Fatal Pedestrian Accidents in Orange County
Recent pedestrian accidents here in Orange County demonstrate just how serious they can be. In one such incident, a 29-year-old pedestrian in Huntington Beach was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. The victim was struck outside of a crosswalk by one vehicle that left the scene and then another car whose driver waited for the authorities.
In an earlier incident, another 29-year-old victim was killed when he was hit by two cars in the City of Orange. One of the drivers waited for the authorities and the other left the scene. This accident occurred very near the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange, on the City Drive South near Justice Center Way.
Factors in Pedestrian Accidents
It is not terribly surprising that both of the above Orange County pedestrian accidents occurred at night while the victims were reportedly crossing the street outside of any marked accident. In such a scenario two issues come quickly to mind: was the pedestrian visible and were they "jaywalking".
Most people might assume that someone who crosses the street outside of a marked crosswalk must be doing so illegally, often labeled as "jaywalking." This is not always the case. The California Vehicle Code specifies certain pedestrian crossings that are illegal, but those same statutes create a number of exceptions that amount to perfectly legal crossings. Simply crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk is not in and of itself illegal, and a pedestrian crossing the street (even int he dark) may have the right of way.
When a pedestrian accident occurs at night one of the first thoughts that occurs to some is the pedestrian must have been difficult to see and is therefore to blame for the accident, However, a number of other issues must be addressed when assigning blame. What about the color of the pedestrian's clothing? What about the presence of streetlights near the scene of the accident? Did the driver have their headlights on at the time of the accident? All of these questions must be answered before fault can be determined.
Pedestrian Crossing Law in California
Is it legal for a pedestrian to cross the street at a location outside of a marked crosswalk? The answer is often yes. Interestingly, there is no blanket prohibition against crossing roadways at locations without a marked crosswalk. A local ordinance is needed before a particular crossing (not prohibited by the California Vehicle Code) could be considered unlawful. An unmarked crosswalk is described by the California Vehicle Code as being the prolongation of the sidewalk lines across an intersection. California Vehicle Code § 275. In other words, an unmarked crosswalk cannot be in the middle of a block and can only be found at intersections with sidewalks.
Moreover, "the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection" California Vehicle Code § 21950 (a). It is important to keep in mind that pedestrians who cross the road outside of a crosswalk must do so with reasonable care and not when a vehicle is close enough to present a danger.
Lighting and Visibility in Pedestrian Accidents
In addition to looking at whether the pedestrian was crossing the roadway in violation of the law, there must be an assessment of the driver's behavior. Regardless of whether the pedestrian was "jaywalking", a driver always has a duty to keep an adequate lookout when behind the wheel of their car. If a pedestrian is crossing the street (even outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk) in light colored clothing and near street lights, the driver may be found largely at fault for the accident. Drivers must always be on the lookout for hazards such as other vehicles and pedestrians.
For example, if a pedestrian is in the roadway for 3-4 seconds and they could be spotted by an oncoming driver for at least that amount of time, the driver has a duty to see, perceive and react to the danger. In other words, they must take evasive action to avoid the collision. In general, the perception-reaction time for a reasonably careful driver is no more than 2.5 seconds. If a driver fails to react in this much time and strikes a pedstrian they should have seen, California law allows for an apportionment of fault between the pedestrian and the driver. It is not uncommon for a jury to decide a driver was 60-70% and the pedestrian responsible for the remaining 30-40%. What this means is that the victim or their family can recover 60-70% of the damages sustained, which can be a considerable figure in these cases.
If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of an Orange County pedestrian accident, contacting an experienced injury atotrney is likely the best first step toward obtaining compensation for all of the injuries and damages sustained. Don't let a careless driver get away with causing an accident without accountability.