Understanding Pedestrian Accidents in California

Walking is one of the healthiest and most enjoyable ways to see the beautiful state of California. Over the past few decades, the number of people who choose to walk in California has steadily risen. Unfortunately, pedestrians are not always safe on the road and are at risk of suffering serious and fatal injuries. Pedestrians who are injured in a California traffic accident may have the right to receive compensation for their injuries. With the assistance of an experienced California personal injury attorney, these pedestrians can recover the money they need and deserve in the aftermath of an accident. See our guide on how to find a good personal injury attorney in California for more help.

Pedestrian Accidents in California

With more pedestrians and cars sharing the road than ever before, serious and deadly accidents are inevitable. Over the past decade, the total number of fatal pedestrian accidents in California has increased. At the same time, the number of injury-causing pedestrian accidents in California has actually decreased slightly. This means that while the overall number of pedestrian accidents are declining, the harm caused by the accidents that do occur is much greater.

Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Accidents involving pedestrians in California can be caused for a variety of reasons. Some of the most frequently cited causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  • Walking at night
  • Drinking and walking
  • Failing to wear reflective materials
  • Jaywalking
  • Distracted drivers
  • Drunk drivers
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Speeding
  • Dangerous road and/or sidewalk conditions, and
  • Defective vehicles.

Common Pedestrian Accident Injuries

Unlike motorists on the road, pedestrians have nothing to protect themselves in the event of a crash. This puts pedestrians at an extremely increased risk of suffering a catastrophic injury and/or death. Pedestrians who are injured in a California traffic accident may be entitled to recover compensation for injuries including:

  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Burn injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Concussion
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation, and/or
  • Wrongful death.

Liability for California Pedestrian Accidents

Injured pedestrians may be able to recover compensation for their injuries, but who is responsible for paying these damages? In California, any person whose negligence contributes to the cause of an injury-causing accident can be held financially responsible for harms that result. Each responsible party will be held liable to the degree they contributed to the crash. If the injured pedestrian contributed to the accident, his or her ability to recover compensation will be limited. Potentially liable parties for pedestrian accident injuries include:

  • Pedestrians
  • Drivers of vehicles on the road
  • Motorcyclists
  • Bicyclists
  • Government entity responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the road and sidewalks, and
  • Manufacturers of defective vehicles and equipment.

Damages for Pedestrian Accident Injuries

What kind of damages can an injured pedestrian accident victim recover? California generally allows injured accident victims to recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages help to compensate victims for the financial out-of-pocket losses they have because of an unexpected accident. These damages can compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, and/or a reduced earning capacity. Non-economic damages help to compensate victims for the subject and hard-to-value losses they suffer as the result of an accident. These damages can compensate for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life. The specific amount(s) they can receive will depend on the extent and seriousness of their injuries.

Hiring an Attorney Will Maximize Your Recovery

If you have been injured in a California pedestrian accident you may be entitled to compensation from the person responsible for your accident. The two-year statute of limitations began to run the moment you were injured, so it is important to speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Hiring an attorney will not only make sure that your claim is filed on time, but also help to ensure that you will be fairly compensated for your injuries. Insurance companies may be quick to offer you a settlement, but this money will not be enough to cover the full extent and cost of your injuries. An attorney will know how to leverage insurers and at-fault parties into fully compensating you for the unexpected harms you have suffered.

Motorcycles and Lane Splitting: Liability After a Crash

California is home to some of the country’s most beautiful thoroughfares and scenery. This makes it very attractive to motorcycle riders from across the country. California also has relatively relaxed motorcycle laws. It is the only state in the country that does not expressly forbid and prohibit lane-splitting. Rather, lane-splitting is more of a gray area and discretion is left in the hands of California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Earlier this year attempts to adopt lane-splitting regulations was unsuccessful. This was thanks in large part to pushback from the motorcycle community. The ambiguity about lane-splitting causes confusion about liability if a motorcycle accident occurs. When is lane-splitting permissible? When is lane-splitting dangerous? Should the driver of the car(s) and/or truck(s) involved in the accident be held liable if a motorcycle was riding between two lanes of traffic? Should riders have an extra responsibility if they choose to navigate through traffic between lanes?

Lane-Splitting: Safe Alternative for Motorcyclists?

It may be helpful to understand why California does not formally prohibit lane-splitting. In states where lane-splitting is prohibited liability is more easily determined. If a motorcyclist breaks the law and splits lane – he or she is likely to be held accountable for that decision in the event of an accident. In California, however, the lack of formal guidelines makes an allocation of liability less clear.

A UC Berkeley study, as reported by the American Motorcyclist Association, found that “motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries.”  The study, which reviewed data from 6,000 motorcycle-related traffic accidents between 2012 and 2013, found that the injuries to the 997 motorcyclists involved in those accidents were significantly less severe than to motorcyclists who were not engaged in lane-splitting at the time of the crash. The study found that traffic congestion was one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents. Engaging in the practice of lane-splitting – when done safely – can help to reduce the chances of being involved in or seriously injured in an accident.

When Is Lane Splitting Safe?

According the UC Berkeley study, lane-splitting can reduce the likelihood of being involved in a motorcycle crash. However, lane-splitting must be done safely. Lane-splitting may be safe when:

  • Congested traffic is not exceeding 50 MPH; and
  • Motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles on the road by more than 15 MPH.

Liability After a Lane-Splitting Crash

California follows the concept of pure comparative negligence. This means that after an accident anyone who is at least partly at fault may be held liable for resulting damages. The fact that California uses comparative negligence may also be another reason for their hesitance to prohibit lane-splitting.

