It may seem self-evident that if you’ve been hit by a car in California while walking that the driver is at fault. However, the law doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately victims must fight for their rights and prove that they were legally crossing the road at the time of the crash in order to seek compensation from the distracted, reckless, or careless driver who injured them. Most of the time that requires that victims prove they were in a crosswalk when the at fault driver hit them. But did you know California law allows pedestrians to legally cross at unmarked crosswalk and affords the same protection as if they were in a painted crosswalk?
Understanding Marked and Unmarked Crosswalk Accidents in California
The NHTSA’s National Pedestrian Crash Report shows that nearly 9% of all fatal pedestrian accidents occur while the victim is within a crosswalk. Roughly 800 pedestrians are struck by cars in San Francisco every year alone —many of them legally crossing the street at the time. Sadly, marked and unmarked crosswalk accidents are one of the most common types of pedestrian accidents in California.
When you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why. Crosswalks are the point where foot traffic comes in closest contact with auto traffic. Crosswalks are also most often located at traffic chokepoints (intersections) at which multiple lines of cars converge.
But people crossing the street on foot don’t have to take their lives into their own hands. California law provides protection for pedestrians within crosswalks and can shift the responsibility (and liability) for protecting these individuals to the driver.
Pedestrians in Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks Are Legally Protected
California Vehicle Code section 21954 codifies legal protection for pedestrians. It specifically says that all drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians within crosswalks. That means that cars must come to a complete stop and allow pedestrians to safely cross before they continue on.
There are a couple of exceptions to the rule.
1) Pedestrians are not protected if a “Do Not Cross” sign or light is posted or flashing.
2) Pedestrians must allow adequate time (and space) for a driver to see them and stop—they can’t simply step into a crosswalk without looking.
Most of the time these laws are applied to designated crosswalks (those specifically painted and signed as pedestrian crossings). However, California law applies nmarked crosswalks as well.
Crosswalks are often marked with white lines or yellow at school crossings. Some crosswalks even have flashing lights to warn motorists for pedestrians crossing. Crosswalks in residential areas however are often not marked.
What is an Unmarked Crosswalk?
Unmarked crosswalks are simply crosswalks that are not specifically painted or signed as such. These occur at almost any intersection at where there is NOT a “No Crossing” sign posted. And California Vehicle Code Section 21954(a) provides that same level of protection for pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks at intersections as it does for pedestrians in marked crosswalks.
For example, San Francisco—a city that has recently rededicated itself to pedestrian safety—has taken that responsibility one step further. Unmarked crosswalks in San Francisco are specifically codified by local legislation:
Any intersection of two streets wider than 25 feet is considered a legal (even if unmarked) crosswalk in San Francisco whether it’s painted, marked or signed as such or not.
(The only exception to this rule is when “No Crossing” is specifically posted at the intersection.)
That means that drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks within city limits. If they fail to do so and the pedestrian is injured, the driver can be held legally responsible—facing criminal charges or citations. They can also be held financially liable which means they –or their insurance company—could be made to pay out compensation for injuries including restitution for medical expenses and lost wages.
Crosswalk Accident Settlement Amounts Vary
How much could a victim receive after an unmarked crosswalk accident in San Francisco? That’s a question that’s not easily answered and changes on a case by case basis. As a personal injury lawyer in San Francisco with over twenty years of experience helping victims recover from devastating pedestrian accidents I’ve personally seen settlement figures range from tens of thousands of dollars to close to a million dollars or more.
Recently my team of pedestrian accident attorneys secured a $155,000 settlement for a man hit by a car while in a marked crosswalk. Of course, as a victim’s hospital bills increase, and their livelihood is more greatly impinged upon, that number could increase dramatically.
How much you specifically may be entitled to depends on the circumstances of your accident, the extent of your injuries, and the individual liability of the at fault party (or parties). This is something that we’ll discuss with you early in your case so you understand what is at stake and can make a decision about how to proceed.
Pedestrian Accident Lawyers in San Francisco
Crosswalk accidents can be devastating but your financial recovery process doesn’t have to be. Call Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers at (415) 413-0033 today to speak to our San Francisco pedestrian accident lawyer team or get a FREE online case evaluation now to see if we can help.