What to do if you’ve been injured in a pedestrian accident
One reason why people move to Irvine is because of the fabulous weather. It averages 205 sunny days a year, there’s no snow, and the temperatures rise to a comfortable level in the mid-80s for most of the summer.
And, as a modern master-planned city in Orange County, it’s designed for livability. There’s lots of energy—both human and technological. There are several tech and semiconductor corporations headquartered in Irvine, and, with so many colleges and universities nearby, the demographic is young, with a median age of 33.
Everyone is a pedestrian at one time or another—whether you walk to work or school, for recreation, or simply back and forth to your car in a parking lot—which means that you could become an accident victim.
Here’s one story of a pedestrian injured in an Irvine accident in 2021:
Channing Paul was taking a walk on an August afternoon around 5:30 pm. She was crossing the intersection on Encanto at Molino in Irvine when she was hit by a driver in a Jaguar XJ, who sped off without stopping to offer assistance.
Paul remembers feeling pain, and then she blacked out. She sustained a concussion, dislocated shoulder, and broken humerus, and she received several stitches on her head. At the time of the accident, the driver was not identified.
Accidents like what happened to Paul can result in a variety of legal issues. First and foremost, can she receive compensation for her injuries?
Here’s how the California legal system handles pedestrian accident injuries and legal compensation.
Liability for an Irvine pedestrian accident
There are a number of ways you could be injured as a pedestrian—it’s not just collisions with cars.
Certainly, car accidents with pedestrians are a serious problem and cause severe injuries. But you could also be injured because of a hazardous condition on a property, known as premises liability, or similar types of slip-and-fall accidents.
California pure comparative negligence rule
A pedestrian can share liability for their own injury. Although there’s an old saying that “the pedestrian always has the right of way,” that’s not exactly accurate.
In fact, both drivers and pedestrians have rules and responsibilities when sharing the road. California follows a pure comparative negligence rule, which means that if a driver causes an injury to a pedestrian, the pedestrian’s compensation is reduced if they share any fault for the accident.
How does this work?
Here’s a hypothetical situation:
Penny Pedestrian lives in an apartment complex off the E. Yale Loop, near the intersection with Alton Parkway in the Woodbridge area of Irvine. Penny leaves her apartment on a beautiful spring morning to walk her dog. She walks out of her apartment complex and crosses E. Yale Loop. It’s a busy divided 4-lane road in a residential neighborhood, but she and her dog cross safely.
They walk a bit through the tree-lined residential streets, and she realizes she needs to start heading home. However, as she is heading back toward the main road, she pauses to tie her shoe and kneels down in the center of a home’s driveway on a side street.
At that moment, a resident is hurriedly leaving for work and is backing his car out of his garage. He looks quickly in his rearview mirror but, in his haste, doesn’t see Penny kneeling down behind him. He backs out quickly and hits her, causing serious injury.
Because of the nature of Penny’s injury, she had to endure several surgeries and rehabilitative therapies, and she was unable to return to work for several months. She also required additional assistance for transportation and household help because she was left immobile for a period of time.
In all, the expenses related to her injury totaled $100,000.
Penny sued the driver after his insurance company only offered her a lowball settlement. The court found that the driver was 80 percent liable for the accident and Penny was 20 percent liable.
The rationale was that she could have stopped to tie her shoe only a few feet to the right or left, and she would have been outside the area of a driveway, which would have been safer. The driver should have backed out more slowly and should have been more careful when looking in his rearview mirror, but Penny could have avoided the accident by kneeling somewhere else.
Therefore, Penny’s damage award was reduced by her 20 percent of fault, and she recovered $80,000 in damages.
Pedestrian right-of-way laws
It’s important to know both your rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian. That’s because you want to be following the rules at all times in order to minimize the likelihood of being liable for your own injuries.
If you’re following pedestrian rules and safe practices, then the court would be less likely to find that you were partially at fault or liable for contributing to your own injuries.
