Walking offers its set of health benefits, but it is becoming a dangerous activity that could result in severe injury or even death. Our roads handle more pedestrians than ever; the risk of sustaining injuries in pedestrian accidents increases. 

The LA Personal Injury Law Firm helps you if you were injured in a pedestrian accident. We understand the common causes of these accidents and the legal remedy available if you suffer injuries due to the mistakes or negligence of another person.

Overview of Pedestrian Accidents in California

California is the 16th most dangerous state for pedestrians, with pedestrian deaths in the state surpassing the national average. Between 2008 and 2017, more than 22% of the vehicle-related fatalities were pedestrians. More than 890 pedestrians died on California roads in 2018, with more than 14,000 sustaining injuries from pedestrian accidents, an increase of more than 35% from 2008.

The responsibility of keeping the roads safe for pedestrians lies in various stakeholders, including the government, motorists, and pedestrians themselves. When each plays their role, then these accidents can reduce as will the rate of pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Pedestrian deaths continue to rise throughout the country, even though driving rates have slightly increased. While these numbers are worrisome, it pays to understand the common causes of pedestrian accidents as well as the risk factors that increase the chances of injury through a vehicle-related crash.

The risk factors that increase pedestrian accidents include:

  • Age: younger children, teens, and older people are at an increased risk of suffering injuries or dying in a road accident.
  • Speed: pedestrians involved in high-speed collisions often die due to the impact of the crash. A car moving at 40 mph has greater chances of killing a pedestrian if a crash occurs.
  • Alcohol use by either the pedestrian or the motorist greatly increases the risk of pedestrian accidents.

You can keep yourself as a pedestrian safe by following traffic rules. Other things you can do to reduce the chances of being in a pedestrian accident include:

  • Assume that drivers are not paying attention: pedestrians are likely to think that drivers are aware of their presence on the road. However, most drivers focus on other motorists or distractions, such as their cellphones or their thoughts. Counting on the driver to notice you and stop, puts you at risk for injury or death. Defensive walking involves ensuring that the road is clear before you cross, even at designated areas and when the traffic lights say to walk.
  • Use designated crosswalks since most drivers are careful to yield to pedestrians at designated areas.
  • Avoid walking in the streets so that you avoid conflicts with traffic, resulting in your injury or death
  • Understanding the common causes of pedestrian accidents so that you can avoid them

Although you could take steps to protect yourself when walking, some accidents might still happen, and you could be a victim. You need to establish the cause of an accident so that you can determine the party responsible for your injuries or the death of a loved one.

The common causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Weather conditions
  • Backing up
  • Left turns
  • Failure to yield by motorists
  • Jaywalking

Some of these causes lead to criminal liability for the defendant; therefore, you can use the conviction records and the police report for the accident to prove that the defendant was responsible for your injuries.

1.      Distracted Driving

Distracted driving contributes to a large percentage of avoidable traffic crashes, with more than 30% of drivers being distracted behind the wheel. The department of transportation estimates that distracted driving increases the chances of a crash by 23%.

Distracted driving occurs when a driver engages in other activities that take the driver’s mind off driving or the wheel. Distractions compromise the safety of all road users since the driver misses signals and has lesser time to respond to hazards if he or she notices them.

Distractions can be of different forms, including manual, cognitive, and visual. Manual distractions are those that cause the driver to take his or her hands off the wheel. These distractions include searching inside a bag, changing radio stations, grooming, adjusting a child's car seat, eating, and drinking.

Visual distractions are those that take your eyes off the road. They include looking through the rear-view mirror, rubbernecking (staring out of the car at distractions such as a traffic accident scene), and looking at the GPS. Cognitive distractions are those that take your mind off the activity of driving.

These types of distractions often occur in unison. For example, if you are wearing makeup in your car, you take your mind and eyes off driving. You will also be engaging your hands in applying makeup instead of driving.

The common distractions among drivers include:

  • Daydreaming
  • Activities that are happening outside the vehicle
  • Eating or drinking
  • Using devices inside the car such as the radio
  • Using a cell phone for calls or texts
  • Passengers or pets inside the vehicle

While the law criminalizes distracted driving behaviors such as texting while driving or using a cellphone, the rates of distracted driving keep increasing.

You can lower the risk of being the victim of distracted driving by engaging in defensive walking. For example, try making eye contact with a driver to ensure that he or she sees you before you leave the sidewalk.

2.      Drunk Driving

Drunk driving continues to be one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. Despite legislation to criminalize drunk driving, and campaigns to sensitize drivers on the importance of sober driving, more people continue engaging in this dangerous act. And about 28 people die every day due to an alcohol-related accident.

