Consider a parking lot, such as this one:

enter image description here

specifically, its one-way lanes. If a pedestrian is crossing them, does he have the right of way?

If a car hits a pedestrian there, is there a conceivable scenario where it might not be found to be at fault?

Asking about California, if this matters.

  • I remember from driving school that you have to pay special attention, and there were some rules, but I couldn't point you at a cite of law, authority or even the rule itself. Hope someone will answer it for you!
    – kisspuska
    May 27, 2021 at 2:57
  • Does this answer your question: In the United States, do pedestrians always have right of way?
    – Dale M
    May 27, 2021 at 4:41
  • @DaleM The other question appears to be about "roads". Parking lots are not considered roads in California, I believe.
    – MWB
    May 27, 2021 at 4:48
  • 2
    Two different questions: "Do pedestrians have the right of way"? Maybe, maybe not. "Am I allowed to drive my car into a pedestrian"? Absolutely 100% not if you can avoid it. If you can prevent an accident, then you must prevent it.
    – gnasher729
    May 27, 2021 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


There is no statutory statement in the Vehicle Code which addresses the question: there are provisions regarding "roadways", intersections and marked crosswalks, and no provision that says "everywhere". The determination of liability then reduces to general principles of liability and negligence, which are very fact-centric. An example of a scenario where the driver is not at fault is when the driver is driving down the lane at an appropriate speed and a pedestrian leaps into the lane from behind a parked car (is obscured by the car) right in front of the car. The question that the courts would ask is whether the driver was using ordinary caution (watching for pedestrians or cars backing out), and could have reasonably stopped. See People v. McLachlan, where some pedestrians had crossed the roadway and then the

pedestrians suddenly leaped backward to the west, directly in front of defendant's car, which was then 20 feet from them

and he hit them. The court reasoned that

it is clear that when a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk is so far from the path of an approaching automobile and proceeding in such a manner that no interference between them is reasonably to be expected, the driver of the automobile need not wait for it to develop

"Right of way" is not a carte blanche to act irresponsibly. Even in a marked crosswalk on the roadway (where the driver bears all of the duty of care), there are scenarios where a hyper-cautious driver could not avoid hitting a pedestrian. See Schmitt v. Henderson:

We do not declare that in no circumstances is a pedestrian crossing a street under a duty to be alert to danger approaching him from behind

citing the general rule

A pedestrian using a crosswalk in obedience to the signals placed there for the government of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic is entitled to rely upon others' obeying the law until something occurs which would place him on notice as a person of ordinary prudence that the law is being or is about to be violated by another to his danger

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