Legal Options for Pedestrian Hit By a Car

If you're a pedestrian who has been injured by a vehicle driver, understand your rights and your options.

The standard car accident scenario sees one vehicle colliding with another at a stoplight, at an intersection, while merging on a freeway, or elsewhere. But what happens when a car hits you while you're walking? Your rights—in other words, your options for getting compensation for injuries and other losses—depend on the answers to a few key questions.

Who Was at Fault for the Vehicle-Versus-Pedestrian Accident?

Most people assume that when a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver of the vehicle is going to be found at fault ("liable" for the accident, in legalese). 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. What if the pedestrian was crossing against the light, or walked out from between parked cars in the middle of a narrow street? In these and other situations, a pedestrian can be at fault for a traffic accident.

How Badly Were You Injured?

If you suffer injury as a result of a pedestrian-car accident, and the driver is at fault (or he or she at least bears the majority of the blame), then you’ll probably be able to pursue a personal injury claim. If you start by making an insurance claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company (known as a third party claim), you can ask for a fair settlement that covers your damages—that means medical bills, lost income, and more subjective effects of the accident, including your pain and suffering.

The result of most insurance claims is a personal 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).

Did the Driver Stop at the Accident Scene?

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 probably be able to pursue compensation through the driver’s car 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), this will narrow your options significantly. The first thing you should do is report the accident to the police so that an investigation can begin. 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 under your own health insurance coverage, if you have it.

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.

Getting Help If You've Been Hit By a Car

Vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents typically result in significant injuries to the person who was on foot, and despite common misconceptions, it's not always easy to sort out who was at fault. Especially if the driver (or the driver's insurance company) is refusing to make a fair settlement offer, or is otherwise digging its heels in against you, it may be time to put your case in the hands of an experienced attorney. Learn how to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.

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