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Is Jaywalking Legal in California?

pedestrians crossing LA street

Following the groundbreaking Freedom to Walk Act, jaywalking is now legal in California. This transformative legislation redefined the rules governing what pedestrians in California can and cannot do when crossing the street.

Understanding the implications of this law is crucial for residents and visitors alike. In this blog, the California accident attorneys at Wisner Baum aim to shed light on the intricacies of the Freedom to Walk Act, elucidating what jaywalking encompasses, and what it does not. Additionally, we will provide valuable insights into the legal rights of individuals involved in pedestrian accidents in California, offering a comprehensive guide to the rights pedestrians harmed in accidents.

What to Know About California’s Jaywalking Law

New California Jaywalking Law Explained

The recently enacted Freedom to Walk Act ushered in a new era for pedestrians in California. Before we discuss the changes in the law and how they affect you, it is imperative to first define jaywalking—the act of crossing street outside of marked crosswalks or against traffic signals. Historically, California maintained some of the strictest laws in the country when it came to jaywalking. But with the implementation of the new law, the landscape has shifted, allowing pedestrians more freedom to navigate urban spaces.

Below are four key things to know about the California jaywalking law:

1. Crosswalks and Right-of-Way

The Freedom to Walk Law reinforces pedestrian rights by granting individuals greater latitude to cross roadways at marked and unmarked crosswalks. Pedestrians are generally granted the right-of-way at intersections or marked crossings, providing they do not unduly disrupt traffic flow. Additionally, vehicles must yield to pedestrians crossing within marked or unmarked crosswalks.

2. Responsibility and Due Care

While the Freedom to Walk Law provides pedestrians with increased flexibility, it also emphasizes the importance of responsible crossing practices. Pedestrians must exercise due care when crossing roadways, ensuring they do not cause a hazardous situation for themselves or motorists. We will discuss what due care means in more detail below.

3. Traffic Signal Compliance

While jaywalking is no longer explicitly criminalized under the Freedom to Walk Law, pedestrians are still expected to respect traffic signals and pedestrian crossing indicators. When signals are in place at intersections, pedestrians must adhere to the signal's instructions, crossing only when authorized, regardless of the presence of marked or unmarked crosswalks.

4. Impacts on Pedestrian Safety

The Freedom to Walk Law does not grant pedestrians absolute immunity from all forms of legal accountability, especially if their actions result in accidents or injuries. Pedestrians must exercise caution and use reasonable judgment to ensure their own safety while considering the rights of others on the road.

What Does “Due Care” Mean?

As discussed above, under the new California jaywalking law, pedestrians are still required to exercise "due care" when crossing the street, a stipulation that could significantly impact their legal standing in the event of a collision with a vehicle.

Due care in this scenario refers to the level of care and caution that a pedestrian must exercise while crossing a roadway outside of a designated crosswalk or against a traffic signal. Under California law, pedestrians have the responsibility to exercise reasonable care for their own safety and the safety of others, including motorists. To demonstrate due care, pedestrians must take reasonable steps to ensure that their actions do not pose a substantial risk to themselves or to the flow of traffic. This includes observing traffic conditions, yielding the right of way when necessary, and avoiding sudden or unexpected movements that could create hazards for themselves or drivers. Failure to exercise due care while jaywalking may result in the pedestrian being held partially or entirely at fault for any resulting accidents or injuries.

If you still have questions about due care in a pedestrian accident, feel free to contact us or give us a call and we can discuss your case. At Wisner Baum, we litigate California accident cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay if we win. We also offer free case evaluations, so do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Can I Sue If I Was Hit By A Car Jaywalking in California?

Yes, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit if you were hit by a car while jaywalking in California. Each case is different, so you need a California pedestrian accident lawyer to evaluate the case to know for certain whether you can sue.

Insurance companies may try to blame you if you were hit by a negligent driver while jaywalking. However, if you crossed the road using reasonable care, an experienced accident lawyer may be able to recover full and fair compensation on your behalf.