California has different BAC limits that drivers must adhere to, including:

  • 08% for all drivers
  • 04% for commercial drivers
  • And no alcohol for minor drivers

However, the effects of alcohol do not rely on the BAC levels; a person could have a lower BAC amount and still be intoxicated. Even in small quantities, alcohol affects your judgment, concentration, and speed, ultimately affecting your driving. Here are ways in which alcohol affects driving:

  • Alcohol slows the reaction time to road hazards or emergencies. Alcohol is a sedative that slows the activity of the brain, thus all other functions, including your processing capacity. Therefore, when a pedestrian darts into traffic, you take more time to process the event and respond appropriately.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption before driving can lead to poor coordination of your eyes, hands, and feet. These coordination skills are essential in successful driving. Such lack of coordination makes it hard to turn on the ignition or cause you to step on the accelerator too hard, unintentionally.
  • Alcohol also affects your concentration; most of us experience distractions from time to time when driving. Alcohol, however, magnifies the problem making it hard to obey traffic rules or drive defensively.
  • Alcohol affects your vision causing blurriness or uncoordinated eye movements. If you cannot see clearly, you cannot judge correctly how far the cars or pedestrians on the road are; increasing the risk of colliding with them.
  • Alcohol slows down your judgment skills, making it harder to assess your driving situation, potential hazards, and reactions from other motorists and pedestrians.

In most instances where a driver causes a drunk driving accident, the police will have a record of the BAC amount and the details of the violation. You can use the police report (even if the defendant is not convicted) to prove that the defendant was responsible for the accident in which you were injured.

3.      Weather

Both warm and cold weather influence road conditions and human behavior, which contributes to pedestrian accidents. Some of the weather conditions might be out of human control, but others can be controlled through proper driving behavior.

Winter is known for the dangerous road conditions it causes. Here are some of the conditions winter weather causes:

  • The roads become slippery, thus increasing the risk that cars will lose control.
  • Poor visibility for both pedestrians and drivers, making the use of the road inherently dangerous in these conditions.
  • Drivers and pedestrians are more likely to move faster in winter conditions, which increase the risks of accidents on the road. Winter weather can make people uncomfortable, leading them to hurry to a place where they feel comfortable and safe.
  • Untreated walking surfaces also pose a risk to pedestrians as they walk. For instance, slippery surfaces are common in winter, and they make it hard to control your walking or avoid a dangerous condition fast, therefore increasing the chances of injury.
  • Untreated sidewalks and roadways can also force pedestrians onto the road, thus exposing them to traffic.

Warm weather significantly increases the number of people using the roads, both on foot and in vehicles. With so many people on the road, some traffic-human conflicts will inevitably occur, resulting in pedestrians' injury and death.

Nighttime walking also increases the risk of pedestrian accidents due to reduced visibility, and if pedestrians are wearing dark clothes and are walking on an unlit road, the risk of an accident increases. Fog and storms reduce visibility and increase the occurrence of traffic accidents.

Weather is an uncontrollable factor that contributes to pedestrian accidents. While it is out of our control, we can adjust our behavior accordingly to ensure that we are safe. Some of the precautions include:

  • Staying at home during bad weather
  • Walking slowly especially on slippery walkways
  • Wearing shoes that can hold on slippery surfaces
  • Wearing reflective clothing so that motorists can see you during poor visibility conditions

4.      Backing Up

Backing up accidents are common in parking lots, driveways, and alleyways. A driver could fail to see a pedestrian as he or she is reversing out of a parking lot or a driveway. Most backing up accidents are slow-speed accidents, but they have the same potential for causing serious injuries to the victim.

The risks of severe injuries in backing up accidents often arise because the driver continues to drive for some time before he or she stops. Drivers do not expect that they will be hitting a pedestrian; therefore, it is the pedestrian's impact against the road or the car, and sometimes shouts from other people that will alert the driver of an accident.

Such delay in response can lead to the victim being:

  • Crushed under the car tire
  • Trapped under the car
  • Crushed against other objects such as light poles

The result is severe injuries, including amputations, head trauma, severe lacerations, and death. Backing up accidents are mostly the fault of the driver. The law requires that drivers act with caution at all times and yield to pedestrians. However, due to carelessness, inattention, and distractions, drivers often end up hitting pedestrians.

In some cases, the driver’s impatience and mixed signals could cause the accident. For example, a driver continues reversing after telling the pedestrian to keep moving, or a driver who steps too hard on the accelerator when reversing.

Visibility is usually a common issue that contributes to backing up accidents. However, you can take precautions such as walking in front of parked cars instead of behind them, checking whether the engine is running or the backing lights are on; if they are, wait until they move out of the parking lot or driveway before you proceed.

Children are especially a high-risk population for backing up accidents due to their height, which necessitates proper monitoring and road safety education.

You can protect yourself from sustaining injuries from these types of accidents by:

  • Throwing an object at the car or hitting it before it reaches you, to attract the attention of the driver
  • Shout so that the driver can hear you

Seek medical care immediately and call an attorney if you are injured in such an accident.

5.      Left Turns

Left-turn accidents contribute to about 20 to 30% of all the intersection accidents in the US. Left-turn accidents have a greater chance of causing fatalities due to the inertia they exert. Pedestrians have a higher risk of being injured or killed at intersections with marked and designated crosswalks.

