in one and how our personal injury lawyers can help. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a pedestrian accident, call us at (800) 818-1818 for a free consultation today. Pedestrian accidents can leave victims with devastating injuries. It’s important that those responsible pay for their actions.
Section 1: What are the Main Causes of Pedestrian Accidents in California?
There are several major causes of pedestrian accidents in California, each with its own contributing factors. Most happen because of driver behavior, but pedestrians and poor infrastructure can also play a part.
Distracted driving: When drivers engage in activities that divert their attention from the road, such as texting, talking on the phone, or eating, they are more likely to be involved in accidents with pedestrians. In California, distracted driving is a significant concern due to the prevalence of smartphone use and other distractions.
Failure to yield right-of-way: Drivers failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at crosswalks or intersections is another common cause of pedestrian accidents. This could happen due to inattentiveness, impatience, or ignorance of traffic laws. Additionally, drivers making turns without properly checking for pedestrians also lead to serious accidents.
Speeding: Excessive speed reduces a driver’s ability to react to sudden situations, and it increases the likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities in pedestrian accidents. When drivers exceed the speed limit or fail to slow down in areas with heavy pedestrian activity, the risk of accidents escalates significantly. On a side note, the empty streets caused by the pandemic played a major role in the sharp increase in speeding drivers. There has also been an uptick in drivers speeding due to road rage since the lockdowns.
Driving under the influence: Alcohol and drug impairment can diminish a driver’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time significantly. Driving under the influence is another cause of pedestrian accidents in California, especially during weekends, holidays, and late-night hours.
Lack of pedestrian infrastructure: Insufficient pedestrian infrastructure, such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals, can contribute to accidents. When pedestrians are forced to walk alongside roadways or cross busy streets without designated crossings, their safety is compromised. Plus, cities designed for cars and not people put pedestrians in danger. Most major cities in California have intersections where pedestrians are forced to cross six to eight lanes of traffic. For the elderly or those with small children, doing so puts them in extreme danger.
Poor visibility: Low visibility conditions, such as darkness, fog, or adverse weather, increase the chances of pedestrian accidents. Reduced visibility makes it harder for drivers to spot pedestrians, especially when they are not wearing reflective clothing or using proper lighting.
Jaywalking: Pedestrians who disregard traffic signals and cross streets outside designated areas put themselves at risk. Jaywalking can lead to unexpected interactions with vehicles and make it difficult for drivers to anticipate pedestrian movements.
Distracted walking: For their part, pedestrians who wear headphones or are immersed in their phones while crossing a street run the real risk of being hit by a car. Always be alert when walking and make eye contact with any drivers you encounter.
It is crucial for both drivers and pedestrians to be aware of these causes and take appropriate measures to prevent accidents, such as obeying traffic laws, staying alert, and practicing defensive driving or walking habits.
Section 2: The Risks Drivers and Their Cars Pose
Several driver actions can contribute to accidents with pedestrians. Another major risk to pedestrians are SUVs. First, here are the most common driving maneuvers that cause collisions with pedestrians:
- Drivers turning left or right – Drivers may be so fixated on looking for cars before making a left or right turn they forget to look for people. One common cause of pedestrian accidents is drivers suddenly encountering a pedestrian as they turn right. If they’re driving too fast, they may not stop in time.
- Drivers backing up – When drivers are reversing their vehicles, their field of vision is often limited, making it challenging to see pedestrians in their blind spots. This poses a risk of collision, especially in parking lots, driveways, or residential areas where pedestrians may be walking behind or near vehicles. Children are particularly vulnerable when a driver is backing up.
- Drivers making a U-turn – U-turns involve a complete change in direction and often require drivers to cross multiple lanes of traffic, increasing the potential for collisions with pedestrians. If someone is making an illegal U-turn, the danger to anyone unlucky enough to be in their path is even greater since they’re not expecting it.
The increasing popularity of SUVs has a dark downside; they are particularly dangerous for pedestrians for several reasons:
- Height and Design: SUVs have a higher front-end profile compared to sedans or smaller vehicles. This taller design can increase the risk of severe injuries to pedestrians in the event of a collision. When a pedestrian is struck by an SUV, they are more likely to be struck at the head or upper body level, which can result in more significant trauma.
