How is a Pedestrian Hit by a Car Compensated for Injuries?

Find out who pays the medical bills and damages when a pedestrian is injured in a car accident, what your compensation options are, and how much the case might be worth.

By , Attorney · University of Michigan Law School
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

In 2019, an estimated 76,000 pedestrians were injured and 6,205 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration. Pedestrians include any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down.

If you're a person who has been hit by a car, you probably have a lot of questions about how to get compensation for your accident-related losses (called "damages").

In this article, we'll answer your questions. We'll cover:

  • filing a pedestrian injury insurance claims
  • filing a pedestrian injury lawsuit, and
  • what happens when pedestrians are partially at fault for an accident.

Filing an Insurance Claim For Pedestrian-Car Accident Injuries

The first step toward receiving compensation for your injuries is to figure out who might be responsible (liable) for your damages. In most cases, the insurance of the person at fault for the accident pays for your damages.

If you're in a pedestrian accident, one or more of the following might be responsible:

  • the drivers of all cars involved, whether or not they actually hit you
  • the owners of all cars involved if the owners are different from the drivers
  • the employer of a driver if the driver was on company business at the time of the accident
  • anyone who contributed to the accident (like a property owner who allowed something to obstruct the road or a government agency who failed to maintain a traffic signal), and
  • your own auto and health care insurers.

Let's take a look at a few examples of how a pedestrian injury claim might play out.

Drivers and Car Owners

When you're hit by a car, the driver of the car that hit you is often (though not always) at fault for the accident. Nearly all states require drivers and car owners to carry a minimum amount of insurance in order to lawfully drive and register vehicles.

So, let's say, you are crossing the street in a marked crosswalk when you are hit by a speeding car. A driver who hits a person, car, or stationary object while violating a traffic law is negligent and liable for accident-related losses. You'll file a claim with the driver's insurance company (and the car owner's if the owner is different from the driver).

You might receive a settlement offer from an insurance adjuster right away or you might need to negotiate to get full compensation. If the insurance company lowballs you or denies your claim, you might need to file a personal injury lawsuit (see below).

Your Own Insurance

You can always use your own health insurance to pay for treatment for your pedestrian accident injuries. But, if you rely on your health insurance to pay your medical bills and then you receive a settlement from the at-fault party's insurer, you might have to repay your health insurance company for the bills it covered.

You might also have the option of paying your medical bills through your own car insurance coverage, like medical payments coverage (MedPay) or personal injury protection (PIP).

If worst-case scenario, the driver (or another at-fault party) flees the scene or doesn't have insurance, you can file an underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) claim if you've purchased UIM coverage.

The Limits of Insurance

Each state has minimum insurance requirements, but most states require less insurance than you'll likely need to get full compensation after you've been hit by a car. Fortunately, many drivers purchase more than the minimal amount of coverage. And you might have coverage (like UIM) that you can rely on to cover your bills when the driver (or at-fault party's) coverage isn't enough.

But what happens when you bump up against insurance policy limits? Or when you get hit by an uninsured driver with no UIM coverage of your own? What's the next step when your settlement negotiations with an insurance adjuster fall apart? Talk to a lawyer. A knowledgeable lawyer can answer your questions and help you file a personal injury lawsuit to get full compensation for your injuries.

Filing a Pedestrian-Car Accident Injury Lawsuit

If you're unable to get fair compensation in your pedestrian accident case for whatever reason, it might be time to file a civil lawsuit. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you end up in court.

Time Limits

Each state puts a limit on the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit, called the "statute of limitations." A handful of states have very short limits—only one year from the date of the accident to file a claim. Injury claims against the government are also very time-sensitive.

If you have questions about the statute of limitations in your state, talk to a lawyer. The consequences of missing the deadline are severe—your lawsuit will be dismissed and you won't be able to file it again.

Types of Damages

No two pedestrian accident cases are the same, which is why it isn't possible—or useful—to try to predict how much a pedestrian accident case is worth or look at "average" settlements or payouts. But pedestrians typically ask for compensation for accident-related losses like:

If a pedestrian dies as the result of an accident, the survivors can file a wrongful death lawsuit and get compensation for things like funeral and burial costs and the loss of care, guidance, and nurturing the deceased would have provided.

Factors That Impact the Value of a Pedestrian-Car Accident Settlement

In addition to the total sum of your accident-related losses (see above), the value of your claim depends on factors like:

  • the severity of your injuries
  • the impact of your injuries on your daily life and routine
  • your chances of making a full recovery
  • the clarity of the fault picture, and
  • the impact your injuries will have on your ability to earn a living.

Learn more about key settlement factors for injured pedestrians.

Shared Fault in Pedestrian-Car Accidents

When a car hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian typically ends up with much more significant injuries than the driver of the car. But that doesn't mean drivers are always at fault for pedestrian-car accidents. In some cases, pedestrians are partially to blame for an accident. For example, a jaywalking pedestrian might share fault for an accident.

States typically handle shared blame accidents in one of three ways:

Contributory negligence. If an injured person contributed even the slightest bit to an accident, they can't get compensation.

Pure comparative negligence. An injured person can recover damages reduced by their own level of fault.

Modified comparative negligence. An injured person can recover if their percentage of fault was below a certain amount (usually 50% or 51%).

Talk to a Pedestrian Accident Attorney

If you've been hit by a car, talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can answer your questions and give you objective advice about your situation. A lawyer can also shoulder the burden of dealing with insurance companies and advocate in court for you.

Learn more about when to hire a lawyer after a car accident. You can also fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with an auto accident lawyer for free.

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