In personal injury law, the question of liability and responsibility often comes up. This is natural, as personal injury lawsuits essentially claim that one person’s action or inaction led to another person’s injuries. If you were jaywalking, or crossing the street illegally, and you were injured by an oncoming vehicle, you might assume that you have no grounds to file a lawsuit.
This assumption is false. California is one of 33 states that uses comparative negligence laws in personal injury suits, and it is one of 13 that uses “pure” comparative negligence. Because of these laws, it is possible to recover damages in a lawsuit, even if you were jaywalking.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence law acknowledges that in an accident, people can be responsible for their own injuries. When judges, juries, or insurance companies hear the facts of a personal injury case, they assign a certain percentage of blame to everyone involved in the accident. Sometimes a person is 100% at fault; sometimes they are only partially at fault.
Depending on the final percentages ruled by the judge, the plaintiff can receive a portion of the total damages. For example, a jury determines that the plaintiff was 10% responsible for an accident, and the defendant was 90% responsible. The judge then awards the plaintiff 90% of the total damages since that was the amount of the defendant’s responsibility.
In most comparative negligence states, plaintiffs cannot receive damages if they are 51% or more responsible for their injuries. This is not so in a pure comparative negligence state. In California, even if you were 99% responsible for your own injuries, you can still receive 1% of the total damages.
California’s Jaywalking Law
California’s jaywalking law specifically names crossing signals. If you cross the street when a signal tells you “do not walk,” you are jaywalking. Jaywalking also includes crossing the street outside of a marked, signaled walkway or crossing 15 feet away from a marked crosswalk. The law does not specifically mention unmarked crosswalks. Its language, however, is broad enough that when you cross at a place that isn’t designated for crossing, you are jaywalking.
Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks
Any intersection in California is considered a crosswalk. “Marked” crosswalks are the ones you see at busy intersections with lights and lines on the road. “Unmarked” crosswalks typically appear in residential areas or quiet commercial areas. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at unmarked crosswalks.
Pedestrians have a responsibility to use reasonable care at crosswalks. Whether they are at a marked or unmarked crossing, they need to be conscious of oncoming traffic. If a pedestrian were to run into the street without looking, they are likely to be held partially responsible for their own injuries. However, the pedestrian may still be entitled to compensation. Our personal injury lawyers can evaluate the case and make that assessment.
Throughout California’s pedestrian law, you will see the words “reasonable care” in relation to drivers. Vehicle operators are expected to drive the speed limit and be on the lookout for pedestrians. Just as walkers have a responsibility to use common sense when they cross, drivers must use common sense at crosswalks. At unmarked walkways, drivers must yield to pedestrians who have crossed in a safe, reasonable manner.
Ask a Lawyer About Your Injuries
If you were hit by oncoming traffic while jaywalking, talk to an attorney today. Skilled lawyers know the subtleties of the law. A situation that seems to be entirely your fault may be reasonable cause for a lawsuit. Knowing the intricacies of the law, lawyers can help coach you in what to do next and how to file for damages.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident between a pedestrian and a vehicle, call us today at (818) 477-1905 or contact us online. With years of experience, we can help evaluate your situation and assist you in your search for justice.