California law provides protection for pedestrians in many car-related accidents. However, it is crucial to recognize that pedestrians may not always be granted the right of way. In instances where a pedestrian enters the street in an unmarked crosswalk, for instance, they may not have the right of way, and the driver may not be entirely liable.

California's comparative negligence law becomes relevant in such scenarios, allowing an injured pedestrian who shares partial fault in an accident to pursue legal action and potentially recover damages from the driver. For instance, if a pedestrian is 30% at-fault for the accident, they can still initiate a claim, but the potential damages awarded may be reduced by 30% compared to a scenario where the driver is deemed 100% responsible.

When dealing with accidents where a pedestrian shares some fault, seeking guidance from a personal injury lawyer is crucial to safeguard the pedestrian's rights, ensuring a thorough understanding of the legal implications surrounding their case.

5 Tips for Pedestrians to Safely Cross the Street in California

When it comes to crossing the street on foot, an awareness of your surroundings and double-checking for motorists can potentially be life-saving. Here are some helpful tips to consider before you step off the curb.

  1. Understand and adhere to traffic signals, utilizing marked crosswalks and pedestrian signals whenever available.
  2. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing to establish mutual awareness.
  3. Avoid distractions like smartphones to ensure heightened awareness of your surroundings. If you are wearing bluetooth earbuds, keep them at a low volume so you can hear what is going on around you.
  4. Stay visible by wearing reflective clothing or using a flashlight enhances overall safety at night or during low-light conditions.
  5. Look both ways and double-check to ensure no motorists are approaching as you cross the street. With the prevalence of Teslas and other quiet electronic vehicles on the road, it is imperative to stay vigilant at street crossings.

Even with the recent decriminalization of jaywalking in California, exercising caution remains vital. Utilizing "due care" when crossing the street, as mandated by law, helps pedestrians maintain their legal standing in the event of an accident. By integrating these tips into their routine, pedestrians can contribute to a safer and more secure road-sharing environment in California.

How to Keep Kids Safe at Street Crossings

Any parent will tell you that kids can be high-energy and impulsive, so it is imperative that parents and caregivers remain aware and vigilant when crossing the street. In addition to the guidance above on safely crossing the street, the following are useful tips when crossing with children:

  • Use pedestrian signals as they provide a clear indication of when it is generally safe to cross. Always obey these signals and encourage your children to do the same. Crosswalks provide a designated space for pedestrians; ensure that you are within the crosswalk when crossing, as this enhances your visibility to drivers.
  • For younger children, establish a hand-holding routine when crossing the street. Holding their hands firmly not only provides a physical connection but also reinforces the importance of sticking together and focusing on the task at hand.
  • Last but not least, instill road safety skills in your children starting at an early age. Emphasize the importance of looking both ways before crossing, identifying traffic signals, and understanding the importance of crosswalks. Teaching these basic skills can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and establish good habits for the future.

To learn more about how you can help protect children at street crossing, click here.

California Jaywalking Accident Lawyer

Liability for a California pedestrian accident is determined on a case-by-case basis. Proving that a pedestrian was jaywalking is no longer enough to establish negligence per se, meaning negligence based on a violation of the law. Due in part to California’s new jaywalking law, the responsibility now falls on vehicle drivers to demonstrate that the pedestrian jaywalked in a situation where a reasonable person would have recognized the inherent risk to avoid being held liable.

As we discussed above, if a pedestrian is found to be partially at fault for a pedestrian accident, they may still be able to recover partial compensation under California's comparative fault law. However, these complex cases are best left in the hands of seasoned litigators who have experience and proven case results.

Wisner Baum’s team of lawyers successfully negotiated a $15 million settlement for a pedestrian who sustained significant injuries in a Southern California accident. We believe our results speak for themselves, but don’t take our word for it. Read what our clients have to say about us.

For more information on how pedestrian injury cases are handled, contact the California injury attorneys at Wisner Baum for a free and confidential case evaluation. Our law firm has several offices throughout California, and we handle cases nationwide:



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