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Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way When Jaywalking?

Posted on March 1, 2021 in Pedestrian Accidents

It is a common misconception that pedestrians always have the right-of-way in California. Even in a bustling city like Los Angeles, pedestrians do not have the right-of-way in all circumstances. Pedestrians, like other roadway users, must obey all of California’s traffic laws to prevent collisions – including yielding the right-of-way, when applicable. If a pedestrian is jaywalking, he or she does not have the right-of-way in California. Read on to learn more and if you have further questions, speak with an experienced Los Angeles pedestrian accident lawyer.

What Is Jaywalking?

According to California Vehicle Code Section 21955, jaywalking is when a pedestrian crosses the road at a place between two adjacent intersections other than a crosswalk. This is a traffic violation in California that can result in a fine of about $200. Jaywalking is a dangerous maneuver, as drivers do not anticipate encountering pedestrians between crosswalks or intersections. Drivers may not have the time or preparation to stop in time to avoid striking a jaywalking pedestrian.

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way?

A pedestrian who is jaywalking does not have the right-of-way. If a pedestrian intentionally breaks the rules by jaywalking, he or she has a duty to yield the right-of-way to any oncoming vehicle that is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. A pedestrian should not assume he or she has the right-of-way or step out into oncoming traffic, as a driver may be too close to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Jaywalking does not relieve a driver of the duty to exercise due care not to strike a pedestrian. If a driver sees the pedestrian and has time to stop, he or she legally must, even if the pedestrian does not have the right-of-way or is violating a traffic rule. It is not a usable defense to say the pedestrian was jaywalking if the driver reasonably could have avoided the collision. Jaywalking can, however, reduce the plaintiff’s financial recovery.

How Will Jaywalking Affect a Pedestrian Accident Lawsuit?

If a pedestrian was jaywalking in California at the time of a collision, this may interfere with his or her ability to hold the driver financially accountable. Since the pedestrian was violating a traffic law and did not have the right-of-way, the driver may not be legally responsible for a resultant collision. It can be even more difficult for a pedestrian to hold a driver responsible if he or she was jaywalking at night or while intoxicated.

If the motor vehicle driver reasonably should have noticed the pedestrian and stopped in time to avoid an accident, the driver could still bear at least a portion of legal responsibility for the crash. If the driver was texting and driving, speeding, or driving intoxicated, for instance, the driver could share liability with the pedestrian.

California is a pure comparative negligence state. This law allows an injured plaintiff to recover a percentage of compensation even if he or she contributed to an accident. In California, a plaintiff could be up to 99% responsible for an accident and still recover. However, the plaintiff’s percentage of fault will diminish his or her recovery by an equivalent amount.

If the courts assign 40% of fault for a pedestrian accident to the pedestrian for jaywalking, for example, the defendant will have to pay 40% less in financial compensation through his or her insurance. In this example, a $100,000 award given to the plaintiff would be reduced to $60,000 for his or her comparative negligence.

Why You Need an Attorney

If you were recently injured in a pedestrian accident in Los Angeles while jaywalking, hire an attorney to represent you in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Jaywalking or violating another pedestrian law could negatively affect your ability to recover. It may not, however, bar you from recovery. A lawyer can help you build a case against the driver and combat a defense built on the argument that you were jaywalking. A pedestrian accident attorney can help you maximize your award as much as possible.