Jaywalking is the practice of a pedestrian crossing the street at a place with no crosswalk or intersection. Jaywalking is often dangerous since drivers may not be expecting to see pedestrians in the road at these locations. While most drivers know to stop and yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and marked intersections, pedestrians jaywalking can take them off guard. This can lead to preventable collisions between vehicles and pedestrians. The pedestrian, however, may not always be the at-fault party in a jaywalking accident.
California’s Jaywalking Laws
Contrary to popular belief, jaywalking is not against the law in California. California Vehicle Code 21954 states that any pedestrian crossing the road someplace other than a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the road that are close enough to present an immediate hazard. Pedestrians may lawfully jaywalk, therefore, as long as they do so safely.
A pedestrian will not automatically absorb liability for a car accident if he or she was jaywalking at the time of the collision. Instead, an investigation may be necessary to see which party was at fault for the crash. Jaywalking is legal if the pedestrian does so carefully and without stepping in front of oncoming traffic. A crash may be a driver’s fault if he or she was not paying attention to the road or otherwise could have prevented the collision. Recognizing both parties’ responsibilities can help determine fault for a jaywalking accident in California.
Driver Duties of Care
California’s jaywalking law includes a section directed toward drivers. It says the provision allowing a pedestrian to jaywalk does not excuse a driver of his or her duties to exercise reasonable care for the safety of pedestrians upon a roadway. Just because the law makes it a pedestrian’s responsibility not to step out in front of oncoming vehicles does not mean a driver does not have to stop. If a pedestrian does step into the road, a driver has a duty to reasonably try to avoid hitting the person or causing an accident.
A driver always owes duties of care to other roadway users. A driver’s legal obligations include paying attention to the road and obeying traffic rules. A responsible driver should not speed, drive drunk, drive tired, run red lights or engage in any other negligent or reckless practices. If a driver is breaking a rule or behaving negligently at the time of a pedestrian collision, that driver could be responsible for the accident even if the pedestrian was jaywalking at the time.
Fault for a pedestrian collision will come down to the party most responsible for making the crash occur. If the pedestrian stepped in front of an oncoming vehicle, he or she could be liable for the accident. If the driver reasonably had enough time to stop but failed to do so because of distraction or negligence, the driver could be liable. An investigation of both parties and evidence such as eyewitness testimonies can help determine fault for an accident. In some cases, both parties may share fault.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. The laws in this state say that a plaintiff can share fault for an accident and still be eligible for at least partial financial recovery. Unlike modified comparative negligence states, California does not have a threshold. A plaintiff could be 99% at fault for a pedestrian collision, therefore, and still recover the remaining 1% of a compensatory award. In a case where the courts divide fault between the pedestrian and the driver, the pedestrian will receive an award minus his or her amount of fault.
If the courts find the pedestrian 40% at fault for jaywalking, for example, but the driver was 60% at fault for texting and driving, the injured pedestrian would receive 60% of a compensatory award. The courts would reduce a $100,000 jury verdict to $60,000 in this example. Determining fault and maximizing compensation after a jaywalking accident in California may take help from an attorney.