Who Is Considered a Pedestrian Under California Laws?

Being hit by a car or truck can cause injuries that are physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. A person on foot has no protection to shield them from the impact of a motor vehicle that strikes them and knocks them to the pavement.

When a pedestrian accident is caused by a driver’s negligence or inattention, the injured individual may have the right to seek compensation for their medical expenses and financial losses. In a fatal pedestrian accident, family members of the person killed may seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. The Orange County pedestrian injury attorneys at Sam & Ash Injury Law will fight to recover the compensation you need to rebuild your life if you have been injured through no fault of your own as a pedestrian in Orange County.

Are you an injured pedestrian or the loved one of a pedestrian accident victim with a potential legal claim under California law? If you have questions about filing a claim, contact Sam & Ash Injury Law in Newport Beach for a free, no-obligation review of the accident and a discussion of your rights to seek compensation.

California’s Definition of Pedestrian in State Law

At some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says in a pedestrian safety tutorial. Everyone is vulnerable to injury in pedestrian accidents.

The NHTSA says in a May 2022 report that 6,516 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2020. There were an estimated 54,769 pedestrians injured in 2020.

Pedestrian deaths represent nearly one of every five traffic fatalities and 2% of all people injured in traffic crashes in 2020, NHTSA says.

The NHTSA has a narrow definition of pedestrian. It is any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down. It excludes people on personal conveyances, such as roller skates, skateboards, baby strollers, scooters, Segway-style devices, motorized and nonmotorized wheelchairs, and even scooters used by people with disabilities.

California law has a broader definition of pedestrian. It states in California Vehicle Code 467 that a pedestrian is a person who is afoot or who is using any of the following:

  • A means of conveyance propelled by human power other than a bicycle.
  • An electric personal assistive mobility device.

California law says pedestrian includes a person who is operating a self-propelled wheelchair, motorized tricycle, or motorized quadricycle, and who, by reason of physical disability, is otherwise unable to move about on foot.

Pedestrian Accidents in California

NHTSA says there were 986 pedestrian fatalities in California in 2020 — the highest number reported by any state. Pedestrian deaths accounted for one-fourth of the 3,847 traffic fatalities in California that year.

Among U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or more, NHTSA reports for 2020:

  • Los Angeles – 116 pedestrian fatalities, 41.1% of all fatalities
  • San Diego – 33 pedestrian fatalities, 31.7% of all fatalities
  • San Jose – 21 pedestrian fatalities, 37.5% of all fatalities
  • San Francisco – 12 pedestrian fatalities, 38.7% of all fatalities
  • Fresno – 29 pedestrian fatalities, 40.8% of all fatalities
  • Sacramento – 21 pedestrian fatalities, 48.8% of all fatalities

As noted, NHTSA’s count is low because its definition excludes many potential accident victims defined as pedestrians under California pedestrian laws.

Another agency, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), says U.S. pedestrian fatalities reached an all-time high in 2021. The GHSA says the COVID-19 pandemic may account for fewer pedestrian deaths in several large cities in 2020, particularly cities with longer and more cautious public health restrictions, such as those in California.

Why So Many Pedestrian Accidents Happen in California

California’s walkable, tourist-friendly cities encourage people to leave motor vehicles parked. Those who choose to travel as pedestrians along California roadways have an obligation to obey traffic signals, cross streets in crosswalks, and yield to motor vehicles that have the right of way.

Because of the danger posed by a collision between a moving vehicle and a person on foot, motorists have a legal duty to try to avoid hitting pedestrians, even if the pedestrian has violated their right of way.

When a motorist hits a pedestrian, the investigation into the accident often finds:

  • Inattention, including distracted driving caused by cell phone use, eating, drinking, or other unnecessary activities behind the wheel. Pedestrians are sometimes distracted, as well.
  • Aggressive driving, including unsafe passing, speeding, and running stoplights and stop signs.
  • Impaired driving, such as by alcohol or drugs.
  • Fatigued driving, which slows recognition and reaction to hazardous situations.
  • A lack of surveillance, such as when a driver backs up or pulls away from parking spaces, alleys, or driveways.
  • Obstructed views, particularly during turns in intersections. In most vehicles, when a driver turns left, their visibility is partially blocked by the vehicle’s support between the windshield and side window (the “A-pillar”). In right-hand turns, drivers tend to be looking left for oncoming traffic and may fail to see a pedestrian.

Contact Our Experienced Orange County Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

When a pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle, a traumatic injury is inevitable. The speed of the vehicle at impact will dictate the severity of the injury. If the motorist is at fault, the injured pedestrian or their surviving family members have a right to seek compensation for their medical costs and other losses, including their pain and suffering.

If you have been injured or a loved one of yours died in a pedestrian accident in Orange County, CA, contact the experienced pedestrian injury attorneys at Sam & Ash Injury Law. We will aggressively pursue compensation for your injuries and financial needs so you can focus on healing and recovery. You deserve What’s Right. Call us today for a free case review. We are here to help.

Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.