Pedestrian Accidents in California: Your Legal Options
Updated: Apr 26
What to do and who to sue when you get into a pedestrian accident
Accidents involving pedestrians can occur anywhere an individual walks near traffic– parking lots, sidewalks, crosswalks, and other intersections. Since pedestrians are difficult to see in the dark, many pedestrian incidents occur at night. People who are walking do not typically wear reflective or retroreflective clothing like bicyclists, and a driver or motorist who is not paying attention can crash into them, even when said pedestrian is abiding by sidewalk rules.
Why Does It Happen?
There are many causes. Pedestrians will usually have the right of way on sidewalks, except in rare cases. The driver of the car is responsible for yielding to pedestrians who are crossing the street legally.
Pedestrians are all too often hit by reckless, distracted, or drunk drivers who fail to allow the right of way, despite a pedestrian's best attempts to cross at crosswalks and intersections and walk on sidewalks and shoulders.
Here's a couple of scenarios:
The driver wasn't paying enough attention outside of his immediate path
The driver is preoccupied with a smartphone
Flawed crosswalks design that doesn't consider traffic flow and etc.
Motor vehicles and bicycles refusing to give way to pedestrians at crosswalks
Turning without looking both ways at intersections
Ignoring speed limits
Driving under the influence
Pedestrian injuries are much more common in towns than they are in rural areas, but they can also happen on country roads. Winding roads with poor visibility and high speeds provide the ideal conditions for a severe collision.
Is it a Crosswalk Issue?
In certain situations, the driver is not the sole cause of a pedestrian accident. A pedestrian accident can also be caused by the position of the crosswalk and the road design. Pedestrian protection must be considered by those who plan and maintain public crosswalks. If they fail to do so and the crosswalk becomes dangerous, those responsible will be held liable.
Engineering companies and state authorities may become potential defendants in crosswalk position negligence cases. A pedestrian accident lawyer might be able to tell you the complicated details of your case.
Pedestrians who are hit by cars can suffer serious injuries. Since the human body cannot sustain the damage sustained by a collision with a moving vehicle (no matter how relatively small it is compared to other types), pedestrian accidents are often fatal. The effect of thousands of pounds of metal will result in serious injuries, and you might sustain one or more of the following:
Paralysis or other loss of control due to spinal cord injuries
Broken bones or injury to other areas of the musculoskeletal system are examples of orthopedic injuries.
Deep wounds (lacerations) and fractures (contusions), as well as organ damage
Concussions and more serious traumatic brain injury (TBI) or coma (or other head injuries)
Eye injuries and vision loss may occur as a result of dental or facial injuries.
Though drivers are often to blame for pedestrian injuries, they are less likely to be injured as a result of colliding with a pedestrian.
Unfortunately, the innocent pedestrian is the one who suffers the most severe injury in these circumstances. Almost always, there are scratches, scrapes, and bruises. Broken bones, concussions, internal bleeding, and even death are all possible outcomes.
How Can You Avoid It?
Always take the sidewalks. If there isn't one, walk facing the flow of traffic, and keep as much distance between you and the passing cars. This is so you know where the vehicles are going, and you're not suddenly hit from behind.
Pay attention to your surroundings. When walking, stop using electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road. Always cross streets at crosswalks or intersections.
Cross in an illuminated area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a break in traffic that will allow you to cross safely. Never presume that a driver will see you.
Make yourself as conspicuous as possible by wearing bright clothing during the day and reflective fabrics or a flashlight at night.
Keep a close eye out for vehicles driving into or out of driveways, backing up, parking, or navigating parking lots.
While walking, avoid alcohol and sensory-impeding substances because they affect your judgment.
How Can Drivers Avoid It?
Always keep an eye out for pedestrians and note that safety is a common responsibility.
Take extra care and slow down when driving in the dark, bad weather, or other difficult-to-see situations.
Be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise approaching a crosswalk, even if you don't see a pedestrian right away.
Give way for pedestrians in crosswalks. Even when you don't see any, slow down anyway; there may be people crossing the street who are not visible to you.
Never drive when inebriated, intoxicated, or under the influence of drugs.
Stick to posted speed limits, particularly in areas where pedestrians are frequent
Slow down in school zones and neighborhoods where children are present or may be playing in the street
Be extra cautious while driving in reverse as pedestrians may be present
If You Do Get Into an Accident, Here's What You Should Do:
If you've never been in an accident before, you may be unaware of what to do next to protect your legal rights. Making mistakes can jeopardize your ability to recover full compensation for your damages.
