What a Pedestrian Hit by a Car in California Needs to Know
California is considered one of the most pedestrian-friendly states, with highly accessible metropolitan areas and gorgeous year-round weather. Whether walking to work, down to your favorite restaurant, or to one of the many hiking trails in the state, pedestrians in California are within walking distance of many desirable places. Even with a steady flow of pedestrian traffic, drivers rarely pay attention to those walking on the sidewalks adjacent to the roads they are driving on. When a car hits a pedestrian, the results can be absolutely devastating. All California pedestrians should know their rights and responsibilities, just like a passenger car driver, in case they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
California Right of Way Laws
To help protect pedestrians who do not have the same protection as a motor vehicle while walking down the road, the California Vehicle Code requires drivers to “yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” While this does not mean that pedestrians have the right of way in all situations, it does give pedestrians the right of way in specific situations. Pedestrians are not allowed to just walk into the street at any given time. If a pedestrian wants to cross the street legally, they must find an appropriate place to do so. However, California right of way laws do not state that if a pedestrian enters the street, drivers do have a responsibility to exercise care to avoid hitting them. State law also requires drivers to take into consideration the presence of cyclists and pedestrians when determining what speed to drive.
California Pedestrian Accident Liability
In general, the standards for liability and negligence in a pedestrian accident in California are the same as in any other personal injury case. The injured pedestrian must prove three elements to recover damages:
- The driver owed the pedestrian a duty of care
- The driver breached the duty of care because they were negligent
- The driver’s negligence caused the pedestrian’s injury
All Californians owe a duty of care to the people around them. This means that every driver on the road has a duty to be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. If a driver has not been paying attention to the road or is driving dangerously, they may be considered negligent and fully at fault for any injuries and damages resulting from them hitting you.
If a pedestrian in California is hit by a car, they need to do the following:
1) Immediately Seek Treatment for Their Injuries
The first and most critical step you should take as a pedestrian after being hit by a car is to seek medical treatment immediately. Pedestrians do not have the protections that a passenger vehicle does and injuries from being hit by a car can be incredibly severe or fatal. Allow a medical expert to evaluate and treat your injuries as soon as possible. Many injuries sustained during an auto pedestrian accident are internal and will not present with symptoms right away. These types of internal injuries can be fatal and must be detected quickly for proper treatment. Even if you think you feel fine after being hit by a car in what appears to be a minor accident, seek treatment from a healthcare professional to make sure any unexpected internal injuries are treated.
Seeking medical treatment after a pedestrian accident will also create essential medical documentation that shows the extent of the injuries you sustained. This type of evidence is key to a successful legal case against the driver of the car that hit you. It will also help protect you from predatory insurance companies that claim you were not actually injured in the car accident. Insurance companies, even if they say they want to help, will often take your statements and twist them to make it seem as though your injuries are not serious. See a doctor after your are hit to make sure there is written documentation of your physical pain and injuries.
2) Gather Evidence and Contact Information
If your injuries are not serious and you are able to gather evidence and take down contact information for anyone involved in the accident as well as any witnesses, do so at the scene. If you are unable to, but you can speak to a witness who is willing to help you with this task, ask them to gather the contact information of the driver or drivers involved and take photos and videos of the scene while you seek medical treatment. Make sure to obtain a copy of the car accident police report and hang on to all medical documentation your healthcare professional can give you regarding the injuries you sustained in the accident. Make a file of all receipts related to the accident including any bills for medical care or medications. If you have to take days off work due to your injuries, document how many hours you have missed and your lost wages for those hours.
3) Do not Speak to An Insurance Company without an Attorney
Just like car and motorcycle accident claims, hiring a pedestrian accident attorney can make or break your case. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney will be able to obtain the maximum amount of financial compensation for victims and will navigate confusing insurance company tactics. Insurance companies always want to pay as little as possible when it comes to accident claims. Having the right attorney on your side will help prevent an insurance company from trying to take advantage of you. Once you have secured an attorney, they will communicate with the insurance company and negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.