Here’s what pedestrians hit by cars should do to get the compensation they deserve from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The number of pedestrians killed by cars is at an all-time high, with more than 6,000 killed in one year.¹
If you are walking, running, jogging, or just hanging out near a roadway, you’re more likely to die from a car crash than if you were riding in a car.
Each year, almost 129,000 pedestrians seek treatment in emergency departments after getting hit by vehicles. That averages out to a pedestrian accident every four minutes.²
If you or a loved one are a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle, what you do after the accident can help protect your legal rights and ensure you get fair compensation from the driver’s auto insurance company.
What to Do After Being Hit by a Car
First, protect your health and safety. Then think about collecting information for your injury claim.
1. Call 911 To Report the Accident and Ask for Help
If you are unable to call for help on your own, ask a bystander to call 911. Let the dispatcher know you are a pedestrian who’s been hit by a car.
2. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Never refuse medical attention at the scene. Shock and excitement can mask symptoms of severe injuries like internal bleeding or brain trauma. Tell the paramedics about every symptom, even if you think it’s mild. If the paramedics want to take you to the hospital, go with them.
If you aren’t taken directly to a hospital, go to your private doctor, the emergency room, or an urgent care center as soon as possible.
Delaying or refusing medical treatment can seriously undermine your claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.
Although most pedestrian injuries happen at the first impact of the car, others occur secondarily.
Secondary injuries happen when the pedestrian is hit so hard they are thrown into another solid object. For example, the initial impact broke the pedestrian’s leg, but the force of the impact flung him against a wall and fractured his skull.
Injuries most common to pedestrians are:
- Cuts, bruises, and scrapes to head, face, and hands
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussion
- Spinal cord injuries
- Torn and sprained ligaments
- Fractures to arms, legs, hips, and pelvis
3. Gather Evidence at the Scene of the Accident
Accident scenes don’t last long. Gathering evidence right after an accident can be incredibly helpful to your insurance claim.
If you’re incapacitated, don’t worry about gathering information. The police officer investigating the accident will get the driver’s phone number, driver’s license number, address, and insurance details, as well as the vehicle information for the accident report.
Car and driver info to gather if you’re able:
- Make, model, and year
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- License plate number
- Car owner’s name and contact information
- Insurance information
Photographs: Pictures and videos from the accident scene are an excellent source of evidence. If you’re injured, ask someone else to take pics of the car that hit you. Be sure to get any damage to the car where it struck your body, the surrounding area, your injuries, and anything else that can help show what happened.
Witnesses: Ask potential witnesses to write down what they saw, and to sign and date their written statement. You can also record witness statements using cell phone video. Be sure the witness includes their name and contact information in the recording. Witness statements are particularly valuable after a hit-and-run accident.
Proving Driver Fault for a Pedestrian Accident
Pedestrian injuries from auto accidents can be serious and expensive. You deserve fair compensation from the driver of the car that hit you. This includes your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Pedestrian injuries are covered by the driver’s auto insurance policy.
Before the driver’s insurer pays, you will have to prove the driver was to blame for the accident that caused your injuries.
It helps to understand some legal terms used by insurance companies:
Liability simply means responsibility. The at-fault driver or vehicle owner is usually liable for the pedestrian’s damages.
Negligence happens when a vehicle driver fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable driver would do.
Damages for pedestrians can include medical and therapy costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Motorists Have a Duty of Care
Vehicle drivers have a duty of care, meaning obligation, to obey traffic laws and pay attention to what’s going on around them. The law requires all drivers to use common sense and act reasonably and carefully under the circumstances.
Motorists have a special duty of care when it comes to children. Young children run the highest risk of being hit by a car. Children are small, fast, and can be hard to see. You can’t always tell what a child will do, so the law requires drivers to be extra careful when kids are around.
Drivers who violate their duty of care by breaking traffic laws, or not using reasonable care, are negligent in the eyes of the law.
The driver’s car insurance company will deny your claim without solid proof the driver was negligent, and that the driver’s negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries.
Comparative Negligence in Pedestrian Accidents
Sometimes the driver isn’t the only person at fault in a pedestrian accident. That doesn’t mean the pedestrian is without recourse.
Most states have comparative negligence laws, meaning an injured pedestrian can pursue compensation from an at-fault driver, even when the pedestrian was partly to blame for the accident.
Under comparative negligence laws, compensation to the pedestrian is reduced to account for their portion of fault for the accident.
Example: Shared Fault When Pedestrian is Hit By a Car
Sharon was walking her dog along the street while wearing headphones and listening to music. Nick was driving down the street and saw Sharon walking her dog.
Without looking up, Sharon suddenly turned to cross the street. Nick couldn’t stop fast enough and struck Sharon.
Nick’s insurance company denied Sharon’s personal injury claim, arguing that Sharon darted out into the road without looking. Sharon and her attorney filed a lawsuit against Nick, demanding $10,000 for her damages.
