When can government entities be held liable for crosswalk crashes?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2021 | Car Accidents |

Even when a pedestrian is crossing the street in a labeled crosswalk and with the light (if there is one), it’s all too common for a negligent driver to strike them. In addition to facing fines and criminal charges if they violated the law, drivers can be held civilly liable by victims or surviving loved ones.

Pedestrians typically have the right-of-way in California crosswalks, whether they’re marked or unmarked. If they’re already in the crosswalk when the light turns green for the driver, that driver still needs to let them cross. 

What if a crosswalk was poorly designed or there are inadequate safeguards like traffic signs or lights for the amount of traffic going through it? Sometimes an area will become increasingly busy over the years, but the nearby crosswalk won’t be upgraded to reflect that. Government entities can face lawsuits if they failed to make a crosswalk safer – particularly if there has been a history of pedestrian-vehicle collisions.

A case in Los Angeles County

A Southern California family, for example, is suing Los Angeles County, the state of California, the state Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and the city of Westlake Village after an alleged drunk driver sped through an intersection last year as the family was crossing, killing two boys. They’re also suing the driver, who is facing criminal charges, and a man whom she was allegedly trying to catch up to after the two left a local restaurant.

In the suit against the state and local entities, the family claims, “There was inadequate and unsafe sightlines and sight distances for drivers traveling through the intersection (which) lacks traffic control or warning devices necessary to prevent the intersection from being a concealed trap for pedestrians.” It adds, “The rate of vehicle traffic, as well as pedestrian traffic, combined with the high speed limit were of such a nature that the crosswalk should have not existed without traffic device enhancements to provide warning of pedestrians using the intersection.” The Westlake Village City Council has since voted to install flashing lights at the intersection.

When a pedestrian is injured or worse always wise to determine where the fault lies. It could be with multiple parties. That’s just one reason why legal guidance is advisable.