However, if you follow the steps below, you should be on the right track:
Get medical as soon as possible. After a pedestrian crash, your welfare should be your top priority. You should seek medical attention as quickly as possible to determine the extent of your injury. You'll even keep track of your injuries. This report could prevent the insurance provider from arguing that your injuries were due to the accident or that they were not as serious as you say.
Listen to your doctor. When a patient follows through with recovery plans, several injuries recover quicker and require less overall care. If you stick to the care plan that your doctor suggests, you'll have a clearer understanding of the past and potential medical costs.
Write down or record everything you remember about the accident. Taking notes can be highly useful. You will benefit from getting a reference that refreshes your mind about the accident's vital aspects if the insurance claim winds up in court two or three years later.
Collect paperwork related to the incident. Create a folder or file where you can store all accident-related papers. Gather hospital bills, receipts, photographs, witness names, and letters or e-mails from the insurance provider.
Obtain a copy of the police accident report. You can request a copy of the crash report from the law enforcement agency that responded to your crash as soon as it becomes available.
Don't consider an insurance bid on your own. Insurance companies are businesses; they will do all they can to spend as little as possible, even on you. Make sure to get a pedestrian accident attorney so you don't accidentally agree to unfair payouts.
Never discuss the case in public or on social media. Making any public statements right now might hurt your case. You can presume that the insurance provider has access to (and reads) anything you write online. Avoid talking about your case or sharing pictures or messages about it. In general, you'll be better off avoiding social media use before your case is fully resolved.
California Law: Do I have a Case?
Personal injury laws in California are clear and straightforward. Understanding the how negligence is defined under California laws can be useful, whether you face a large medical bill after an unfortunate accident or you just need help understanding your options to sue.
If you've been injured on a pedestrian accident, you might not know where to go or start. You may not have an idea when it comes to acquiring fair compensation for your medical bills, lost jobs, disabilities, and other expenses. However, suppose your injuries were caused directly by the negligence of another person or organization, you may might have a personal injury claim that's viable to get you compensated for financial losses.
How Negligence is a Part of Pedestrian Personal Injury Claims
The failure to use caution is the main principle in defining "negligence". To win a personal injury claim, the plaintiff and their pedestrian accident lawyer must prove that the defendant was negligent to a point that it directly caused the the victim damages. It's important to emphasize the duty of care violation and provide a detailed breakdown of all damages suffered as a result of the said breach.
Proving the other parties' responsibility in the claim is one of the most critical aspect of obtaining the most reasonable compensation or payable damages. The majority of pedestrian accidents and personal injury cases will depend on you legal team proving the defendant's negligence.
As you and your pedestrian accident attorney begin to develop your claim, your lawyer can explain and inform you of anything in your case that may be difficult to process. Unpredictable liability/responsibility in cases of multiple defendants is one of these difficulties.
If There's More Than One Defendant
It's not at all unusual for multiple parties to be held responsible for a personal injury claim. While this can make negotiations slightly more difficult and will require more effort gathering evidence, the court is ultimately the one to determine how much each named defendant is responsible for the plaintiff's damages.
Your personal injury lawyer must show that each defendant named in the filed claim is has some partial responsibility. These defendants might be multiple motorists, or an entire company that (for example) built faulty crosswalks. Your lawyer will explain how each defendant in your case will be held accountable for their part in the accident. This is supposing your case goes to trial and the judge finds that the defendants are all guilty or responsible at different levels.
In that case, the defendants are then responsible for the victim's compensation. These multple defendants are likely to negotiate amongst themselves to determine their fault percentages during settlement negotiations.
What Damages Can I Collect?
In California, there are two forms of coverage for personal injury claims: economic and non-economic damages.
The word "economic damages" applies to monetary losses. It's been referred to as "out-of-pocket" expenditures by others. The following are some examples:
Hospital bills for treating the injuries (experts will need to calculate what may be needed for long-term care)
Earning potential has been permanently reduced due to injuries
Rehab and recovery treatments
Non-economic losses are referred to as "more intangible." It has nothing to do with money or quantifiable wealth, but it is likely to have more serious consequences for the person. "Human Losses" is how it's sometimes described.
