A Los Angeles family is struggling with the tragic and unexpected loss of their daughter, just a few short days before her second birthday. The young girl was killed when she and her father were struck by a vehicle in East Whittier. According to reports, the father took the girl’s hand and began to lead her across the Santa Gertrudes Avenue. Unfortunately, the pair was not immediately visible to oncoming traffic. They were struck by a driver traveling north on the busy street.
Both victims were transported to the hospital. The young girl died from her injuries and the father was reported as being in critical condition. The family may consider taking legal action against the driver who caused the fatal crash. However, the family’s case could be jeopardized by the fact that the father chose to cross the street outside of a marked crosswalk.
Crossing the Street in Los Angeles
It may be a surprise to learn that there are rules and laws that regulate how and when you can cross the street in Los Angeles. Ignoring or violating these rules can have serious consequences. If you’re injured in a pedestrian accident, your ability to recover compensation could be compromised by your own negligence.
California Pedestrian Laws
California has many laws that concern pedestrian safety.
Obey Pedestrian Control Signals: Pedestrians have an obligation to obey pedestrian control signals displaying the words “walk,” “wait,” or “don’t walk” as well as other approved symbols. Pedestrians are prohibited from starting to cross the street when a signal steadily displays “don’t walk,” “wait,” or a similar symbol. [CVC 21456]
Pedestrian Right of Way, Crosswalks: Pedestrians generally have the right of way when traveling in a marked crosswalk. However, pedestrians cannot jump into traffic or cross into the path of a vehicle when doing so would “constitute an immediate hazard.” [CVC 21950(a)]
Crossing Outside of a Crosswalk: It’s not illegal for pedestrians to cross a street outside of a marked crosswalk. However, pedestrians must exercise extreme care and caution when doing so. Pedestrians crossing at any point other than a marked crosswalk or intersection must “yield the right-of-way to all vehicles so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.” [CVC 21954(a)]
Crossing Outside of a Crosswalk Near Intersections: Pedestrians may not cross the road outside of a crosswalk if they are “between adjacent intersections controlled by” traffic lights or police officers. This will create an immediate hazard. [CVC 21955]
Local Laws Can Be More Restrictive
California Vehicle Code 21961 CVC explains that local authorities aren’t prohibited from “adopting ordinances prohibiting pedestrians from crossing roadways at other than crosswalks.” In other words, Los Angeles municipalities can create additional pedestrian safety laws. These regulations can be general and apply broadly (i.e., no crossing outside of a crosswalk) or target specific locations (i.e., posted no pedestrian crossing signs).
Creating an Immediate Hazard Can Bar Recovery
The two-year-old girl and her father were crossing the street when they were struck and killed by a sedan. However, they chose to cross about a quarter mile south of the nearest intersection. There wasn’t a marked crosswalk at this particular point in the road. Crossing outside of a crosswalk can be incredibly dangerous. If the pair created a hazard, the family’s personal injury lawsuit could be in trouble.
California law follows the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. This simply means that sharing fault for an accident or injury won’t automatically prevent you from recovering compensation for your injuries. However, your damages will be reduced by your own degree of fault. Simply put, contributing to your own accident and injuries can limit your financial recovery.
If the family decides the file a lawsuit, the defendant will likely argue that the father is at least partially responsible for causing the accident. He will point out that the pair was crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk and nearly a quarter mile from the nearest intersection. While this may not be unlawful, it can create a dangerous situation. The driver will try to prove that the father and daughter created an immediate hazard by crossing at that particular location.
What happens if the defendant’s argument is successful? It depends.
Partially Responsible: If the defendant is able to establish that the father was partially responsible for the accident, the family will only be able to recover a limited percentage of their damages. So, if the father was 50 percent to blame, the family can recover a maximum of half of their damages.
Fully Responsible: If the defendant is able to establish that the father was entirely responsible for the accident, the family will be barred from recovering compensation.
The family’s ability to recover compensation will hinge on the percent of fault the father shares for the crash.
It’s always important to consult with an attorney after an accident. This is particularly true if you may share some of the responsibility for your own injuries. Contact our experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you get the money you need after an accident. Call today to learn more.