The major cause is that drivers often pay attention to other cars and forget to consider the pedestrians. In some cases, the walk sign and the sign co-occur, causing conflict between the pedestrians and the vehicles. Other factors that contribute to left-turn accidents include:

  • The left-turn reduces the visibility a driver has of the road and pedestrians.
  • Traffic congestion which reduces the time cars have to complete a turn before the signal changes.
  • Construction sites along the road (if the flagger fails to provide adequate instructions to drivers and pedestrians, then confusion and accidents can arise)
  • Distractions
  • Miscalculation of the speed of other cars
  • Failure to use a turn signal
  • Miscalculating the distance across

Left-turn accidents are usually the fault of the driver, for most cases. The law requires that the driver yields to pedestrians, even if the sign allows them to proceed. However, the pedestrian could be responsible for the accident if he or she does not give the driver sufficient time to notice that he or she has entered a crosswalk.

Other requirements that drivers have to adhere to when making a left turn include:

  • Checking traffic
  • Signaling at least 100 ft. before making the turn
  • Slowing down and making the turn only when it is safe
  • Yielding to oncoming traffic

6.      Failure to Yield

Failure to yield to a pedestrian is a criminal offense under California laws regardless of whether the pedestrian is closing at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

California requires that drivers give the right of way to pedestrians when approaching an intersection. These laws protect pedestrians from injury, as motorists approach an intersection. Drivers, however, might fail to yield the right of way because:

  • The driver is intoxicated or distracted.
  • The driver does not know or ignores the rule on the right of way (teenage or inexperienced drivers are more likely to be unaware of the right to yield laws)
  • The vehicle has a fault that makes it impossible to stop and yield to pedestrians.
  • The driver is speeding; therefore, he or she does not have sufficient time to yield to pedestrians.

Pedestrians also have a responsibility to exercise diligent care to ensure that they are safe when using the road. Some of the expectations the law has of pedestrians include

  • The pedestrian should check traffic before walking into a crosswalk and proceed when it is safe.
  • The pedestrian should continue walking to avoid delaying traffic.

A driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian and causes the injuries or death of this pedestrian is liable for his actions. The victim or the victim’s family can sue the motorist to recover damages related to the case.

7.      Jaywalking

Pedestrians who jaywalk or walk on unpermitted areas are breaking the law and increasing the risk that they could be injured. Pedestrians are mostly liable for accidents that occur when they are jaywalking.

Pedestrians can avoid jaywalking accidents by crossing at designated points and using sidewalks. However, a motorist could also be liable if he or she could prevent the accident but failed to. 

Most jaywalking pedestrian accidents settle through comparative fault where the court will determine the percentage fault of the defendant and the pedestrian. Some of the instances where a motorist could still be liable even if you were jaywalking include:

  • The motorist was speeding for the conditions.
  • He or she failed to obey traffic signals.
  • The motorist was driving drunk
  • The motorist failed to yield

8.      Construction Sites

Construction sites pose hazards to pedestrians in different ways. For example, a pedestrian could be walking and be injured by falling debris. Other safety hazards to pedestrians walking along a construction site include:

  • Falling debris
  • Exploding materials
  • Collapsing materials
  • Fires
  • Hazardous substances

Contractors can be responsible for accidents that occur to pedestrians on their constructions sites if they:

  • Fail to use barricades to limit access to the construction area
  • Fail to post warnings of hazards that could injure the pedestrians
  • Failure to secure the construction site to keep unaware pedestrians off the site, especially during the night
  • Failure to inspect equipment used at the site
  • Failing to secure the tools and equipment they are using
  • Utilizing untrained workers, therefore a risk to other workers and pedestrians
  • Failure to use safety materials that could prevent pedestrian accidents

What You Can Do

A pedestrian accident alters your life significantly. Your injuries could mean that you have to stay in the hospital for days, weeks, or months. You could be unable to go to work or attend to the needs of your family. Here are some steps you can take if you or a loved one is involved in a pedestrian accident:

  • Seek medical attention
  • Record your injuries (you can take videos or photographs of these injuries)
  • Contact an attorney who will help you identify and make a claim against the at-fault party.

You should keep all the evidence and documents related to the injuries organized so you have enough evidence to prove that you suffered damages from the accident.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Being in a pedestrian accident can be devastating, and for some families, it means losing their loved one. The injuries you sustain in a pedestrian accident can lead to expensive medical bills, lost wages, loss of body parts, or the function of certain organs and pain. You can recover these damages by filing a claim against the party responsible for the accident.

The LA Personal Injury Law Firm works with injured parties or their families to help you recover the losses you have suffered. The first thing we do is evaluate the possible causes of the accident so that we can determine which party is responsible for your injuries. We then represent you throughout the recovery process. You pay us if we win, meaning you have nothing to lose by fighting for your compensation.

Contact us at 310-935-0089, if you have questions about a pedestrian accident where you or a loved one suffered an injury.