Pedestrian Safety: What to Do if You're Hit by a Vehicle?
Nothing beats a long, brisk walk. Whether it’s an integral part of your daily exercise routine, getting from point “A” to point “B” or simply a relaxing walk to collect your thoughts, walking has many benefits. However, we sometimes forget that walking can be just as dangerous as driving any vehicle. You must always be on the lookout for potential hazards in your path, especially cars being driven by inattentive drivers.
Pedestrian Fatalities Are Happening in Alarming Numbers!
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 4,700 people die in pedestrian accidents each year in the United States. Approximately 66,000 pedestrian accident victims sustain injuries that require emergency medical treatment annually.
While there are a number of causes for these fatal pedestrian-related accidents, the most common fatalities can be attributed to the following:
- Pedestrians not walking in non-driver areas
- Hazardous weather conditions
- Time of day (walking at night versus the day)
- Age (the very young and the very old)
- Driving and/or walking under the influence
Other important statistics include:
- Pedestrians make up approximately 14 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide.
- Alcohol use and drunk driving are contributing factors in almost half of all fatal pedestrian accidents.
- Approximately a fifth of all pedestrian accidents are also hit-and-run accidents.
- Three-quarters of all pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
- 20 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur at intersections or crosswalks.
- Most pedestrian accidents occur in cities and urban areas, especially in areas without sidewalks or automated crosswalks.
- Nearly half of all pedestrian deaths involve cars or other vehicles at less than 40 miles (ca. 64 km) per hour.
- 25 percent of pedestrians involved in a car crash at just 25 miles (ca. 40 km) per hour will sustain serious injuries.
The number of pedestrian injuries and deaths nationwide is slowly growing. Many factors may contribute to this increase, such as a rise in the number of pedestrians on the road. An increase in distracted driving, as well as distracted walking, may also contribute to the surge in pedestrian crashes. In fact, California has a “Texting while Driving” Ban and any cell phone use is only permissible as long as it is hands-free.
Who is Liable for Pedestrian Accidents?
The driver of the vehicle is often at fault in cases involving pedestrian vs. car accidents. Vehicle operators and pedestrians alike must exercise reasonable care when on the road. For drivers, this includes staying alert and looking out for pedestrians crossing the road, especially at crosswalks. Drivers owe a special duty of care to children, who are physically smaller and who are not expected to know the rules of the road. For pedestrians, the duty of care includes looking both ways before crossing and using designated crosswalks at the correct time.
Generally, if you are a pedestrian hit by a car, either the driver’s car insurance or your own should cover the cost of your medical bills and other expenses. Even though you were not driving at the time of the accident, your car insurance policy may apply to your damages. However, this depends on what kind of policy you have and who was at fault for the crash. You may choose to purchase no-fault car insurance or a normal fault-based policy. The rules for each of these types of policies are confusing, so it is always best to consult a pedestrian accident lawyer before filing any kind of car insurance claim.
In many cases, the driver is at fault in a pedestrian-related accident. However, this is not always the case. An inattentive pedestrian could be just as much at fault as an inattentive driver during an accident. And as such, you should always follow safety precautions when walking.
How Does Compensation Works In California for Pedestrian Accident Cases?
From the start, an injured pedestrian can tap the insurance of the at-fault driver or drivers involved in the accident to recoup medical expenses, lost wages, and other reasonable costs. If the insurance policy has supplemental coverage, that, too, may be available to the injured pedestrian.
The injured pedestrian can also use the “no-fault” laws to tap his or her own auto insurance policy or the policy of a relative who was part of his or her household at the time of the accident.
- If the pedestrian does not have access to the driver’s insurance information, such as in a hit-and-run, and if the pedestrian cannot tap into his or her own policy, the pedestrian can file a claim.
- If the accident was caused by public or private infrastructure problems such as potholes that should not have existed, the injured party can seek damages from the responsible government body or property owner.
Filing claims for compensation after a serious pedestrian accident can be extremely complicated, and having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference.
Dealing with Insurance Companies over the matter:
Pedestrians hit by automobiles often have the same question; Should I just settle with the insurance company or is there a smarter option? While this may seem to be a simple question, the ramifications are tremendous. Unfortunately, insurance companies have built a sturdy business model by making their offers seem far more lucrative than they are. Choosing to settle with an insurance company can mean a decision to go into debt.
Insurance companies don’t like to give settlements to pedestrians involved in accidents and may refuse. They use any excuse possible to infer the pedestrian was at fault. If the pedestrian was drinking, for instance, the insurance company will say he or she was drunk and caused the accident.
When they do decide to offer a settlement it may be offered in a condescending manner with phrases like “we just want to do the right thing” and “this generous offer” to imply that the victim is getting more than they actually deserve.