- Weight and Impact: SUVs are typically larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road. The increased mass and weight of SUVs can lead to greater impact forces during a collision with a pedestrian. This can result in more severe injuries compared to collisions involving smaller vehicles.
- Lack of Visibility: Because of their size and elevated seating position, SUVs have much larger blind spots. These blind spots can make it more challenging for drivers to spot pedestrians, especially those who may be shorter, such as children or individuals with disabilities.
- Vehicle Design Features: Some SUVs are designed with a more vertical front end, which can pose a higher risk to pedestrians upon impact. The vertical shape and larger surface area can result in a higher likelihood of direct contact between the pedestrian and the vehicle, increasing the chances of severe injuries.
- Driver Protection Features: While SUVs often prioritize occupant safety, they don’t offer much protection for pedestrians. Design features such as higher bumpers, stiffer structures, and larger grille openings can cause more severe injuries for pedestrians involved in accidents with SUVs.
All SUV drivers should be aware of the dangers their vehicles pose and be extra cautious around pedestrians.
Section 3: Other Dangers to Pedestrians
Cars aren’t the only danger pedestrians face. They also have to navigate around other modes of transportation such as bicycles, buses, and e-scooters.
- Bicycles: While bicycles are a popular and eco-friendly mode of transportation, they can pose risks to pedestrians. Cyclists traveling at high speeds or disregarding traffic rules may collide with pedestrians, especially in shared spaces like sidewalks or pedestrian zones. Lack of proper signaling, failure to yield right-of-way, or riding in the wrong direction can increase the chances of accidents. Plus, the advent of e-bikes means more cyclists riding at higher speeds near pedestrians.
- Buses: Buses, particularly in urban areas, can present hazards to pedestrians. Large buses have limited maneuverability and require more space for turning, making it crucial for pedestrians to exercise caution near bus stops, crosswalks, and intersections. Failure to observe traffic signals or crossing in front of a turning bus can lead to accidents. Additionally, when buses stop to pick up or drop off passengers, pedestrians should maintain a safe distance from the vehicle to avoid being struck.
- E-scooters: The increasing popularity of electric scooters, or e-scooters, has introduced new risks for pedestrians. E-scooter riders who operate recklessly, at high speeds, or on sidewalks can collide with pedestrians. Insufficient regulations or noncompliance with local laws can worsen the problem. Pedestrians should be cautious when sharing paths or sidewalks with e-scooters and be mindful of their presence, while riders should adhere to traffic rules and prioritize pedestrian safety.
Overall, it is essential for pedestrians, regardless of the mode of transportation involved, to remain attentive and be aware of their surroundings. Likewise, operators of bicycles, buses, and e-scooters should prioritize the safety of pedestrians, practice responsible riding, and adhere to relevant regulations to minimize risks for everyone.
Section 4: Improving Safety for Pedestrians & Motorists
The California Department of Transportation is taking steps to enhance pedestrian safety by implementing various measures at high-risk locations. These measures are based on traffic collision data and are part of a unique pedestrian safety program. Some examples include:
Signal timing enhancement: Adjusting the timing of traffic signals to prioritize pedestrian crossings and provide them with sufficient time to safely cross the road. AB 2264 gives pedestrians a three to seven -second head start at signals throughout California before vehicles have a green light. Not only is this beneficial to the elderly, the disabled and children, but it increases visibility for all pedestrians.
Road diets: Road diets reduce the number of traffic lanes on a roadway to allocate space for bike and bus lanes and pedestrians. This is done to improve safety, calm traffic, and accommodate alternative modes of transportation. However, road diets have faced opposition from some local communities who express concerns about potential impacts on traffic congestion and travel times.
Curb extensions: Curb extensions are effective measures to enhance pedestrian safety by visually and physically narrowing the roadway. They create shorter and safer crossings for pedestrians while providing a buffer via the use of street furniture, benches, plantings, and street trees. Curb extensions can be implemented in various settings, including downtown areas, neighborhoods, and residential streets, regardless of their size. They can be used to reduce vehicle speeds or for midblock crossings.
