When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in California?

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in California?

What are your legal rights and obligations as a pedestrian in California? If you are asking this question, it is most likely because you were hit by a car and you want to know if you can file a claim under the driver’s insurance policy. Under Division 11, Chapter 5 of the California Vehicle Code, pedestrians have the right of way under various circumstances; and, if you were hit while crossing the street or walking on the side of the road, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation.

When Must a Driver Yield the Right of Way to a Pedestrian?

Section 21950(a) of Chapter 5 begins by stating that, “[t]he 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.” So, the default rule in California is that if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, the pedestrian has the right of way. But, Section 21950(b) goes on to state:

“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.”

Despite this warning, however, later provisions of the statute go on to further clarify drivers’ responsibility to exercise caution around pedestrians. Specifically, the law states that a driver approaching a pedestrian in a 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,” and that pedestrians’ obligations under Section 21950(b) do not relieve drivers of their responsibility to, “exercise[e] due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”

Other provisions of Chapter 5 address specific circumstances in which drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians. For example:

  •  “Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a [crosswalk] to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.” (Section 21951)
  •  “The driver of any motor vehicle, prior to driving [on a] sidewalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian approaching thereon.” (Section 21952)

What if a Driver Who has the Right of Way Causes a Pedestrian Accident?

As you can see, pedestrians’ right of way in California exists primarily at crosswalks and on the sidewalk. So, what happens when a driver hits a pedestrian who does not have the right of way?

While Section 21954 makes clear that drivers have the right of way on the majority of the road (“[e]very pedestrian . . . at any point other than within a [crosswalk] shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles”), it makes equally clear that drivers must still exercise a duty of care when faced with pedestrians in the roadway. As a result, while a pedestrian may be deemed partially at fault in the event that he or she does not have the right of way, there is a good chance that he or she would still have a claim for at least partial compensation.

Speak with a Glendale Pedestrian Accident Attorney for Free

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident in California, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal rights. To speak with an attorney in Glendale, call us 24/7 at 818-530-1300 or contact us online now.

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