Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

Authored by:

Attorney William Green from Delfino Green & Green Law


William Green
Mr. Green has made a career of championing the rights of the most vulnerable members of society against the most powerful corporations, government entities, and insurance companies. Where most attorneys take on “a case,” Mr. Green takes on clients and their cause.

Reviewed by:


Delfino Green & Green
For over 30 years, the highly skilled and experienced attorneys at Delfino Green & Green have been protecting the rights of individuals throughout California. We work hard to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions that caused injuries, insurance companies responsible for their promises to pay disability benefits, and employers accountable for their commitment to protecting their employees in the workplace.


Most of us are ingrained with the idea that drivers should always yield to pedestrians. Whether the pedestrian is jaywalking or steps off the curb in the middle of a turn, we instinctively know that the driver should do whatever it takes to avoid a terrible accident.

However, if an accident does happen, can the pedestrian ever be at fault? Put another way, do pedestrians always have the right of way?

Do Pedestrians Always Have The Right Of Way?

Under California law, pedestrians have the right of way at any designated crosswalk or at any intersection, even if the intersection is unmarked. The best way for a pedestrian to assert themselves is to make eye contact with the driver. The California Driver’s Handbook instructs drivers to yield whenever a pedestrian makes eye contact.

Small Exceptions To This Rule

Pedestrians do not always have the right of way. For example, a pedestrian may not walk across a road unless it’s at an intersection. Although a pedestrian in the road is expected to yield to traffic, cars must yield to the pedestrian. If a pedestrian refuses to step out of the road, drivers need to wait for them even though the pedestrian doesn’t have the right of way.

These laws become unclear when it comes to pedestrians stepping into traffic. California law states, “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” This wording is vague and can make insurance claims difficult for both the pedestrian and the driver.

Because an “immediate hazard” isn’t well defined, insurance companies may argue that a pedestrian is at fault for the accident because they walked off the curb and into traffic. At the same time, a driver may say that they aren’t responsible because the pedestrian stepped off the curb.

Determining who is at fault can be extremely stressful, especially when victims need insurance to cover their damages and medical treatment. For that reason, determining fault in a pedestrian accident is best left to an experienced attorney.

If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries in a pedestrian accident, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced attorney from Delfino Green & Green to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call 415-442-4646.

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