Raised crosswalks: This pedestrian safety road feature spans the entire width of the roadway. They are often located at midblock crossings. Raised crosswalks are clearly marked and allow pedestrians to cross at the same level as the sidewalk. They can be used on local streets, collector streets, as well as in school zones, shopping centers, and pick-up/drop-off zones. These crosswalks are at least 10 feet wide and designed to accommodate both the front and rear wheels of a passenger vehicle.
For the long term, Caltrans, in particular, is playing a crucial role in the fight to lower the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents and deaths. It is actively researching the safety and mobility aspects of these modes of transportation. The organization is using this research to help improve infrastructure for both groups. Of course, there are political and economic considerations for implementing these changes and it certainly isn’t a quick fix.
Section 5: Sharing Responsibilities and Rights
All of us are pedestrians or drivers on any given day. And we need to share the road safely. One important first step is to be aware of each other at all times. However, accidents do happen. So what are your rights if you’re hit by a car while walking but share some of the blame? In California, you can be partially responsible for your pedestrian accident and still file a personal injury claim against the driver who hit you. That’s because California is a comparative fault state.
California being a comparative fault state means that in personal injury cases, the fault or responsibility for an accident can be shared by the parties involved. The degree of fault assigned to each party determines their liability and the amount of compensation they may receive.
For example, say a pedestrian is injured in an accident with a car. If the pedestrian was texting, they would share part of the blame for the accident. They could still sue for their injuries since the driver had the duty of care to be aware of any pedestrians in their path. However, the amount of compensation awarded would be reduced by a certain percentage. That percentage would be determined by the court.
Don’t let doubts about who caused your pedestrian accident stop you from contacting a personal injury lawyer. As noted, you can sue the person who caused your pedestrian accident in California even if you share a majority of the blame for what happened. Also, given the serious nature of most pedestrian accidents, you may not have a clear understanding of what exactly happened to you. Instead, let an experienced personal injury attorney handle your claim for you.
Section 6: A Unique California Law That Impacts Pedestrians
California is the only state in the nation that allows jaywalking. The Freedom to Walk Act became law in January of 2023. This law overturned one of the strictest jaywalking laws in the country. Previously, pedestrians caught jaywalking could be fined up to $250. However, under the new law, police officers cannot stop or fine individuals for jaywalking unless there is an immediate risk of collision with a moving vehicle that a reasonably careful person would recognize.
Supporters of the law see it as a victory for pedestrians, particularly in low-income communities of color where jaywalking citations were more common. The law is also aimed at discouraging aggressive behavior from drivers who assume they have the right of way. However, the law does not absolve pedestrians from being cautious while crossing the road, nor does it address the ongoing safety issues that put pedestrians in danger.
Features of the new law include:
- Allowing pedestrians to cross outside crosswalks if there is no imminent danger.
- If a pedestrian is hit while jaywalking, blame and liability will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Pedestrians can still file lawsuits against drivers for injuries sustained, but not being cited for jaywalking does not automatically absolve them of any blame.
- The aim of the new law is to cut down on police harassment of low-income people of color under the guise of citing them for jaywalking.
While jaywalking is no longer a criminal offense, it is still important for pedestrians to exercise caution when crossing the street. The new law does not eliminate the potential dangers of crossing outside of a crosswalk. Pedestrians should use their common sense, be aware of their surroundings, and prioritize their safety.
Section 7: What Should You Do if You Are Injured in a Pedestrian Accident
If you are injured in a pedestrian accident, there are several things you should do immediately.
- Check yourself for injuries. If you are injured, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. Even if you think you only suffered minor injuries, have yourself checked for dangerous internal injuries.
- Exchange contact information with the driver of the vehicle that hit you. Get their name, phone number, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information.
- Report the accident to the police. Even if the accident seems minor, it’s important to have an official record of what happened.
- Take photos of the scene and your injuries. This can help you document what happened and provide evidence for your lawsuit.
- Try to find witnesses who can help build your case against the negligent driver.
Just as importantly, contact a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases. They can explain your legal rights and options and guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit.
