A pedestrian accident frequently leads to catastrophic injuries.  Smartphones, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and other smart technologies endanger pedestrians because they distract drivers. Distracted drivers are less focused and pose a greater risk of hitting a pedestrian.

Pedestrian Safety Laws

Crosswalks and Right-of-Way

The law provides that pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk.  This means the driver of a motor vehicle must slow down, yield and stop for pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk.  Drivers must be careful when approaching a crosswalk and watch out for pedestrians.  Pedestrians also must be careful not to step in front of an oncoming vehicle if the vehicle is dangerously close to the crosswalk.

Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks

A crosswalk can be either marked or unmarked.  The law treats marked and unmarked crosswalks the same.  A marked crosswalk can be painted in either yellow or white.  An unmarked crosswalk is simply the extension of the sidewalk  across the intersection (see California Vehicle Code Section 275).

Crossing the Road outside of Crosswalks

Pedestrians crossing the road outside of a crosswalk must yield the right of way to motor vehicles.  This means pedestrians must be careful not to impede or interrupt traffic when crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.  However, drivers must still use care for the safety of pedestrians even if pedestrians are crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.

Common Causes of Auto versus Pedestrian Accidents

Even a momentary lapse in judgment can lead to death or serious injury when operating a motor vehicle.  Common causes of auto versus pedestrian collisions include:

  • Distracted driving: Any activity that diverts your attention away from driving is distracted driving. This includes talking or texting on the phone, using in-car technology or other devices, eating, and drinking, and talking to people. Young adults and teens are most at risk for distracted driving.
  • Speeding: Speeding is dangerous because it increases the vehicle’s stopping distance, increases the likelihood of a rollover, increases the likelihood of a loss of control, and increases the severity of an accident if one occurs. A high-speed crash is much more likely to result in serious injuries or death than a low-speed crash.
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs: Driving under the influence is always dangerous and illegal. One third of all crash fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers. As such, the penalties for driving under the influence in California are notoriously tough, with a first offense often costing drivers upwards of $10,000 in fines and legal fees. First time offenders may also lose their driver’s license, be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car at their own expense, and face jail time. A DUI offender who seriously injures or kills someone, such as a vulnerable pedestrian, may be charged with a felony and receive a lengthy prison sentence.
  • Driving while fatigued: Driving while fatigued is so dangerous that it may not be much different from driving drunk. Being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, which is legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk of a crash. Many people who would never drink and drive don’t even think twice about driving while fatigued.
  • Reckless driving: Speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, racing, and driving impaired are all examples of reckless driving. Operating a dangerous vehicle, such as one without headlights or brake lights, is also reckless driving. Reckless driving is a crime and is punishable by fines and jail time.
  • Failure to obey traffic laws: More than 50% of fatal and injury crashes occur at or near intersections. The cause is usually related to running a stop sign or red light. Speeding up to avoid stopping at a red light is illegal and very dangerous.

Common Types of Auto versus Pedestrian Accidents

Certain driving conditions are particularly dangerous for pedestrians and result in auto versus pedestrian accidents more often:

  • At night: Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable at night and in poorly lit areas.  California law requires drivers to use headlights in darkness and low visibility.
  • Poor visibility: Rain, fog, dust, snow, and hail reduce visibility thereby making the roads more dangerous for pedestrians.  California law requires drivers to use headlights and windshield wipers in inclement weather.
  • On the freeway: It is dangerous and illegal to walk along the freeway.  If your vehicle becomes disabled on the freeway, such as by a flat tire, the DMV recommends pulling over safely to the right side of the road, exiting the vehicle away from traffic, calling for help, and remaining in the vehicle with your seatbelt on until help arrives.
  • SUVs and large vehicles: SUVs and other large vehicles take longer to stop than smaller vehicles.  They also have larger blind spots and are more likely to cause serious injuries if involved in a crash due to their size and weight.
  • Semis: Semi trucks have large blind spots and longer stopping distances than smaller vehicles.  Semi-trucks cause great damage when involved in accidents due to their size and weight.  Truck drivers face tight deadlines which incentivize them to continue driving while tired or fatigued.  These factors combine to make truck driving one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, not only for the truck driver but for everyone on the road.
  • Major roads and intersections: High speeds and high traffic make major roads and intersections dangerous for pedestrians.  This is especially true when the roads or intersections are unmarked or poorly marked.  Running red lights or stop signs at major intersections is dangerous and potentially deadly.

