Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in California?

Does a pedestrian always have the right of way? A 30-year-old woman who was struck and severely injured while crossing the street in San Diego last week may be asking this question after her accident. The woman was crossing at the intersection of Carlsbad Village Drive and Jefferson street against a red light when she was hit by a car.

The pedestrian’s injuries were so severe that the Carlsbad Fire Department had to administer advanced life support (CPR) when they arrived on the scene. The woman was transported to the hospital to receive further medical treatment for a head injury. The driver of the car who struck the woman was uninjured, but her car had moderate damage to the hood.

Both the pedestrian and driver suffered harms because of the accident. The pedestrian suffered bodily injuries that required extensive medical treatment. The driver suffered property damage to her car that will likely require repairs. The costs of these expenses will probably not be cheap. Can either party recover compensation to help mitigate these costs? Does the fact that the pedestrian was crossing against the red light bar her from recovering damages? Or, do pedestrians always have the right of way?

California Jaywalking Laws

In California, the law prohibits pedestrians from jaywalking. Pedestrians who need to cross the street must do so at a crosswalk at an intersection. The crosswalk can be marked or unmarked, but it must be at an intersection. Pedestrians generally have the right of way when they are in a crosswalk. However, pedestrians have a duty to yield the right of way to vehicles on the road if it is necessary to avoid an immediate hazard. So, if a car is approaching as a pedestrian intends to cross the street the pedestrian should wait until the car has passed. The duty to yield may depend on how close the oncoming traffic was.

So, pedestrians may only cross at marked or unmarked crosswalks and may have a duty to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Do drivers have a duty to yield to pedestrians who are already in a crosswalk? In California, drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable and due care to ensure the safety of pedestrians on the road. This can include looking both ways before making a turn, slowing down at intersections, and being alert for pedestrians who are unexpectedly on the road. If a driver can protect the safety of a pedestrian he or she has a responsibility to do so.

What happens when, as in the Carlsbad pedestrian accident discussed above, the pedestrian is violating a traffic regulation? Who had the right of way? In exercising due care both pedestrians and drivers must obey traffic laws. This includes following signs and signals such as crosswalk and traffic lights. When the pedestrian crossed against a red light, she breached her duty to exercise due care. If she decides to pursue compensation from the driver of the car she will probably only be able to recover a percentage of the damages she suffered.

California Comparative Negligence Rule

California follows the rule of comparative negligence. This means that injured parties are generally not prohibited from recovering compensation after an accident even if are partly responsible. Their ability to recover compensation, however, is reduced by the percentage of the accident that is deemed to be their fault. Since the pedestrian was violating a regulation – crossing against a traffic signal – her ability to recover compensation may be reduced.

In order to be permitted to recover anything, the pedestrian proves that the driver was also responsible for a percentage of the accident. The pedestrian will have to show that the driver of the car had a responsibility to attempt to yield to her once she was already in the crosswalk and failed to do so. If the pedestrian learns that the driver was speeding, texting, or otherwise violating the law when the accident occurred she can use that as grounds for shedding some liability.

Both the pedestrian and the driver had a duty to exercise due care. The pedestrian failed to exercise this due care when she crossed against the light. The driver may have failed to exercise this due care if she was distracted, speeding, or did not attempt to yield once the pedestrian was in the road. Each party should contact an experienced pedestrian accident attorney for legal assistance. Hiring an attorney after an accident is the best way to reduce potential liability and maximize the recovery of any compensation that may be awarded.