In the state of California, pedestrian fatalities make up a staggering 22% of all California traffic incidents. This is an astonishingly high number, and a lot of it may stem from confusion surrounding California's pedestrian right-of-way laws.
Do pedestrians always have the right-of-way?
It's important to remember that this is a saying that people in California like to say before walking out into oncoming traffic—it's not necessarily law. And pedestrian accident cases are some of the most contested cases by insurance companies.
What is the right-of-way law in California?
According to the California Vehicle Code 21950, drivers "shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."
So as long as a pedestrian is crossing a marked crosswalk or crossing at an intersection that may or may not have a marked crosswalk, they have right-of-way.
Now here's where it gets tricky. Another part of this same vehicle code states, “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
What specifically constitutes "an immediate hazard"? How far away does the vehicle need to be? Because of the ambiguity in the vehicle code, insurance companies often contest these types of cases.
Furthermore, pedestrians are not legally allowed to walk out into the street without a crosswalk. CVC 21954(a) states that “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
This, clear as day, states that pedestrians do not always have right-of-way. Pedestrians yield right-of-way to vehicles when they cross in an area outside of a crosswalk.
However, it's important to note that drivers are not completely blameless in these accidents. That section later reads, “the provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”
This means that if a pedestrian does cross a street illegally and a driver has enough time and notice to slow down or stop, they must do so.
Have you been injured crossing the street?
The May Firm is here to help you with your pedestrian right-of-way case. We would love to listen to what happened during a free consultation and discuss your case with you. Contact us today to get legal help in your personal injury case.