What to Do If You’re Hit by a Car in California: A Guide for Pedestrian Accident Victims

pedestrians hit by cars

Pedestrian accidents are a serious problem in California, with thousands of people falling victim every year. Severe injuries, outrageous medical bills, and even long-term psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually follow pedestrian accidents.

California law entitles victims to several remedies through personal injury litigation against at-fault drivers. Today, we’ll look at some common causes of these accidents and strategies for negotiating fair compensation.

Pedestrian Rights and Traffic Laws in California

California pedestrians have rights and protections under state law.

Right-of-Way Statutes

When crossing the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection, pedestrians generally have the right-of-way, meaning that the law requires drivers to yield and allow people to cross safely. Motorists must also exercise caution when approaching areas where pedestrians are likely present, such as near schools, parks, and residential neighborhoods.

Sharing Liability

Pedestrians should note that California uses a pure comparative negligence system when determining accident fault. This rule means that if the courts or insurers find both the pedestrian and the driver contributed to the accident, the fact finder can reduce damage awards to pedestrians by their percentage of fault. For instance, if a court determines that you were 20% responsible for the car accident, it would reduce your compensation by 20%.

Refuting Comparative Negligence Arguments

To minimize your risk of being found partially at fault, you should hire a personal injury attorney to represent your interests during the claims process.

Your legal counsel can:

  • Emphasize the defendant’s duty of care: Highlight the defendant’s legal responsibility to ensure the pedestrian’s safety.
  • Mitigate alleged contribution: Challenge the defendant’s assertions by arguing the pedestrian’s actions were reasonable.
  • Assert the “Last Clear Chance” Doctrine: Under Brandelius v. City & County of San Francisco, even if the pedestrian was initially negligent, the defendant most likely had the last clear chance to avoid the accident but failed to do so, making the defendant fully liable.
  • Emphasize the severity of injuries: Argue that the injuries are so severe that they outweigh any alleged comparative negligence and that the courts should hold the defendant fully accountable.

By employing these strategies, personal injury attorneys can minimize the impact of comparative negligence claims and maximize potential jury awards.

Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian accidents happen for many reasons, but some causes are more prevalent than others. Below, we’ve outlined the most frequent beach of duties that provoke pedestrian harm.

Distracted Driving

When motorists text, eat, adjust the radio, or engage in other distracting behaviors behind the wheel, they may fail to notice pedestrians to avoid an accident.

Speeding and Reckless Driving

Drivers who exceed posted speed limits or operate their vehicles carelessly in areas with high pedestrian traffic put people’s lives at risk.

Failure to Yield

Disregarding traffic signals or failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks leads to dangerous collisions.

Driving Under the Influence

Alcohol and drug impairment significantly diminish a driver’s ability to react to pedestrians and avoid crashes. Intoxicated drivers pose a severe threat to people and other road users.

Poor Visibility

Accidents are more likely to happen during periods of low visibility, such as at night, during inclement weather, or when pedestrians wear dark clothing.

Injuries Commonly Sustained in Pedestrian Accidents

The injuries sustained in pedestrian accidents are often severe and life-altering due to the lack of protection pedestrians have compared to vehicle occupants.

Some common actionable injuries suffered when struck by a vehicle include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and concussions: Occur when the head strikes the ground or other objects, leading to brain damage, cognitive impairments, and other long-term consequences.
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis: Damage to the spinal cord resulting in partial or complete paralysis, affecting the victim’s mobility and quality of life.
  • Broken bones and fractures: The breaking or crushing of bones, particularly in the legs, arms, and pelvis.
  • Soft tissue damage: Lacerations, bruises, and other soft tissue injuries requiring extensive medical treatment.
  • Psychological trauma and PTSD: Emotional tolls are just as devastating as physical injuries and often provoke anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The severity and long-term impact of the above harm underscore the importance of getting paid for your losses. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help you pursue a settlement to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages necessary for recovery.

Evidence in Pedestrian Accident Literature

Gathering evidence is necessary in pedestrian accident lawsuits. Personal injury law firms use their resources to discover the driver’s negligence and prove causation.

Police Reports and Accident Scene Investigations

Law enforcement officers who respond to accidents create an official report at the scene detailing their findings, which can provide valuable insight into how damages occurred.

Witness Statements and Testimony

Bystanders who saw the incident can offer court-admissible perspectives on the events leading up to the collision and help corroborate your account.

Traffic Camera Footage and Surveillance Videos

Many intersections and businesses have cameras that may have captured the accident, providing visual evidence of the driver’s actions.

Accident Reconstruction Experts

In complex cases, your attorney may enlist the help of specialists who can analyze the available evidence and create a detailed reconstruction of how the accident unfolded.

By carefully examining this evidence, your legal team can work to demonstrate that the driver’s negligent actions directly caused your injuries, strengthening your compensation claim.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If a negligent driver injured you while walking in California, you can bring personal injury action and seek legal remedies for your losses.

However, you must act fast because the statute of limitations for these claims is generally two years from the accident date.

Your injury attorney must also prove the following tort elements to receive a favorable jury award.

  1. Duty of Care: The driver owed you a duty to operate their vehicle safely and obey traffic laws.
  2. Breach of Duty: The driver breached this duty through negligent actions or inaction, such as speeding, distracted driving, or failing to yield.
  3. Causation: The driver’s negligence directly caused your injuries.
  4. Damages: You suffered quantifiable losses from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Your legal counsel will help you comply with court rules and deadlines, gather evidence to support your claim, and strike down claims against you.

Our personal injury lawyers also handle negotiations with insurance companies and, if necessary, represent you during court-ordered mediation sessions.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

After a pedestrian accident, you’ll likely file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Remember that insurance adjusters are primarily concerned with minimizing payouts and protecting their company’s bottom line rather than ensuring you receive a fair settlement.

Low Settlement Offers Don’t Cover All Damages

Insurance adjusters may pressure you into accepting a low initial settlement offer, claiming it’s the best they can do.

But a lowball offer will most likely not remedy the full extent of your damages, particularly when you’ve suffered severe injuries that require ongoing medical treatment or result in long-term disabilities.

Before signing your rights away by accepting a settlement, it’s best to consult a personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case, quantify damages, and negotiate a better payout.

Your attorney will calculate a fair settlement amount that takes care of all your losses, including:

  • Current and future medical expenses related to the accident.
  • Lost income and reduced earning capacity due to your injuries.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Other economic and noneconomic damages.

If the insurance company refuses to budge, your injury lawyer may file a lawsuit to pursue a proper award through the court system.

Know Your Legal Rights and Take Action

California provides legal protections for pedestrians, and if a driver’s negligence caused your injuries, you can receive payment to cover your economic and noneconomic losses.

However, taking on the legal system and dealing with insurance companies alone can be challenging, particularly when trying to focus on your recovery.

An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can handle the legal aspects of your case, allowing you to concentrate on healing. Don’t wait to seek legal guidance from a California personal injury law firm to discuss your case, learn about your rights, and explore your options for pursuing the compensation you deserve.

At DP Injury Law, we have years of experience handling pedestrian accident cases throughout California. We’ve helped injury victims take home millions in compensation from the at-fault party. Don’t settle for pennies on the dollar; contact us now for your FREE case evaluation.

Author Bio

Arthur Paul D’Egidio is the Managing Partner of DP Injury Attorneys, a San Diego personal injury law firm. With more than 12 years of experience in California injury law, he has dedicated his practice to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury matters, including car accidents, workers’ compensation, slip and falls, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases.

Arthur received his Juris Doctor from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California as well as the San Diego County Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a Super Lawyer for seven straight years by Thomson Reuters and a “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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