In court, Nick was found to be 60% at fault for failing to slow down near a pedestrian and failing to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian.
Sharon won her lawsuit, but she was found to be 40% liable for the accident because she crossed the street without looking and might have heard the car coming if she weren’t wearing headphones.
Sharon was awarded $6,000, representing a 40% reduction to her $10,000 demand, to account for her share of the blame.
Using Evidence to Prove Your Claim
Contact the motorist’s insurance company, report the accident, and file your injury claim.
The next step is proving the driver of the car that hit you was negligent and caused the accident. Without proof, your claim will fail.
To think like an adjuster, ask yourself these questions:
- Did the motorist breach their duty of care? Did I?
- Were the motorist’s actions the direct cause of my injuries?
- Was the motorist negligent? How?
- Were there other factors that might relieve one or both of us from fault?
Organize Your Documentation
Well-organized paperwork makes for a stronger insurance claim. Good documentation will help prove the driver was to blame for the accident and support the value of your damages.
Your accident file should include:
- Police Report: If the police responded to the accident scene, there should be an official accident report on file. Police reports are valuable evidence that carry a lot of weight with insurance companies. The report will include the investigating officer’s opinion of fault, a diagram of the accident, witness statements, and any citations issued to the driver.
- Witness Statements: Whether your witnesses come from the police report or your canvassing, their statements are important evidence. Independent witness testimony can be the deciding factor in findings of fault.
- Driver’s Statements: If you or your witnesses remember statements from the driver, make sure you write them down. It’s even better if you can manage to record the driver’s statements with your cell phone. Statements like “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you” or “I was on the phone” are the kinds of statements courts have traditionally allowed as strong evidence of liability.
- Medical Records and Bills: Your medical records, especially your emergency room admission chart, are important evidence. Doctors’ and nurses’ notes can tie your injury directly to the accident. Copies of your medical bills verify your treatment visits and prove the cost of your injuries.
- Lost Wages: Ask your employer to provide a written statement of time you lost from work, including sick leave or vacation days you had to use during your recovery, and lost opportunities for overtime pay.
- Clothing: Keep the unwashed clothing you were wearing when the accident happened. Put it in a plastic bag and keep it in a safe place. Your clothing, shoes, belt, backpack or purse can be convincing evidence if it’s torn, bloody, or smudged with car paint or crash debris. The driver’s insurance also should cover your personal property damage.
- Your State’s Traffic Laws: Your state has specific laws governing pedestrians and motorists. Check to see whether the driver who hit you violated any traffic laws. While you’re at it, check to see whether you did. Print the section of law applicable to your claim.
Negotiating Personal Injury Compensation
If you’ve fully recovered from minor injuries and only missed a couple of weeks of work, you can probably negotiate a fair insurance settlement without the help of an attorney.
The more evidence you have, the better your chances for a higher settlement. Your evidence will highlight the events immediately before the accident, at the time of the accident, and during your recovery.
Your demand for compensation will be the total of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, with one to five times that amount added to account for your pain and suffering.
You can probably negotiate pain and suffering on the lower end of the scale on your own. For larger payouts, you’ll need an attorney.
Serious Injuries Require a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been severely injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, you’ll need the knowledge and skills of a personal injury lawyer to get fair compensation.
You can’t trust the insurance company to look out for you or your family. Claims adjusters are trained to avoid large payouts to claimants, even if a child is involved.
There’s too much at stake to face the insurance company’s experts on your own. Most injury attorneys offer free consultations to victims like you.
Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
Most pedestrian accidents occur in urban areas. There are plenty of pedestrians hit on country roads, but busy city streets have many more injuries and fatalities.
Nearly half of all fatal pedestrian accidents involve an alcohol-impaired individual. Seventy-five percent of fatalities happened in the dark when the pedestrian was walking along the road or crossing a road, not in a crosswalk.
Three times as many pedestrians are hit by cars turning left than turning right. The driver is looking at oncoming traffic, and the pedestrian is often looking straight ahead.
Drivers cause pedestrian accidents by:
- Failing to yield to a pedestrian
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Failing to obey traffic signals
- Bad weather
Pedestrians cause accidents by:
- Ignoring a traffic signal
- Walking outside of crosswalks
- Walking in prohibited areas
- Failing to walk on the sidewalk
- Wearing dark clothing at night
Pedestrian Rights and Duties
No matter where you live, pedestrians generally have the right-of-way in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and on public roads.
Pedestrians also have the following duties:
- To obey traffic signals, crosswalk signals, and other devices meant to protect pedestrians
- To cross the road at designated crosswalks
- If there’s a sidewalk along a roadway, a pedestrian must use it
- When there isn’t a sidewalk, a pedestrian must walk along the shoulder of the road facing traffic
- When a pedestrian has the right of way, they must pay attention and act carefully
- Pedestrians should use common sense. They must be aware of their surroundings and do whatever is reasonable to stay safe.
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