In a previous article, we discussed the topics of pedestrian injuries at intersections, vehicle speeding, and illegally parked vehicles. This article continues on the issue of common pedestrian injuries and will touch on injuries sustained by a pedestrian while using a crosswalk, walking outside a crosswalk, and walking on the side of a street.
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The law defines a crosswalk as:
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Pedestrians have the right-of-way if they use a crosswalk in crossing the street. Drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing the street using a crosswalk. Pedestrians are not exempted from due care; they must also exercise due care in crossing the street, even when using a crosswalk.
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. 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. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
A pedestrian is entitled to assume that drivers approaching a crosswalk will obey the law. Negligence cannot be imputed to a pedestrian who fails to anticipate a driver’s disregard for the law. To illustrate, a pedestrian using a crosswalk sees an oncoming vehicle. The pedestrian continues to cross the street even though the vehicle is moving at a high speed. In this case, there is no negligence on the pedestrian’s part.
Walking outside the crosswalk, so long as it is done near the crosswalk, is still considered as walking within the crosswalk. A difference of one or two feet is immaterial. For example, a pedestrian who walks one or two feet outside the crosswalk is still deemed to be using the crosswalk and cannot be considered negligent.
If the crosswalk has signals, a pedestrian is forbidden to cross when the light is red or is against them. However, the pedestrian cannot be faulted if the light suddenly changes while the pedestrian is still crossing the road, so long as the pedestrian started to cross when it was still the ‘go’ signal.
If a pedestrian does not use a crosswalk, he or she is required to yield the right-of-way to any nearby motorist. Pedestrians crossing outside a crosswalk are also required to keep a lookout for approaching vehicles. Failure to observe these might lead to the pedestrian being considered negligent.
Pedestrians are not prohibited from crossing a street outside a crosswalk. It is not a valid defense in cases of pedestrian injury.
If a pedestrian is proved negligent, the award will not be extinguished but rather merely reduced. This is due to the concept of comparative negligence; where both parties are at fault or were negligent, then the award of damages will be reduced according to the percentage of fault.
Defense attorneys use the concept of comparative negligence to mitigate damages. Likewise, car accident attorneys representing victims evaluate the likelihood of the comparative negligence defense before proceeding to trial.
A pedestrian who jaywalks is presumed negligent only if there is an ordinance or law prohibiting it. (See the Sacramento the jaywalking ordinance). The following requirements must exist for the presumption to arise:
A pedestrian must walk close to the left-hand edge of the roadway if outside a business or residence district. However, the law now also allows pedestrians to walk close to the right-hand edge of the roadway. The latter is allowed if there is no crosswalk available.