More often than not, the answer is to hire a personal injury attorney to represent your legal rights and pursue who is responsible for your injuries. A personal injury attorney has the experience to recognize the many and varied tricks insurance agents use to give accident victims lower settlements. Insurance agents can confuse the issues surrounding a pedestrian accident to the point where a victim will settle for a considerably lower amount than they should have.
An attorney will review any settlement deal the insurance agency draws up and make sure that it covers the costs of all medical bills, pain, suffering, any loss of wages, emotional distress and costs of rehabilitation. Some victims may also need to be reimbursed for loss of quality of life depending upon the circumstances of the accident.
Being hit by a car is a big deal. Insurance companies may not feel the same way but their job is to save money, not to help victims. Pedestrians hit by a vehicle can endure serious damage and even paralysis and death. These types of extensive injuries cost money to recover from and even lesser injuries can be extremely costly.
Settling with what the insurance agency offers is rarely enough to cover the entire cost of being hit by a car.
“As a pedestrian, I was hit by a vehicle — What should I do?”
There are few things in life that can be more traumatic than being involved in a car-related accident as a pedestrian. The struck pedestrian will not only suffer the obvious physical injuries, but emotional and psychological issues may also arise as well. In many cases, time off from work resulting in financial hardships may also be experienced if the injuries are severe enough. Being struck by a vehicle also inherently interferes with your ability to carry out your normal daily self-care tasks such as sleeping, eating, dressing, bathing, or caring for your home or family.
Many pedestrians that are involved in vehicle-related accidents are knocked unconscious when being struck, while others may be simply dazed by the impact. However, if you remain conscious after being struck by a car, you’ll most likely be in physical or mental shock. Regardless of the situation, as soon as you are able to think clearly, there’s a list of steps you must follow after the accident to ensure your legal rights.
The list below includes some no-brainer steps to follow once you have realized you’ve been struck by a car. You should follow these steps immediately in order to protect yourself, your legal rights, and your future.
Seek Medical Assistance Immediately:
If you have been struck by a vehicle and are unconscious, this responsibility falls on the driver or witnesses if available. However, if you are conscious after being struck, the responsibility is yours. The physical and emotional shock that you’ll most likely be suffering after the accident that it may cloud your judgment and your ability to recognize pain and injury.
You should call 911 for immediate assistance and receive a full medical evaluation afterwards, even if you think you feel fine!
Document Your Injuries:
- Upon contacting medical services, take a personal inventory.
- What areas of your body are in pain?
- Are there any visual injuries?
- Are any of your clothes torn? If so, torn garments may indicate an area of the body that is injured but may not be in pain at this time.
- Feel your face, head and extremities. Is there any blood? You may be bleeding but your body may not be able to “process” the accompanying pain due to shock.
- Make note of all injuries and pain. Report them to medical staff (paramedics) as soon as they arrive.
Call the Police:
It is advisable to make notes that pinpoint the events that led up to the accident. However, the chances that you’ll be able to emotionally or physically recall information will most likely be is low. And, even if you’re able to create a chain of events you may not have the means to write them down on the spot.
While your attorney or insurance company may require a police report that documents the accident, this is also the perfect time to explain exactly what happened before being struck. Memories may fade due to injury or the simple act of forgetting specific details as time passes. Documenting each step that led up to you being struck as soon as possible, with a police officer if possible, is extremely important.
Do Not Discuss Fault on the Scene or with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company!
Regardless of the facts that show the events that led to you being struck by a vehicle were the fault of the driver or yourself, you may not be fully aware of the legal aspects when it comes to pedestrian accidents. Anything you say on the scene or to the driver’s insurance company can, and most likely will, be used against you should legal proceedings commence after the accident. You should only discuss your version of the accident with medical personnel, your attorney, and your insurance company. The latter being only entities that are looking out for your best legal interest.
It is also worthwhile to note that you should not speak at length with the driver’s insurance company, as they do not have your best interests in mind. Remember to not sign any documents that they may send you, or accept any settlement offered without discussing it first with your attorney. Only request the name, address, phone number, and claim number from the company. And only offer the contact information for yourself, your attorney and your insurance company to the driver’s insurance company.
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you currently have car insurance, contact with your company immediately after the accident. Even if you were a pedestrian in the accident, most car insurance policies have coverage for these types of accidents. You’ll need to do this to ensure that you’ll be able to make medical or disability claims after the accident.
And Remember… Seek Professional Legal Assistance!
A pedestrian struck by a vehicle will most likely have more severe injuries than occupants of the car. These injuries may lead to physical, emotional and financial difficulties that will seriously impact in their life. The driver’s insurance company will most likely attempt to place fault on the pedestrian and may deny any claims they file. If they do offer them a settlement, it will most likely be grossly undervalued and not take into account any difficulties that they may encounter in the future. By acquiring a qualified personal injury attorney, they’ll be ensuring the protection of their legal rights and livelihood.