Disability caused by the injury
Loss of the enjoyment of life
Loss of companionship (such as a spouse or domestic partner)
Explaining "Pain and Suffering"
Even the most serious injuries demand proof of pain and suffering. This can be achieved in a number of different ways:
Plaintiff testifies to the length and severity of the pain and difficulty they went through after the accident.
You assigned physician, as well as family and friends, corroborate this testimony.
Proof (medical and financial) or the plaintiff's suffering.
Other than the pain and suffering damages awarded must be fair or reasonable, there are no fixed parameters. Under Jury Instruction CACI 3905A, the jury is advised that there is no fixed standard and that they must determine "a reasonable sum based on the facts and your common sense."
As a consequence, there is no complex legal standard; all that matters is that it is equal. Now, it's up to your pedestrian accident lawyer to justify what is considered "fair". While certain approaches have been used in the past, the lack of a true guideline is still highlighted. The California legislature has agreed that the state's residents should decide what is and is not equal.
Here's how suffering can be justified as a form of quantifiable compensation:
Demanding compensation for each day of suffering the victim has already endured or to be endured in the future. This is the most straightforward approach. For the sick person, there are no days off. The damages should represent the fact that the accident happens on a regular basis.
Victims pay a monthly fee to avoid pain. Extreme pain will come at a high price. A pedestrian accident lawyer might also ask the jury to determine how much they will bill for the pain and suffering you've mentioned.
It's no surprise that a jury decides a significant damages payout for pain and suffering is fair and adequate, considering the medical industry's exorbitant prices for years. Many of the above points have the potential to persuade. Nonetheless, the sum of the pain and suffering award will be decided by the jury, with the only fairness criteria.
Explaining Punitive Damages
Punitive damages (or exemplary damages) are damages given to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit and the real damages awarded. These damages are typically awarded at the judge's discretion and are designed to punish a criminal who has committed particularly egregious or surprising acts.
This form of compensable damages is rare but not unheard of. Proof that the defendant or at-fault party behaved with intent, oppression, or fraud is necessary under Civil Code Section 3294. The court may also award punitive damages to prevent a criminal from behaving in the same manner in the future.
Punitive damages can be demanded of a company whose acts were reckless, endangered a significant number of customers, and should have been prevented. This may occur when a corporation fails to supervise a product's production process or knowingly introduces a faulty product into the marketplace, considering its illegality or the risk of serious injury if used.
On the other hand, many states restrict the number of punitive damages that a plaintiff may obtain in a personal injury case. "Damage caps" are the words used to define these constraints. Damage limits are typically governed by state legislation.
A plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant's conduct constituted deception, oppression, or malice to be liable for punitive damages in a personal injury case in California. The requirement of proof that a plaintiff must meet in these circumstances is "simple and compelling facts." Based on which side has more weighty evidence, the need for seeking punitive damages is much more challenging to follow than the standard for obtaining real damages.
Unlike many other jurisdictions, California does not impose a cap on the number of punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case.
According to the Due Process Provision and Supreme Court precedent, punitive damages would fairly equate to compensatory damages granted to the plaintiff in such cases. As a result, all punitive damages payments in personal injury lawsuits in California must at the very least be equal to the real sum of damages.
Side notes on Punitive Damages:
Punitive Damages are not a stand-alone option. The plaintiff had to have caused "substantial damage." Consequently, any other damages, whether compensatory or nominal, must be awarded before the court can award punitive damages.
The court must consider the defendant's net worth. On the other hand, higher bodies would not accept the defendant's fortune until the jury has reached a preliminary judgment on whether the plaintiff has established injustice, intent, or fraud by clear and convincing proof. Punitive damages will then be calculated based on facts of the defendant's wealth.
Punitive damages should bear an "equal relationship" to the real accident, but that ratio would not bind the jury. It's once again a matter of what the jury finds to be fair. Proponents of "tort reform" often use punitive damages as a scapegoat to justify ridiculous awards. Since the beginning of the "tort reform" movement, this has been propaganda. As previously stated, punitive damages are difficult to receive. The underlying conduct has to be objectively bad.
If oppressive, dishonest, or malicious conduct has been done, the question becomes how we as a society can prevent it. Unfortunately, many of the wrongdoers are not charged in criminal court. Civil court is the only location where they can be found guilty.