Rather than outlaw a measure that may give motorcyclists an added layer of protection on the road, California may have decided that pure comparative negligence will help to divvy up and assign liability if accidents occur. Motorcyclists who take the risk of splitting lanes must do so in a safe manner – failure to do so properly may result in liability they may not have incurred had they stayed put in a designated lane.

When lane-splitting is the cause or one of the causes of an accident it is likely that most – if not all – of the liability will rest with the motorcyclist. If you are a motorcycle rider who in an accident while splitting lanes you must be able to prove that the other driver(s) involved are also partly to blame. Proving that other drivers were at-fault will require showing that the rider exercised extreme care and precautions while lane splitting. Indications of safe lane-splitting include:

  • Riding at a low rate of speed;
  • Riding in a straight line between lanes;
  • Not weaving between other vehicles in traffic;
  • Wearing reflective gear; and
  • Using the horn and lights to warn other vehicles of your presence.

Completing the California Motorcyclist Safety Program is also helpful. Proving that other drivers were at-fault will also require evidence that the other drivers were negligent. Negligence may include:

  • Speeding;
  • Abrupt lane changes;
  • Using a cell phone or other mobile device;
  • Distracted driving; or
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Experienced Motorcycle Crash Attorneys

Motorcycle accidents often inflict significant, life-altering injuries on riders. An experienced motorcycle crash attorney may be able to help injured riders to recover compensation. This can help to cover the costs for medical expenses, rehabilitation, nursing care, lost wages, and more. If a motorcyclist was injured while lane splitting it is important to begin an investigation into other possible causes of the crash. An attorney understands the information that will help a crash victim and has access to specialists who can help to shed light on other causes.

To learn about how you may be able to recover compensation after a motorcycle crash – even if you were splitting lanes – contact a personal injury attorney in your area today. Even though lane splitting is not illegal, it does carry with it a burden if something goes wrong. The right attorney may be able to help you shift some of this burden to other parties who were involved.

Statute of Limitations in California Personal Injury Cases

If you have been injured in a California accident you are probably all-too familiar with the costs and expenses that can add up in the days, weeks, and months that follow. In 2013, one study found that the average cost of a bodily injury claim was approximately $15,000 and the average cost of a property damage claim was approximately $3,000. When lost earnings and reduced earning capacity are factored into the equation, a California accident victim can face truly staggering costs as they try to recover.

How can an accident victim be expected to manage these costs? Most Americans do not have enough in savings to cover a $500 emergency, let alone tens of thousands of dollars for damage control after an accident. In California, personal injury accident victims may recover compensation through personal injury lawsuits. These lawsuits, however, must be filed within a certain period of time. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in California?

So, if you’ve been involved in an accident, how much time do you have to file a personal injury claim for damages? The answer will depend on the type of injury you sustain, who you are filing the claim against, and when you discover your injury. For most bodily injury claims in California, however, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident that caused the injury. This means that the clock begins to run as soon as you are injured in the accident.

This, however, is the general rule. California law has evolved to include more specific time frames for more specific harms. It also includes protections for accident victims that may not immediately notice an injury.

  • Bodily Injury Claims: must be filed within two years of the date of the accident or within one year of the date you discover a related injury. Common causes of bodily injuries may include assault, battery, product liability, premises liability, and negligence.
  • Property Injury Claims: must be filed within three years of the date that your property is damaged or destroyed. Claims for damage to property may be brought for theft, trespass, fraud, nuisance, and physical destruction.
  • Injuries Caused By Medical Malpractice: must be filed within three years of the incident causing your injury or within one year of the discovery of the malpractice.

However, special circumstances may cause the applicable statute of limitations to be paused or accelerated.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations in California

What happens if there are circumstances beyond your immediate control that make it impossible for you to file a claim for damages within the appropriate statute of limitations?

California may permit the statute of limitations to be “tolled” in certain situations. Tolling the statute of limitations is basically like hitting the pause button. They are paused until the special circumstance no longer exists. Circumstances that may cause the statute of limitations to toll include having a defendant who is a minor, out of state, imprisoned, or mentally insane.

Government Defendants May Cause Limitations on Time Permitted Under Statute of Limitations

If you are injured in a California accident and believe that the government is responsible you are permitted to ask for the government to compensate you for your injuries. However, the process involved in seeking compensation from the government is different than for other defendants. If you are interested in seeking compensation from the government you will have to move quickly. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is significantly shorter when the government is involved.

In order to recover compensation from the government, you must file an administrative claim with the government within six months of the accident that caused your injury. If you do not file this administrative claim within that six month period your chances of recovering compensation (from the government) are slim. (There are certain exceptions to the rule.) After you submit your administrative claim the government must respond. They have 45 days to approve or deny your claim. The government, more often than not, will deny your claim, if only to avoid the repercussions of not responding at all. If the government does not respond to your administrative claim the original two-year statute of limitations is reinstated. When the government issues a denial, you then have six months to file a personal injury claim in the appropriate civil court.

Hire an Attorney to Ensure Your Claim is Filed Within the Statute of Limitations

The steps you take immediately following a California accident can really affect your ability to recover the compensation you may truly need in the future. The best way to ensure that your personal injury claim for damages is filed on time is to hire an experienced California personal injury attorney. An attorney will focus on making sure that your claim meets all legal and procedural requirements while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery after an accident.

This article is from Citywide Law Group – a team of Los Angeles personal injury lawyers with a track record of success.