Cars usually collide with other automobiles, but what happens when a car hits you while you're walking and unprotected? Your rights -- in other words, your options for getting compensation for injuries and other losses -- depend on the answers to a few key questions.
Most people assume that when a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver of the vehicle is at fault. That’s true in most, but not all, pedestrian-car accident cases. Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and in other situations as designated in the state’s traffic or vehicle code. Drivers also must obey traffic signals and posted speed limits. If a pedestrian is hit while a driver is violating a traffic law, liability is pretty clear. But some pedestrian-car accident cases are more complicated than that.
If you suffer injury as the result of a pedestrian-car accident, and the driver is at fault for the accident (or he or she at least bears the majority of the blame), then you’ll probably be able to pursue an injury claim with the driver’s car insurance carrier. This is known as a third party claim. An insurance claim is usually the first step in getting compensation for your losses -- things like medical bills, lost income, and general damages like pain and suffering.
The result of most insurance claims is an injury settlement, usually after back-and-forth negotiations. In some cases, if settlement talks don’t seem to be approaching a satisfactory result, you may need to take the matter to civil court. This means filing a personal injury lawsuit. Of course, this is all assuming that you know the identity of the driver (more on this below).
If the driver of the vehicle complied with his or her legal obligation to stop at the scene and exchange relevant contact and insurance information with others involved in the accident, you’ll be able to pursue compensation through the driver’s insurance carrier, or via a personal injury lawsuit, as discussed above.
But if the accident was a hit and run (the driver didn’t stop), then this could narrow your options significantly. The first thing you should do is report the accident to the police so that an investigation can be made. If there were any witnesses to the accident, try to get their names and contact information. After you’ve given the police all the information that might help, you’ll likely need to handle your medical treatment on your own, under your own health insurance coverage.
Later on, if you’re able to identify and locate the hit-and-run driver (or if the police track them down) you may want to discuss your options with a personal injury attorney, especially if you suffered significant injuries in the accident.
This is just a snapshot of a few key legal issues to keep in mind when it comes to pedestrian injuries stemming from car accidents. For much more in-depth information, start with our article Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians - Legal Overview.