Who is at Fault when a Car Hits Someone who is Working in the Street?

Driver’s duty of care to street laborers

People who must perform work-related duties in the public streets face significant danger that most motorists and pedestrians do not face. Construction crews doing roadwork on busy streets and police officers directing traffic routinely face the risk of grave injury or death from a collision with a driver who fails to exercise due care. Those who labor in the streets are legally entitled to assume that motor vehicle operators will have their vehicles under reasonable control when they approach. Drivers have a legal duty to observe street laborers and to avoid contact with them.

Certain street laborers have no duty to look for on-coming traffic

The controlling consideration in determining whether a worker is exempt from the pedestrian’s ordinary duty to look for on-coming traffic is whether the performance of the person’s duties necessarily places them in a position of danger on the highway. Street laborers-- like roadwork crews and police officers who are directing traffic--must devote their attention to their work, so they are prevented from exercising the amount of caution that would otherwise be necessary from someone who was standing in a busy street. Courts have found the following categories of workers to be included in the group of workers who are exempt from the duty to look for traffic:

  • Telephone repair company employees;
  • Streetcar track workers;
  • Construction workers, and
  • Law enforcement officers

Conversely, courts have found that the exemption from the duty to look does not apply to workers who occasionally use the street for their work and who do so by choice rather than necessity. For example, courts have found that a truck driver who was unloading furniture in a loading zone was acting by choice and had a duty to look for traffic before he stepped into the street to check the latch on his truck. Courts have also found that the following categories of workers have placed themselves in danger of on-coming traffic by choice and therefore they have a duty to look for traffic like ordinary pedestrians:

  • Photographers
  • Plumbers
  • Newspapermen
  • Garbage collectors

Sacramento Injury Lawyer Ed Smith has over thirty-years of experience successfully representing clients who have been involved in accidents. If you have been involved in an accident involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, it is important that you seek experienced legal counsel right away. Contact the Law Officers of Ed Smith today at 916.921.6400. If you prefer email, please fill out our contact form.

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