Section 8: The Compensation You Could Be Entitled to for Your Pedestrian Accident
In California, pedestrian accident victims may be entitled to various forms of compensation for their injuries. You’ll hear your attorney refer to this compensation as “damages”. Here are some examples of the types of damages they may seek on your behalf:
Economic Damages: These are concrete losses that have a direct financial impact on the victim. Examples include:
- Medical Expenses: Compensation for past, present, and future medical treatments, surgeries, rehabilitation, medications, and assistive devices required due to the accident. Medical bills make up the largest part of a pedestrian accident victim’s economic damages.
- Lost Wages: Reimbursement for the income lost during the recovery period and potential future earning capacity if the victim is unable to return to work or experiences reduced earning capacity.
- Property Damage: Compensation for any personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident, such as clothing or electronics.
Non-Economic Damages: These are subjective losses that are not easily measurable in monetary terms. They are meant to compensate the victim for the emotional impact of their pedestrian accident.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by the accident and resulting injuries.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the inability to engage in activities or hobbies that the victim enjoyed before their pedestrian accident.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the negative impact the injuries have on the victim’s relationship with their spouse or family members.
Punitive Damages: In certain cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly reckless, intentional, or malicious, punitive damages may be awarded. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which aim to compensate the victim, punitive damages are intended to make an example of the defendant and deter similar behavior from others in the future. These damages are relatively rare and are awarded in addition to the other types of compensation.
It’s important to note that the specific amount of compensation awarded in pedestrian accident cases depends on various factors, including the severity of injuries, the impact on the victim’s life, and the extent of the defendant’s liability. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial to assess the individual circumstances and determine the appropriate compensation to pursue.
Section 9: The Amount of Time You Have to File Your Pedestrian Accident Lawsuit
In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit for pedestrian accident injuries is generally two years from the date of the accident. This means that the victim has a two-year window to initiate legal action against the responsible party seeking compensation for their injuries and damages.
However, it’s important to be aware that there are certain exceptions and circumstances that can modify this timeline. For example:
Government Entities: If the responsible party is a government entity, such as a municipal, state, or federal vehicle, there are specific procedures and deadlines to follow. In most cases, the injured party only has six months to file a claim against those responsible.
Minors: If the victim is under 18 at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is typically tolled, meaning it does not start until the minor reaches the age of 18. In such cases, the two-year period begins on their 18th birthday and extends for two years thereafter.
There are other unique circumstances that can affect the statute of limitations. It’s crucial to consult with a personal injury attorney who can evaluate the specific details of the case and determine any applicable deadlines or exceptions.
One important note on this information; waiting to file your pedestrian accident claim can greatly reduce its value. If the victim is a minor, you shouldn’t wait until they’re 18 to file a lawsuit either. A parent or guardian can file it for them. Either way, if you wait, vital evidence will be lost and you’ll probably lose contact with witnesses. Also, defense attorneys will question why you waited and whether your injuries were even caused by your accident.
It’s important to act promptly and consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to ensure compliance with the statute of limitations. Failing to file a lawsuit within the specified timeframe may result in the loss of the right to seek compensation regardless of the severity of your injuries.
Section 10: The Insurance Agent is Not Your Friend. Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at The Dominguez Firm
Insurance companies don’t like to make large settlement offers, regardless of the injuries you’ve suffered. And contrary to what you see in TV commercials, the adjuster is not your friend. They are employees who are instructed to close accident injury cases quickly and for the least amount possible.
Pedestrian accident injuries are almost always serious and sometimes permanent. Medical costs alone can run into the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars over a victim’s lifetime. The initial offer from the insurance company probably won’t cover all the medical care needed to put one’s life back together again.
Instead, you need the services of an experienced personal injury law firm. The Dominguez Firm has been helping clients injured in all types of accidents for over 35 years. Let us handle the insurance adjusters and everything else related to your pedestrian accident injury claim so you can focus on your recovery. Call us today for a free consultation at (800)818-1818. We can travel to your home or hospital at a moment’s notice.
My experience was good. They made sure to kept me in the loop and made sure to let me know what was going on the whole time. My mom has used other attorneys and this experience was beyond better. I would definitely recommend them!
— Ashley Magana
The attorneys were always available and answered my questions. I would recommend them to anyone. Zoe is the best!
— Janet Salazar
My experience with The Dominguez Firm and the attorneys was really good. They were very informative and always returned my calls.
— Jocelyn Gonzalez