Los Angeles continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians. According to recent reports, the number of pedestrian deaths in the city rose by 80 percent between 2015 and 2017. Last year there were 135 reported pedestrian fatalities in the city. Pedestrian accidents are not confined to the city’s limits, however. Los Angeles County currently ranks as the deadliest county for pedestrians in the nation.
The increase in pedestrian deaths has been attributed, in part, to the rise of the smartphone. Drivers and pedestrians, alike, are becoming more and more distracted by their phones. When drivers are on the phone and pedestrians have their nose buried in social media, the chances of devastating accidents happening increases significantly.
The dangers of texting and driving are clear: drivers are navigating heavy pieces of machinery and need to focus their attention on the road. This distraction is a clear breach of the duty drivers owe to others on the road. Why is using a smartphone while walking so dangerous? The reasoning is the same. Pedestrians have a duty to use caution and prevent foreseeable harm. If they are not paying attention to their surroundings they are more likely to cause harm. A pedestrian who is texting, Snapchatting, or talking on the phone is more likely to walk out into an intersection, jaywalk, or impede traffic in some way.
At least one Los Angeles-area town is taking action to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths that are happening. Montclair city has officially made it illegal for pedestrians to use their cell phones while crossing the street. Specifically, the new law prohibits pedestrians from texting, talking, or using their phone in any way while making their way from one side of the street to another. Pedestrians are also prohibited from having both earbuds or headphones in while trekking across an intersection. There is a very limited exception for making 911 calls. Pedestrians who violate the new law risk getting a citation for $100.
Pedestrians not only risk getting a ticket for breaking the new law, but also assuming liability for an accident. Negligence occurs when a pedestrian breaches a duty of care they owe to another person. Breaking the law in any way can be enough to trigger a presumption of negligence. When a pedestrian is deemed to be negligent for an accident they may face limitations on the damages that they can recover. In some situations, injured pedestrians may be barred from recovering damages, at all, if they are found to be entirely responsible for an accident.
California law follows the theory of comparative fault. This means that you will be not necessarily be barred from recovering damages if you contribute to your own accident. As long as another person also contributed to the accident – even slightly – can you recover some monetary compensation for your injuries. Determining each party’s degree of fault is essential for determining financial liability. Each party will be held financially responsible to the degree they cause an accident.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that Ann is walking down the street listening to a podcast. She’s so involved in the conversation that she forgets to take out at least one of her earbuds before crossing a busy Montclair intersection. She steps out into the crosswalk when a car makes a right-hand turn onto the road she is crossing. She car strikes her and she becomes seriously injured. It turns out that the driver of the car failed to look both ways before making its turn and, as a result, did not see Ann in the crosswalk. Since Ann was in violation of the city’s new cell phone ordinance, she will be deemed to be partially responsible for the accident. If she hadn’t been distracted by her phone she may have been able to avoid the crash. After a thorough investigation, it is determined that both Ann and the car’s driver are 50 percent at-fault for the accident. As a result, Ann will only be entitled to recover 50 percent of any damages she suffers. At the same time, the driver of the car will only be entitled to recover 50 percent of any damages he suffered in the crash.
Montclair will probably be the first of many Los Angeles-area cities to impose restrictions on pedestrian cell phone use. Any efforts to reduce the area’s pedestrian death rate will likely be embraced. If you have been injured in a Los Angeles pedestrian accident you may be entitled to compensation. However, violating local laws can limit the amount of compensation you can receive. Contact personal injury lawyer Joshua W. Glotzer today to request a free consultation and learn more.
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