The Problem of Wealthy Wrongdoers Getting Away
As previously mentioned, the only way to prevent the wrongdoer from acting out again and anyone from watching the case is to enforce monetary penalties. If the court or law limited punitive damages in amount, they would become a cost of doing business for unscrupulous companies or individuals. When you take a large portion of their profits, it's the only way to get the point across.
Consequently, punitive damages should be high when the defendant is rich, whether a business or a person. The higher the punitive damages award, the more it reflects the defendant's fortune rather than the victims' perceived greed.
How much of my money can I get back?
You now know what forms of damages you are entitled to recover after being involved in an accident. The following query is how much money you will get in return. To put it another way, what is the value of your case?
There is no single outlined approach for measuring this correctly. Since each customer is different, each case is different. The injuries you sustain and the way you heal will not be the same as those suffered by others. As a consequence, each case must be evaluated individually.
The at-fault party's insurance provider can contact you and offer a quick settlement. Proceed with caution if this occurs. If you have minor injuries and wish to consider the payment, make sure it includes at least the following costs:
It Covers All Medical Costs
Immediate treatment at the scene of the crash and follow-up care, such as physical therapy, should be taken into account. The complainant must prove that any alleged medical bills are fair in relation to the cost and necessity of the care they received.
The complainant will prove this in court through proper evidence of the medical bills. The plaintiff can establish the treatment's necessity by witness testimony, preferably that of the treating physician, but an expert witness can testify to the treatment's necessity if they are unavailable.
The applicant must prove that they incurred the following medical costs in order to be entitled to compensation for future medical expenses:
Expenses they have paid out from their own pockets, including one covered by insurance
Legitimate medical proof that they will need to be subjected to future treatments
To prove this evidence in court, Your legal team would need expert medical testimony. It doesn't have to come from the treating physician; for example, an economist may testify to the study's cost component. Medical expert evidence would, however, be needed to explain future medical expenses.
In California, medical bills incurred by private insurance can be collected as losses. Understand that medical expenses are not solely monetary. The plaintiff may seek special and economic damages for their insurance costs.
As a result, plaintiffs are entitled to reimbursement for medical costs such as:
Bills you already paid for
Expenses covered by your insurance
And incurred loans
Compensation for Lost Earnings
Was your injury stopping you from working? The loss of earnings includes any salaries, commissions, incentives, or other financial wages or fringe benefits you would have accumulated if the accident had not occurred. Many who have already worked will regain any earnings that have been lost or will be lost as a result of their absence.
As proof of missed earnings, pay stubs, W-2 forms, and other documentation are typically needed. Colleagues, accountants, and clients of the injured person will also testify to corroborate the documentation and provide a better basis for the jury's decision.
All aforementioned earnings and monetary benefits, which the injured party would have gotten if the incident hadn't happened, is factored into the potential earnings loss. Benefits such as social security are often considered for the time or years that should have been contributed but were not.
It's essential to keep in mind that the purpose of damages is to place the injured person in the same condition as if the accident never occurred.
The criterion for claiming missed future earnings is the same as proving future medical expenses: you must prove that the future earnings were reasonably likely to occur even though the accident did not happen.
To prove that the earnings were almost certain to occur, the injured would show two things:
How long will they be unable to return to their former job or jobs in general?
The amount of money (in wages, commissions, salary) you would have gotten if the injury hadn't happened.
In most cases, your legal team will use a medical specialist's testimony to prove how long it will take you to return to their previous career or any job. The specialist should be able to give a clinical opinion about how long the injury would prohibit the individual from functioning in general or at the same level as before.
Long-Term Impacts on Your Work Ability
Another example is when a victim's ability to function has been seriously harmed. To put it another way, a person would be unable to function in general or at the same level as before the injury.
Suppose the injured party can competently testify as to what they might have got. In that case, the court may call an economic consultant or an expert in the field of jobs to measure a fair yet equitable estimate of their earnings.
Many factors are included in this investigation, including the injured party's actual earnings at the time of the accident, his or her chances of promotion, life expectancy, overall economic patterns, and the economic trends of the injured party's career.
If the injury is severe enough that the injured person may be unable to pursue their expected career, they are entitled to compensation. In this scenario, the damages amount should represent the amount that the victim would have earned minus the amount that the injured party would receive from any alternative jobs (if that is even possible after the sustained injuries).
