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How Is Fault Determined in a Pedestrian Accident?

As warmer weather approaches, more people are taking to the roads via cars, motorcycles, bikes, and on foot to enjoy the California sun. Unfortunately, this can also mean an increase in potential pedestrian accidents.

To help you navigate the way forward, we looked at key factors of pedestrian accidents.

Facts About Pedestrian Accidents

According to the NHTSA and its CrashStats, nearly a thousand pedestrians were killed in California in 2019, with thousands more injured. In total, a pedestrian in the United States is hurt in a traffic accident every seven minutes.

Traffic lights for pedestrians and cyclists and blue sky

Here are some more eye-opening statistics about pedestrian injuries and fatalities in this country:

  • More than 6,200 pedestrians are killed every year.
  • An estimated 76,000 pedestrians are injured annually.
  • A pedestrian is killed every 85 minutes.
  • About 82 percent of pedestrian deaths happen in urban areas.
  • 26 percent of pedestrian deaths happened between 6:00 p.m. and 8:59 p.m.
  • 90 percent of pedestrians killed involved single vehicles.

Contributing to Negligence in Pedestrian Accidents

The fault for a pedestrian accident can be rooted to the driver, cyclist, or even the pedestrian himself. Fault can often be directly related to one or more of the following:


  • Distracted Driving. Drivers and cyclists who text are a menace on the roads. They may not notice pedestrians, or even the traffic signals, as in the case of this inattentive driver. Accidents related to distracted driving are a primary reason why California, and many other states, made using your cellphone while driving illegal.
  • Left Turns. Compared to right turns, left turns result in more pedestrian accidents. In many cases, drivers and cyclists are paying more attention to the turn than they are to pedestrians who may be in the roadway or crosswalks.
  • Intoxicated Driving. Drug- or alcohol-induced driving is a leading cause of all automobile accidents, including pedestrian accidents. The drunk driver’s inability to distinguish distances and traffic conditions often can have disastrous results, particularly for pedestrians.
  • Failure to follow cycling rules. Cyclists can increase their chance of being at fault when they simply don’t follow cycling safety rules, such as using biking hand signals to communicate your intentions at intersections.


  • Lack of Proper Crosswalk Use. Crosswalks are designed to help pedestrians cross busy streets. They only succeed when drivers stay aware of them and pedestrians use them. As such, jaywalking is illegal in California.
  • Clothing. Pedestrians often fail to consider their clothing while walking. Wearing bright or even reflective colored clothing can help improve their visibility to oncoming drivers and traffic.
  • Distracted Walking. Many pedestrians tend to use headphones while on their walk or run, creating a situation where audible signals, such as a car horn or oncoming vehicles, cannot be heard. The pedestrian risks not only being injured by cars or other vehicles, but also risks injuring other pedestrians, often those approaching from behind.

Other Key Factors That Contribute to Pedestrian Accidents on The Roadway

Determining fault sometimes boils down to simple errors or misjudgments that drivers and cyclists make which can increase the risk of being at fault for a pedestrian accident. Drivers and cyclists often:

  • Neglect to keep watch for pedestrians at all times.
  • Fail to accommodate for conditions by reducing their speed or turning on fog lights when needed, such as during bad weather or night-time driving.
  • Sustain driving speed when approaching crosswalks or preparing to turn.
  • Are unprepared to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Forget to stop at crosswalks and provide adequate distance so other vehicles can see the pedestrians as well.
  • Pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
  • Drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, making it more difficult to discern or see pedestrians.
  • Disregard the speed limit, especially in localized areas, such as neighborhoods and school zones where kids are present.
  • Forget to use extra caution when backing up.

Pedestrians Also Need to Do Their Part

Though it’s uncommon for pedestrians to be found negligent in causing a pedestrian accident, they can sometimes be found partially at fault. Pedestrians increase the risk of being hit by a car, bike, or other vehicles by:

  • Failing to adhere to the rules of the road and to follow all traffic signs and signals.
  • Not using sidewalks when possible.
  • Walking with traffic instead of against it.
  • Walking too closely to moving traffic instead of creating as much distance as possible.
  • Not using intersections and crosswalks to cross the street.
  • Forgetting to look for cars in all directions, including turning cars.
  • Crossing the street in poorly lit or dark areas rather than looking for well-lit areas or crosswalks to cross.
  • Crossing when there isn’t adequate time or space in the traffic to cross the street safely.
  • Failing to pay attention to traffic and the roadway while crossing (distracted walking).
  • Not paying special attention to cars driving in reverse at driveways and parking lots.
  • Using drugs and alcohol while walking.

So, How Is Fault Determined?

Many people automatically assume that the driver is at fault in a pedestrian accident. However, this isn’t always the case from a legal standpoint, as fault could be placed on the driver, the pedestrian, or possibly a combination of both. In any of these circumstances, California offers legal recourse for pedestrians and drivers who are involved in pedestrian-related accidents.

The fact is that pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way, and are not automatically exempt from liability. At the end of the day, drivers and pedestrians alike are responsible for doing their part, and taking reasonable care when either driving or crossing streets. It’s always best for all parties to be aware of their surroundings.

Dunnion Law has handled multiple pedestrian accidents, where these and other factors, had disastrous, if not fatal, consequences. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help clarify your legal footing in a pedestrian accident claim.

Do You Need Legal Counsel?

Speaking with one of our accident attorneys can help provide clarity on the complex laws pertaining to pedestrian accidents and how they could significantly affect your long-term outcomes. Whether you’re a pedestrian who has been injured in a car accident, or you were driving a car or motorcycle that was involved in an accident with a pedestrian, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney with knowledge of California’s laws is essential.