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Pedestrian Accident Law In California

Pedestrian walking across California crosswalk

In California, being a pedestrian is extremely dangerous.

This is due to the sheer number of people living in this state, lack of effective public transportation, and the number of miles driven by each driver. pedestrian accidents are governed by many different laws. According to the DMV, pedestrians account for 22 percent of all traffic fatalities.1 This is higher than the national average which is around 13-14%.2

Pedestrians are unprotected unlike occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seat belts, airbags and several thousand pounds of metal.

You have a right to financial compensation if you were injured in a California pedestrian accident

If you are injured in a pedestrian accident caused by someone else’s negligence, then you have a right to a financial settlement.3

You are entitled to financial compensation for all of your losses, including emergency room bills, ambulance and paramedic charges, all other medical bills, lost wages because you missed time at work, pain and suffering, rehabilitation, and permanent disabilities.

The reason you are entitled to money is because there is no way to make you whole after your injuries. If someone takes your stereo system, they can return it to you.

If you suffer pain and agony for 6 months because someone hit you with their car while you were walking across the street, they can’t undo that pain. There is no reset button that reverses all of the pain your body experienced, and all that pain your brain remembers.

Because the emotional and physical roller coaster you suffered can’t be undone, the only way to compensate you for the harm caused is with a financial settlement.

Proving the other party was negligent when causing the pedestrian accident

In order to prove the driver of the vehicle was negligent, you will need evidence. Hopefully you will have witnesses, statements by the driver, photos of the scene, of the vehicle that hit you, and of your injuries. Any evidence that shows the driver is at fault. California has several right of way laws that apply to pedestrians. These include:

  • Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing in a marked crosswalk, or unmarked crosswalks at intersections.
  • While pedestrians must use due care for their safety, drivers approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk must also exercise due care and shall reduce the speed of their vehicle or take any other action to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
  • If a vehicle is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk to let pedestrians cross, drivers must not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
  • Even when pedestrians are walking outside a crosswalk, drivers are expected to exercise due care.
  • So even though pedestrians are expected to exercise due care by staying within designed areas and crosswalks, ultimately drivers must exercise due caution since their vehicle can cause major injury or worse to a pedestrian’s unprotected body.

Injured while walking in a crosswalk? Read here San Diego Crosswalk Accidents

Distracted Pedestrians: Who is at fault for a pedestrian accident in San Diego?

How long does a pedestrian accident case take in California?

Every case is different, so every case will take a different amount of time. Pedestrians with less severe injuries will receive medical treatment and get better fairly quickly. Then settlement negotiations with the insurance companies begin, and the case can be finished within a few months.

If you suffered severe injuries, requiring visits with a pain management doctor, a neurologist, or orthopedic surgeons, your case will take longer.

If settlement talks are not successful and a lawsuit is filed and an actual trial is necessary, this will add more time to your case.

The most important thing to remember is that your case should not be settled until your treatment is complete. That means you are completely cured, or your condition is stable without any more improvement possible.

Of course, if the insurance company is being unreasonable, which they usually are, then throw all of these factors out of the window. They’re playing hardball, and nothing short of filing a lawsuit and trying the case will move it forward.

You have two years from the date of the accident to file the lawsuit, which is called the statute of limitations.

How to pay for your medical bills

After your pedestrian accident, you need to seek immediate medical treatment. If the injuries are severe, you’ll be transported to the emergency room by ambulance. Then you’ll have visits with doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and in the worst case scenario, surgery.

Before you know it, you will have thousands of dollars in medical bills.

So how do you pay for all of this? Yellow crosswalk

In the end, the person who caused your injuries should be responsible for your medical bills. However, they usually don’t pay until the end of the case which could take months or even years. So how do these medical bills get paid? How do you prevent your bills from being sent to collections and possibly ruining your credit?

There is no easy answer. But that’s where an experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help navigate this potential minefield.

These are a few of the options but every case is different:

  1. Medical Payments Coverage. If you have an auto policy, or if any family member that lives in the same house has an auto policy, they may have medical payments coverage. This is known as “med pay.” This is optional4 coverage contained within your auto policy, so not every policy has it. It is no fault, which means they will pay your bills even if you caused the accident. A common limit is $5,000 but I’ve seen policies as low as $1,000 and as high as $20,000. The coverage usually applies to pedestrians, as long as they were injured by a vehicle.
  2. Health insurance. If you have health insurance coverage through an employer or individually, they will usually cover any treatment. There is a contractual duty to pay them back after the case is over, but at least you will not have to pay for the costs up front.
  3. Medicare/Medical. They will pay for treatment but are aggressive in being repaid (Medicare Secondary Payer act | http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery-Overview/Medicare-Secondary-Payer/Medicare-Secondary-Payer.html))
  4. Medical liens. If an attorney is involved, there are a lot of well qualified doctors and facilities that will treat you on lien. This means, they will treat you without you having to pay out of pocket. In return, you sign a promise to pay them back once the case settles. If you do not pursue a case, you will owe them this full amount. Doctors want to see an attorney involved so they know a case is being pursued.
  5. Out of pocket. If you have no other way to pay for bills, and the doctor will not sign a lien, then you may have to pay for the bills out of your own pocket.

This is a very complex issue in your pedestrian accident case. When the case is settled, all medical provider bills must be paid back. You are ultimately responsible for all bills until then.

How much is your California pedestrian accident case worth?

There is no easy answer here. Nobody is able to predict what your case is worth. The general formula for case value is:

Medical Costs +
Future Medical Costs +
Missed Time at Work +
Future Earning Capacity +
Pain, Suffering & Inconvenience +
= Value of Your Case

In the real world, you have to take into account the different juries, the facts of your case, any mistakes or inconvenient facts, prior medical history, and numerous other factors that affect this formula.

The hardest part to figure out is Pain, Suffering & Inconvenience. Medical costs and lost wages is easy to calculate. Because they are presented in actual dollar amounts.

Pain and suffering is real, but how do you place a dollar figure on that? How do you get everyone to place the same dollar amount? That is the challenge of trial.

Do I need a pedestrian accident lawyer and how much does one cost?

Not always. If your injuries are minor, and you just want your medical bills paid for, then you may want to try dealing with the insurance adjuster yourself. If the insurance company is being unreasonable (which is not unusual) then you can take your case to Small Claims.

Even if you’re not sure you need an attorney for your car, it doesn’t hurt to contact one immediately after your pedestrian accident. We offer a free case review. We also do not charge a fee until your case is settled. You will not pay anything until you win your case.

So give us a call and schedule a 30 minute free case review, as there is absolutely no risk. Call (888) 320-2058 immediately.


  1. http://test-www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm 

  2. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811748.pdf 

  3. California Civil Code 3281 

  4. http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0060-information-guides/0010-automobile/Auto-insurance-101.cfm 

Law Office of Joseph Dang

7220 Trade St., #220
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: 888-320-2058