is jaywalking legal in california

If you’ve ever found yourself rushing across the street, not exactly at a crosswalk, and wondered about the legalities — especially if you’ve had a close call or, worse, an accident — you’re not alone.


Understanding jaywalking laws in California is crucial, not just for everyday safety but also if you find yourself needing to file a pedestrian accident claim. Let’s break it down in a way that makes sense without getting lost in legal jargon.



What Does Jaywalking Mean?

Jaywalking is when you cross the street outside of a designated crosswalk or against a traffic signal.


California law is pretty clear on this: you’re expected to cross at crosswalks or at corners. But, like most rules, there are nuances and exceptions. Is jaywalking legal in California? Not every street corner has a marked crosswalk, yet in many cases, it’s still considered a legal place to cross. 

Does Jaywalking in California Affect a Pedestrian Accident Claim?

If you’re hit by a car while jaywalking, you might worry that you’ve lost your chance to file a claim or get help with your injuries and losses. Not necessarily.


California follows what’s called a “comparative fault” or comparative negligence system. This means that in an accident, more than one person can be found at fault, and the blame gets shared based on each party’s part in the accident.


So, if you were jaywalking when you were hit, yes, that might count against you. But if the driver was speeding, distracted, or otherwise breaking the law, they could also share some of the blame. The point is that jaywalking in California doesn’t automatically disqualify you from seeking help or compensation after an accident.

New California Jaywalking Law: Freedom To Walk Act

freedom to walk act

Is jaywalking legal in California? The year 2023 brought a significant change with the introduction of the “Freedom to Walk Act” (AB 2147), a shift in legislation that redefined the rules around California’s jaywalking guidelines. 


Gone are the days when crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk or against a traffic signal could easily lead to a hefty fine of up to $250. Under the new jaywalking law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Californians have more flexibility to cross the road. Law enforcement officers can only stop or fine individuals for jaywalking if there’s a clear and immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle. 


However, California’s new “Freedom to Walk Act” doesn’t give pedestrians free rein to cross roads recklessly. The essence of the new law still emphasizes safety and requires pedestrians to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of controlled intersections. 


So is jaywalking legal in California? The new law stipulates that dangerous jaywalking — like darting in front of oncoming traffic or crossing without looking — can still lead to a $196 ticket, plus court fees, remains. 


This approach aims to balance the need for pedestrian freedom with the ongoing concerns about street and roadway safety. It ensures that the act of crossing the street, even in the absence of a crosswalk, is done in consideration for oncoming traffic. The point is that a reasonably careful person would realize that walking into a busy street could result in a collision and potentially cause harm.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Pedestrian Accident in California

If you’ve been in an accident while walking, and you’re thinking about filing a claim, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  1. Document Everything: Keep track of medical records, police reports, and any communication with insurance companies. Photos from the scene can also be incredibly helpful.
  2. Don’t Wait Too Long: There are time limits (statutes of limitations) for filing personal injury claims. In California, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim, but the sooner, the better.
  3. Get Professional Advice: Personal injury law can be complex, and having someone on your side who understands it inside and out can make a huge difference. Consulting with a pedestrian accident attorney in California can provide clarity and direction.

Negligence of the driver

If it can be proven that the driver was acting negligently or recklessly, such as speeding or distracted driving, this can strengthen the pedestrian’s case.

Crosswalk availability

Pedestrians found jaywalking in California may have a valid claim if there was no crosswalk available for them to use at the time of the accident. In some cases, drivers may fail to yield to pedestrians in areas where there are no designated crosswalks.

Traffic signals and signs

If a traffic light or sign was not functioning properly at the time of the accident, this could potentially place liability on the driver for failing to follow traffic laws.

Visibility issues

Poor lighting, obstructed views, or other factors that may have hindered the driver’s ability to see the pedestrian can also be considered as contributing factors in a pedestrian accident.


If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, this can significantly impact their liability and increase potential damages in a civil case.

Vehicle maintenance

In some cases, vehicle malfunctions such as faulty brakes or tires could contribute to an accident involving a pedestrian. In these cases, both the driver and their vehicle manufacturer may bear some responsibility for any resulting injuries.

Other factors

There are many other possible circumstances that could contribute to a pedestrian accident, such as road construction, temporary traffic patterns, or weather conditions. It is important to thoroughly investigate all potential factors to determine liability and ensure fair compensation for the victim.

Got Hit By a Car While Walking?
Contact An Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney.
Call RTM Law for a Free Consultation.

Getting into an accident as a pedestrian can be a scary and confusing experience, especially if you’re worried about the implications of jaywalking in California. Remember, the law often recognizes the complexity of real-life situations.


If you find yourself in this position, know that you have options and rights, even if the situation isn’t black and white. Taking the right steps after an accident, from documenting the incident to seeking legal advice with filing a claim, can help ensure you’re treated fairly and can move forward with confidence.


Our personal injury lawyers in California at RTM Law Firm are here to help. Contact us at (949) 2874342.




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