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Pedestrian Injury Accidents and a Motorist Duty of Care

05th March 2010
By Jason Lundberg in Legal
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Duty of Care Owed to Pedestrians

It seems fairly obvious that a driver has a duty to use care toward pedestrians in California, as well as every other state. A pedestrian also has a duty of care towards automobiles but an operator of a motor vehicle has an even greater duty of care. The Court has made this determination because driving an automobile consists of operating "an instrumentality capable of inflicting serious...injuries." Arentz v. Blackshere (1967) 248 Cal. App. 2d 638. This piece of meal makes perfect sense and the most hardened tort reformer would have a difficult time in disagreeing.

This means that if you are involved in an injury accident as a pedestrian the automobile operator has a greater chance of being found at fault, rather than you. Most of a driver's duty that is owed towards pedestrians is fairly obvious. For example a driver must yield the right of way to pedestrians when they are within the crosswalk. Cal. Veh Code §21950.

As an attorney who has handled many pedestrian accidents in San Francisco, CA, I can safely say that the law is not always that that simple. There are many factors that a court must take into consideration when making a determination regarding the duty owed by a driver to a pedestrian. Below are some examples.

Children as Pedestrians

The Court has determined that a driver of an automobile owes a much higher degree of care toward children who are pedestrians than an adult pedestrian. This makes sense. Children are not always aware of all the dangers that they may face and as such the Court has determined that adult operators of cars must pay greater attention to children. Additionally, if the driver is aware or should be aware that children are present then he or she must pay even greater attention. Hilyar v. Union Ice Co. (1955) 45 Cal. 2d 30.

If you are operating a motor vehicle near a playground or a school, you should be extra mindful as you are on notice that children may be present. A ball tossed in the wrong direction could cause a horrible accident.

Duty Owed to Pedestrians Outside Crosswalks

An operator of a car or truck is under a duty to anticipate at all times that he or she may meet pedestrians at any point in the street or highway. An automobile driver must maintain a proper lookout for pedestrians, and must keep his or her motor vehicle under the necessary control to avoid a pedestrian accident. Lebkicher v. Crosby (1954) 123 Cal. App. 2d 631, 267 P.2d 361.

This is especially important for cars to consider. Pedestrians who are not completely within a crosswalk by a few feet are still considered to be within the crosswalk. Also if the crosswalk is not marked, the same rules are applicable as if the accident had occurred within the unmarked crosswalk. Karr v. Sherer (1955) 132 Cal. App. 2d 835.

Passing at Intersections

When any car stops at a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear must not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle. Cal Veh. Code, § 21951. This seems clear but yet I see daily violations of this law. I have seen MUNI busses in San Francisco do it, as well as any number of taxi cabs. A driver must always pay attention to the road and is never relieved of that duty. If you are operating a vehicle, you are required to look out for pedestrians - and that goes for the pedestrians inside and outside the crosswalks. Jacoby v. Johnson (1948) 84 Cal. App. 2d 271.

The safest bet is that everyone must do their best to avoid these collisions, pedestrians and automobile operators.

For more information visit Allegiance Law San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney.
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About the Author
Occupation: Attorney
Jason Lundberg primarily represents clients in personal injury matters and employment law and California Labor Code violations. He takes pleasure in helping his clients maneuver through, what sometimes could be considered, a
confusing and overwhelming legal system. “One of the most satisfying days I can have is a day where I can see justice served for one of my clients,” says Jason.

Allegiance Law offers free legal advice for your injury claims. Get free legal advice from our Injury Lawyers today. Content by Jason Lundberg
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