When a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, it’s easy to assume that the vehicle’s driver will always be the at-fault party. However, this is not necessarily the case.
For example, if a pedestrian is violating traffic laws at the time they are hit, they may be determined partially at fault due to California comparative fault rules.
So, who is at fault if a pedestrian is hit while jaywalking in California? In short, it depends.
If you were hit by a vehicle but were jaywalking when the collision occurred, the pedestrian accident attorneys at Peerali Law can evaluate your case and help you determine whether you may be legally at fault.
In the meantime, use our guide below to learn more about shared-fault pedestrian accidents involving jaywalking.
California Jaywalking Laws
You might be wondering what happens if you hit a pedestrian jaywalking.
But before answering this question, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the rights and duties of pedestrians under California law.
Until recently, the State of California criminalized jaywalking in all circumstances. However, this changed with the passage of the Freedom to Walk Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2023.
Under section 21955 of the Act, police officers may not stop and ticket pedestrians for jaywalking “unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.”
But this does not mean that jaywalking pedestrians can’t be held responsible if their actions result in an accident.
In fact, the Act specifically states that this section “does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for their safety.”
Fault in a Personal Injury Case Generally
At the heart of most personal injury cases is proving negligence. In other words, to prove fault in a personal injury case, you must be able to prove that the negligence of one or more parties caused the incident that resulted in injury.
To win on a negligence claim, you must be able to prove four elements:
- Duty – someone is held to a legal standard of care based on their relationship with another party;
- Breach – someone fails to meet the requisite standard of care;
- Causation – breach of the legal duty causes an accident; and
- Damages – the injured party incurs actual monetary damages as a result of the accident.
You must prove all four elements to prevail on your personal injury negligence claim.
California Comparative Fault Rules
What happens when more than one party is negligent in causing the accident?
California law addresses this question through its system of “pure” comparative negligence, which was established in Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal. 3d 804 (Cal. 1975).
Under California’s pure comparative negligence system, an injured party can still receive compensation even if they were partially responsible for causing the accident if the other party was also partially at fault.
Thus, so long as a jaywalking pedestrian isn’t 100% responsible for causing the accident, they may still be entitled to compensation from the driver who hit them.
But the amount of damages the injured party can receive will be reduced in proportion to their amount of fault.
Who Is at Fault If You Hit a Jaywalker: An Example
For the following example, imagine that a pedestrian is walking down a relatively busy street in California.
Rather than continue to the nearest crosswalk, the pedestrian decides to jaywalk to cross the street. The pedestrian knows that isn’t the safest option, but they’re in a hurry.
The pedestrian, assuming this is a one-way road, briefly looks left to check for oncoming traffic. Not seeing any cars, the pedestrian runs to the other side.
Unbeknownst to the pedestrian, this is not a one-way road. While the pedestrian hurries across the street, they are struck by a vehicle coming from the right.
As a result of the collision, the pedestrian sustains $100,000 in damages, due to hospital bills, surgery, and physical therapy costs.
At this stage, both the pedestrian and driver are likely wondering, If you hit someone jaywalking, who is at fault? Ultimately, the answer will come down to the percentage of fault attributed to each respective party.
At trial, evidence shows that the driver ran a red light and didn’t see the pedestrian in time to brake safely.
However, evidence also confirms that the pedestrian failed to look both ways before crossing the street.
Accordingly, the jury determines that the driver was 70% at fault in causing the accident and the pedestrian was 30% at fault.
Thus, the pedestrian’s damages of $100,000, which they otherwise may have been entitled to recover, is reduced by 30%. As such, the pedestrian is entitled to recover only $70,000 in damages.
Other Scenarios in Which a Pedestrian Might Be Partially at Fault in a California Motor Vehicle Accident
Jaywalking isn’t the only time a pedestrian might be partially at fault in a California motor vehicle accident.
Other examples could include:
- Failure to follow crosswalk signals and street signs;
- Walking in the street rather than on an available sidewalk;
- Texting or looking down at a phone while walking; or
- Walking late at night in a low-lit area.
Of course, each case is different, and this isn’t an exhaustive list. Thus, be sure to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney to better understand your rights and options.
Peerali Law: Your Trusted Pedestrian Accident Injury Attorneys
So, who is at fault if a pedestrian is hit while jaywalking in California? Ultimately, the answer will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case.
If you have questions regarding liability in your pedestrian accident case, we want to help.
Our attorneys have successfully recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. We hope we have the opportunity to serve your needs too.
Contact us today for a free consultation and see what our team can do for you.