California Vehicle Code 29150 says 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.” However, a pedestrian is not permitted to walk into the street where there is not a crosswalk.
If an intersection does not have a marked crosswalk, there’s a presumed crosswalk, and the driver is expected to yield to a pedestrian who is waiting to cross in a location where you would logically expect a crosswalk.
Further, a driver has a responsibility to exercise due care to avoid hitting a pedestrian in the street. Even so, a pedestrian should not step into the path of a vehicle where there is no crosswalk.
- A motorist may not drive on a sidewalk unless it’s necessary in order to cross the street.
- A pedestrian must obey traffic rules, but a motorist is expected to yield the right of way even if the pedestrian is not correctly following the law.
- A pedestrian has the right of way in either a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
- A motorist must yield to a blind person using their cane to signal that they’d like to enter a crosswalk. If they pull the cane back, it means they’re signaling for the driver to proceed.
- A driver must stop at least 5 feet from a crosswalk so pedestrians can cross safely.
- A driver must slow down and be ready to stop anytime they approach an intersection.
Property hazards and pedestrian injuries
Being hit by a car isn’t the only way to have a pedestrian accident. You can be hurt when there are no cars, trucks, bicycles or other people in sight—just by falling.
And while plenty of us are just plain clumsy and have been known to fall over our own 2 feet, there are situations when a property hazard could cause injury to a pedestrian.
Some examples of property hazards that could affect a pedestrian include:
- Broken steps or handrails
- Cracked or uneven sidewalks or walkways
- Poor lighting
- Tree branches or other debris in the road or on the sidewalk
- Dangerous dogs
- Snow, ice, sand or otherwise slippery surfaces
Within personal injury law, this is called premises liability. A property owner is responsible for maintaining their property so that it’s safe and would not cause foreseeable harm to a person who is legally permitted to be there.
If you’re injured because of a property hazard, the most important thing you can do to preserve your claim is to document the scene of the accident. If you’re physically able to do so, you should take photos of the hazard or gather witness contact information if any are present.
If your accident happens on public property, which is likely because most roads are maintained by a state or local government agency, then the procedure for filing a claim is different from how it’s done if it’s a private entity.
A claim against a government agency is called an “administrative claim,” and it must be filed within 6 months of the date of the injury. The government then has 45 days in which to respond to your claim. If the claim is denied, you may file a lawsuit within 6 months of the date of the denial.
Liability for an Irvine pedestrian accident
If your pedestrian injury was the result of a collision with a car, you would need to prove 3 elements of negligence in order 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.
The driver might be negligent if they:
- Were speeding
- Failed to follow traffic laws like stopping at a light, stop sign or yield sign
- Failed to provide a pedestrian with enough space to enter or exit a parked car
- Failed to move over or slow down for a person in the break-down lane
- Were texting or otherwise distracted while driving
- Were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
There are plenty of other ways a driver could be negligent, but these are among the most commonly reported.
What to do after an Irvine pedestrian accident
If you were injured as a pedestrian in Irvine, you should handle it much the same way as you would a car accident.
- Gather as much information and evidence at the scene as possible. That includes witnesses’ contact information, photos and other evidence that could be helpful in showing how the accident happened.
- Call for a police report, even if your injuries are minor. A police report is an important part of the record, and it will also include pieces of evidence that you might not have thought about.
- Get a medical examination. Head to your doctor, the emergency department or an urgent care facility right away. Like with car accidents, you might suffer an injury and not experience symptoms or pain for a few days. But after some time has passed, it becomes much more difficult to prove that the injury was caused by the accident.
- Call an Irvine personal injury lawyer. There are several reasons to contact an attorney; one is that your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company so that you aren’t offered a lowball settlement for your damages. Second, your lawyer will minimize any shared liability you might bear for the accident in order to maximize your compensation. Third, if your injuries are severe, will require future treatment, or if you’re left with a disability that prevents you from returning to work, you have future expenses that need to be determined. Don’t shortchange yourself by accepting a settlement without taking future expenses related to the accident into consideration.