The court would need an economist's expert witness testimony to show how much would have been earned. When determining whether or not the injured person intended to pursue a career, various factors are considered. Witnesses familiar with the injured party's intentions and how far the injured party has progressed in fulfilling those plans are crucial.
You should also be compensated for the previously reported "intangible losses." While it may be in your best interests to settle your case on your own, you should wait until you are confident you have completely recovered (you won't be able to get much later if your pain returns). Do it when you have at least spoken with a credible personal injury lawyer who will give you an honest opinion.
If you have more severe injuries or are now recovering from the consequences, it is strongly recommended that you should not consider an insurance company's offer to settle.
What do you do in the event of a wrongful death?
Suppose you or a family member is involved in an accident that results in one or more individuals' death. In that case, you can pursue various legal options in addition to Personal Injury.
In California, you can sue for damages if someone dies due to someone else's negligence. However, only if you are one of the following:
The victim's children who are still alive
The victim's spouse or legally-registered domestic partner
Any of the victim's grandchildren
The victim's parents and stepchildren (and only if the victim died without a will and there were no living children, brothers, or other relatives to inherit from him)
Survival Action Lawsuit
If the accident victim did not die immediately, you could file a survival action lawsuit alongside a personal injury lawsuit. Any beneficiary of the estate is entitled to a portion of the payable damages if the victim's legal team files a survival case.
The following are normally included in compensation for a successful survival action lawsuit:
A community property stake in the victim's spouse's potential earnings
Other financial losses incurred by family members that would have been candidates for assistance if the deceased had not died
The victim loses love, companionship, warmth, treatment, assistance, security, affection, community, and moral support.
In the case of a spouse or domestic partner, the loss of gratification from sexual intercourse with the victim.
The victim loses essential family time, like being able to raise their children.
The victim's pain and suffering and economic damages such as treatment expenses and income loss are included in survival action benefits between the time of the accident and the time of death.
Do Damage Caps Exist Under California Law?
In certain jurisdictions, the amount of money a personal injury survivor will obtain in compensation for their losses is capped. "Damage limits" are the terms used to describe these limitations. In California, an individual's amount of money may claim for economic damages after an accident is not limited. Medical expenses, missed earnings, monetary costs, and other compensatory damages are all protected by this policy.
The amount of money the court may award a person for pain and distress damages, also known as non-economic damages, in most personal injury cases is without limitations.
However, there is an exception in the case of medical malpractice lawsuits. In California, in medical malpractice lawsuits, pain and suffering and other non-economic damages have limitations. However, a survivor of medical malpractice can be entitled to unrestricted compensation for economic damages.
Do Some Lawyers Specialize in Pedestrian Accidents?
A personal injury claim may arise from a variety of circumstances. You are entitled to compensation for the medical expenses, damages, missed income, and pain and suffering if an individual or company is to blame for the accident and injuries. Negotiating with an insurance provider or another entity can be complex and time-consuming.
You can obtain a lower payout than the accident and injuries warrant due to a lack of experience valuing cases. Using the services of a professional pedestrian accident attorney will help you get the compensation you deserve.
Your lawyer will go through the following subjects with you:
Obtaining all incident facts, such as accident reports, photographs and video, and eyewitness testimony, among other things.
Obtaining safety records is needed if the case includes a company or another agency.
Making sure that a competent medical professional examines the medical records.
Using medical and economic experts to measure the cumulative damages.
Negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance provider and all parties, or, if possible, bringing your case to trial to ensure you are adequately awarded.
In any personal injury case, your lawyer must charge attorney's fees. Pedestrian accident attorneys and their clients typically enter into fee settlements before starting the mediation or litigation process. In pedestrian accident cases, a contingency fee plan is commonly used, in which the claimant owes the attorney a percentage of the final settlement or verdict as compensation.
Costs in Litigation
Litigation costs are expenses incurred during a lawsuit or a settlement that is not compensated for a pedestrian accident attorney's time. They may consist of the following:
Filing fees in the courts
Costs of any case-related study, article, or review
Costs of deposition
Fees for juries and witnesses
Fees for expert witnesses
Fees for copies
In California, you can be referred to a Pedestrian Accidents Lawyer.
What would you do if you were involved in an accident? During your recovery, a lawyer will be able to protect you from agreeing to unjust compensations from parties who want to lose as little money as they can. 1000Attorneys.com offers free initial consultations via live chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.