California Crosswalk Laws

Although pedestrians have the right of way, they must watch out for their own safety.

The crosswalk laws in California require drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the road in a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. However, pedestrians still have a duty to use care when crossing the street. The California Vehicle Code states that pedestrians should use due care for their own safety and should not suddenly run into the path of an oncoming car.

Pedestrians May Be at Fault

When a driver hits a pedestrian, most people assume that the driver was at fault. Yet in some cases it turns out that the pedestrian was to blame for the accident. In the case of Mendelson v. Peton, the plaintiff sued for injuries he sustained when he was struck by the defendant's car. The accident took place on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles around 8 p.m., when Marcelle Peton saw the defendant suddenly loom in front of her vehicle. She immediately applied her brakes but hit the defendant before her vehicle came to a stop. Mendelson's injuries were severe but not permanent, and he sued to recover the cost for his medical treatment. A California jury found that the plaintiff was negligent because he failed to take into consideration the hazard of approaching heavy traffic.

Determining Liability in Pedestrian Accidents

Determining liability is a key element in all personal injury claims. For a lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiff must prove the defendant was negligent by showing the following:

  • Duty of Care—The plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. In the case of Mendelson v. Peton, the plaintiff argued that the defendant had a duty to observe that he was in a marked crosswalk and she should have avoided hitting him by swerving or stopping in time.
  • Breach of Duty—A breach of duty occurs when the plaintiff can show how the defendant failed to take action to remedy the situation.
  • Proximate Cause—The plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant's actions were the primary cause of the accident.
  • Damages—The defendant owes monetary damages to the plaintiff for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

California is a pure comparative negligence state, which allows victims to recover damages even if they were partially responsible for the accident. The jury determines the amount each party was at fault.

Yield Right of Way

The crosswalk laws in California Vehicle Code 21451 states that a pedestrian can proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk if they have been given a green light. However, they must yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are legally in the intersection at the time the signal is first shown. In the case of Myers vs. Carini, the plaintiff was struck by the defendant's vehicle while crossing the street. John Carini testified that when he entered the intersection on a green light, he saw a pedestrian coming toward his vehicle. There was testimony that the plaintiff had advanced five feet from the curb before the pedestrian signal had changed to "Walk." Therefore, the jury found that the defendant was not liable for Ian Myers' injuries.

Getting Help with a Crosswalk Accident

Trying to figure out who is at fault in any personal injury case can be difficult and it may be a good idea to consult an attorney for help. To find a personal injury attorney near you, try searching Nolo’s Lawyer Directory. Or to get more free legal information about Proving Fault in Car Accidents, Pedestrian Car Accidents, Car Accidents and the Lawsuit Process, or California's Right of Way Laws.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find personal injury lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Make the Most of Your Claim

Get the compensation you deserve.

We've helped 215 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you