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Can I Recover in an Auto Accident Lawsuit if I Was Jaywalking?

A man is jaywalking across an intersection when the signal is clearly showing the do not cross symbol.

In many collisions involving automobiles and pedestrians, the driver of the car will argue that the pedestrian was at fault for not following the law. And, it is in fact the case that a number of such collisions do involve pedestrians who entered the street either against the light or where there was not a valid crosswalk. But does the fact that a pedestrian may have been jaywalking mean that he or she cannot recover in a lawsuit against the driver? Not necessarily, and the answer to that question in a given circumstance is dependent on whether the driver was negligent, and how much the pedestrian will recover involves the question of contributory/comparative negligence, which asks what proportion of a pedestrian’s damages is attributable to the pedestrian as compared to the negligent driver.

The legal doctrines of contributory and comparative negligence look at whether the plaintiff was negligent and whether that negligence in part caused his or her injuries. California applies what is called a “pure comparative negligence” system which says that a plaintiff who is negligent will have his recovery reduced by the percentage of fault which is attributable to his own actions, so long as the defendant was negligent as well. Thus, if a judge or jury determines that a pedestrian was 40% at fault in causing an accident by crossing a street without a valid crosswalk, then the pedestrian’s recovery will be reduced by 40%.

Let’s say a pedestrian is waiting at a light at a one-way street, but after a few seconds sees no cars coming down the proper direction of the street and decides to cross against the “Don’t Walk” sign. If at the same time, a car turns the wrong way down the one-way street and strikes the pedestrian, then we will have a situation where both the pedestrian and the driver were negligent, which can be shown by the fact that both violated the law.

Let’s then say the pedestrian suffered $50,000 in full, lifetime damages from the accident. If the case goes to trial and the jury determines that the pedestrian’s negligence played a 10% role in causing the accident, and the driver’s negligence played a 90% role in causing the accident, then the pedestrian’s recovery will be reduced by 10% ($5,000, which is 10% of $50,000), and he will receive $45,000. Even if the case does not go to trial, the attorneys reaching a settlement will likely work a discount based on contributory negligence into the final settlement amount.

To get a better picture on how contributory negligence might affect recovery in your particular case, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney regarding your case.

With over 30 years experience litigating cases to successful settlements and verdicts, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz in Pasadena know how to put forward your best case for full recovery. Our legal team represents injured victims and their families across Los Angeles. To schedule a free consultation with a Pasadena personal injury lawyer, contact us today.

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