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All You Need to Know About Pedestrian Safety in San Francisco

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All You Need to Know About Pedestrian Safety in San Francisco

As a pedestrian, you should lower your risk of getting hit and knowing your rights if you do get hit. 

Let’s consider you’ve been in an accident while crossing the street. In that case, it is essential to learn all there is to know about your legal options to ensure you get the proper compensation. Or if someone you know had a violent encounter in a traffic accident, you should learn how to get compensated for injuries and damages.

Unfortunately, it is a statistical inevitability many pedestrians get hit – some of whom will even die – after encountering a vehicle. The Department of Transportation found that over 6 in 10 people walk for transportation. This includes walking to work, walking as a recreation, exercising, and for activities such as taking the dog out for a walk.

Unfortunately, the jam-packed roads with cars mean that pedestrians often share the crosswalks and sidewalks with motorists and bicyclists. 

Drivers have a duty to care for pedestrians walking, hiking, running, or jogging along the road. However, it doesn’t absolve pedestrians of their due diligence to stay vigilant of the road. There’s no sense in being stubborn about pedestrian rights but winding up in the hospital.

Depending on how an accident took place, liability for a collision can go both ways. However, the majority of accidents occur because of the driver’s negligence. Unfortunately, as personal injury lawyers in San Francisco, we know all too well it’s not always obvious who is at fault.

Some of the typical examples of driver negligence that put pedestrians at high risk include:

  • Driving above the speed limit in residential areas 
  • Driving while distracted
  • Being inattentive around intersections
  • Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohols, and medicines that can cause impairment 

Pedestrians may also be at fault for not doing their due diligence on the road. Studies show that fatal pedestrian accidents mainly occur in urban settings and after sunset when pedestrians are hard to spot. 

While pedestrians should stay vigilant, it becomes even more critical for them to increase their situational awareness in high-risk environments such as at night and on jam-packed roads. 

Fact Sheet of Pedestrian Accidents, at a glance

  • 35 pedestrians were killed on San Francisco roads by motorists in 2008
  • 800 pedestrians in San Francisco are hit by motors every year
  • On any given day, at least two pedestrians will be hit by motorists in San Francisco

These numbers indicate that motorists fail to see and slow down for pedestrians. Although this trend of pedestrians getting hit by cars has been around for decades – and the law has been constantly updated to punish reckless driving – it’s clear that the danger has been growing at a steady pace.

Who is to Blame for Pedestrian-Vehicle Collisions? 

The primary cause of pedestrian-vehicle collisions is reckless driving. Plaintiff attorneys often evoke California Negligence Laws, usually defined as unlawful or careless behavior, to decide the party at fault (often the defendant). The onus is on the injured person to prove that the defendant was at fault. 

Drivers can be held liable for reckless driving when their vehicle hits a pedestrian. Motorists are obligated to follow the law, do what they can to avoid striking the pedestrian, and maintain control of their car at all times. In an accident involving pedestrians, the courts evaluate whether the driver followed their legal obligations, along with other factors (such as the state of the environment) to determine the party that is at fault.

Below are a few examples of driver negligence in a pedestrian-vehicle incident include:

  • Running a red light
  • Ignoring traffic signs
  • Failing to signal properly
  • Violating traffic rules
  • Driving above the speed limit or not driving at reasonable speeds due to weather conditions
  • Losing control of the vehicle
  • Driving while distracted (while on the phone, changing music, eating, and texting, among others)

When pedestrians are injured, they can sue the at-fault driver and their insurance company to seek damages (recovery and compensation).

In most cases, it is upon the plaintiff (injured pedestrian) to prove that the driver’s negligence caused the crash. The at-fault party (legal counsel of the defendant over insurance company) will try to put some of the liability on the pedestrian.

Your personal injury lawyer will argue that the motorist is responsible for the pedestrian’s safety. However, depending on the circumstances, the legal responsibility for the accident may be shared or reduced.

With that said, it is always assumed that motorists should do all they can to avoid the risk of striking pedestrians in their way.

Proving negligence and potential damages you should recover should be handled by an expert personal injury attorney in San Francisco after reviewing each case.

Safety Tips for Motorists to Follow

  • Motorists need to be extra vigilant for pedestrians and drive at slower speeds. 
  • Be prepared to stop your car for pedestrians in crosswalks.  
  • Before making a turn, make sure that the path is clear of pedestrians and bicycles.
  • Look carefully behind your car for nearby pedestrians before packing up.
  • Keep an eye out for pedestrians at night who may be walking near or across the road.
  • Avoid distractions such as mobile devices and food. Don’t talk while driving because it is dangerous and may be illegal in the area where you live.
  • Don’t be surprised when the bicyclists use the entire lane. They are entitled to use the whole street if they need it.
  • Only pass the bicyclists when you have determined that it is safe to do so.