Hit-and-Run Accidents

Every state requires drivers to stop at the scene of an accident, provide their identification, and provide any needed assistance such as calling 911 if someone is injured.  A hit and run occurs when a driver leaves the scene after an accident without identifying themselves and providing their insurance information. Hit and run is a serious crime and is particularly egregious when pedestrians are involved due to the severity of the injuries. Drivers who do not stop after pedestrian accidents endanger the individual they hit and risk being prosecuted for hit and run.  It is a felony to leave the scene of an accident which resulted in serious injury or death. Drivers who do so may be sentenced to prison. 

Victims of a hit and run should immediately call the police and have a police report made.  Identifying a hit and run driver typically requires a thorough investigation which may involve obtaining witness statements, obtaining  footage from nearby security cameras, and investigating the driver’s whereabouts before and after the accident. These tasks require professional skill.  You will have better results with the help of an attorney experienced in handling hit and run accidents.

In some cases, it is not possible to identify the driver.  In other cases, the driver doesn’t have insurance.  If the driver cannot be identified, or if the driver does not have insurance, then your best source of coverage may be your own insurance policy.  Your insurance policy may include uninsured/under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage, which means that you are covered by your own insurance policy for injuries caused by uninsured or under-insured motorists.       

How Do I Know If I Have a Legitimate Claim?

If you were hit by a car, there are three legal criteria which must be met in order to recover for your injuries: damages, liability and collectability.


Liability means that you were injured as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing.  Proving liability does not require you to prove that the person intended to harm you.  Proving negligence (conduct which was unsafe or unreasonable under the circumstances) is sufficient to prove liability.


Damages are a calculation of how the accident has impacted your life.  You may be able to recover for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and other damages. If someone has died, family members of the deceased may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.


You must be able to identify the party(s) responsible for the harm in order to collect from them or their insurance policy.  Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is likely that an insurance company will be involved.  Insurance companies are profit driven and will fight tooth and nail to settle your claim for as little money as possible.  They will have their doctors and lawyers go to court, blame the accident on you and claim that your injuries did not occur.  The insurance company’s goal is not to offer you a fair settlement.  It’s to settle your claim as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible.

What to Do If Hit by a Car

If you or someone you love was hit by a car, you should call 911 to have all injuries treated and have a police report made.  Obtain a copy of the police report and maintain complete records of all treatment received.  Contact a proven personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following the incident (before you contact an insurance company) in order to best preserve your legal rights.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Yes.  Insurance companies offer more money to people represented by experienced personal injury lawyers than they do to people with inexperienced lawyers or no lawyer at all.  From our experience, you will need a proven lawyer to receive anything close to the full value of your claim.  If you have already contacted an insurance company, it is not too late to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today.


James S. Iagmin Practice Areas – Brain Injury

James S. Iagmin Practice Areas – Spinal Cord Injuries

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Sections 21949 to 21971 (Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties)

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 21950

California Department of Transportation – 2014 California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Section 7C.02 (Crosswalk Markings)

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 275

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 21954

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Distracted Driving

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Speeding

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Drunk Driving

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – CMV Driving Tips – Driver Fatigue

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 23103

Federal Highway Administration – Intersection Safety

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 24400

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 26707

Department of Motor Vehicles – California Driver Handbook – Handling Emergencies

James S. Iagmin Blog – Safety Issues in the Trucking Industry

James S. Iagmin Blog – What to Do if You Were Injured In a Hit-and-Run Accident

California Legislative Information – California Vehicle Code Section 20002

James S. Iagmin – Contact Us

James S. Iagmin Practice Areas – Wrongful Death