When Both Pedestrian and Driver Are At Fault

Although it is assumed that motorists are fully or partially responsible for pedestrian-driver collisions, that does not remove liability from the pedestrian. When the pedestrian files a lawsuit against the driver or files a claim against the motorist’s insurance provider, these parties will do everything they can to minimize their total liability and try to offload some of the blame onto the pedestrian.

The defendant’s lawyer will thoroughly review the circumstances revolving around the accident to figure out if the injured pedestrian was responsible, even if partially. 

Pedestrians Are Required to Follow the Rules

By blaming the pedestrian for negligence, the defendants seek to mitigate the financial damages they have to pay out to the plaintiff (after all, fake accidents aren’t uncommon either).

So what happens if the pedestrian is considered to have engaged in negligent behavior and contributed to the collision? If the court can determine that the pedestrian contributed to the accident, they may award the bare minimum benefits to the plaintiff.

However, this is rare since motorists are always expected to drive reasonably around pedestrians. Thus, even if the pedestrian is found to have been negligent of following traffic rules, you may partially share the blame with the motorist.

Pedestrian negligence can happen due to one or all of the following actions:

  • Crossing outside the crosswalk 
  • Jaywalking 
  • Not following traffic signals as they relate to the crosswalk
  • Crossing the road while intoxicated
  • Crossing the road while distracted by an activity (such as their cell phone)
  • Carelessly running into vehicles 
  • Entering an area that is prohibited by law to the pedestrian 


Safety Tips for Pedestrians to Follow

  • Look for cars in all directions, especially when you turn left and right, and before crossing the road.
  • Never assume that the driver will stop for you.
  • Be extra vigilant when crossing multiple lanes of traffic. Only cross the lane of traffic once you have determined that it is clear.
  • Improve your visibility in the dark. For example, walk only in well-lit areas, wear clothes that are more reflective, such as armbands and stickers, and carry a flashlight.
  • Avoid getting distracted. Far too many people are on their phones when crossing the street, depriving them of their two most important senses – seeing and hearing – that can help you detect and avoid oncoming traffic. So make it a point not to pull out your phone when crossing the street and just put it down until you’re out of harm’s way.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Watch out for cars when they back up in parking lots. Brake lights are an indication that the vehicle is about to back up.
  • Cross the street only when you have the best view of traffic.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If you can’t find a sidewalk, walk while facing the traffic and always be mindful of oncoming traffic. 


Liability Involving a Third Party

Most pedestrian-car collisions try to shift the blame entirely on the motorist. However, it’s important to note that a third party such as the government may also be liable for the accident. For example, you can hold the city government responsible for not providing reasonable care to the public. 

This includes unsafe road conditions, poor planning, bad design, improperly signed roads, equipment malfunction, and problematic intersection – all of which can lead to the government sharing liability of an accident.

The city government may not always be able to carry out safety upgrades and often ignores them.

Below is a list of examples when the government may be held liable:

  • Crosswalks are not properly painted
  • Not providing proper traffic detours
  • Faulty traffic signals
  • Poor lighting
  • Improperly designed intersections
  • Failure to enforce traffic laws
  • A consistent pattern of accidents in certain areas


Pedestrian Accidents on the Road Involving a Motorist

Not all incidents of pedestrian injuries involve a vehicle. Harm can be attributed to the environment.

The injured party claims that you suffered the harm due to degradation of the environment caused by the property owners’ negligence. Properly owners are required to take a corrective course of action to minimize the risk posed to people.

The property owner also has an obligation to take reasonable steps to warn pedestrians of hazards that they are aware of.

Some property owners do their due diligence by placing wet/slippery hazard signs. Depending on the accident, most plaintiff lawyers will try to establish that the property owner knew about the hazardous areas and failed to correct them. 

What You Should Do If You Get Hit by a Car

Here are a few things you should do if you get struck by a car while walking:

  • See if you are at risk of being hit again. Your priority is to move out of the road and harm’s way.
  • Call the police or have someone else do it for you. This is because you’re likely severely injured and in shock. 
  • Try to get a hold of the driver if they didn’t make a run for it. Obtain their contract insurance information. If the driver escaped, nearby witnesses might be able to help you identify the make and model of the car, including its license plates.
  • Take pictures right away. Document the site of the accident, the car involved, as well as the injuries that you have sustained.
  • Wait for the police to arrive and be ready to provide them with a statement if you have the ability. Make sure also to get the officer’s name and badge number.
  • Get medical help. Depending on your injuries, you may need an ambulance. If you are not sure, it’s better to take an ambulance. Even if you choose not to take an ambulance, have someone drive you to a hospital. This is because inflammation and pain will soon kick into high gear.
  • Do not accept an insurance offer without first talking to your personal injury lawyer in San Francisco. The driver’s insurance company is likely looking to mitigate their financial liability and minimize the cost that they’ll have to pay.


Get in touch with a skilled personal injury lawyer to ensure you get proper composition. A reputable attorney will also help with accident investigation and use the information to get the best outcome for you. Speak with injury attorney Anh Phoong for a free consultation. 

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