The amount and type of compensation a pedestrian receives after being hit by a car will depend on the defendant’s assets, both parties’ insurance, the extent of the pedestrian’s injuries, and how much the pedestrian contributed to the accident. This article discusses how all of those factors play into compensation for a pedestrian-car accident.
An injured pedestrian’s most likely source of recovering compensation after an accident is auto insurance. In almost all states, a driver is required to have some kind of insurance. Additionally, almost every state requires that insurance companies offer under or uninsured motorist coverage (UIM coverage). The effect of UIM coverage is that even if the driver that caused the accident has little or no insurance, the plaintiff’s insurance company must make up the difference.
About a dozen states also have in place what are known as “no fault” laws. Although the rules vary from state to state, if the damage caused by the accident in a state with “no fault” insurance is under a certain limit and there are no serious injuries, the plaintiff’s insurance is required to pay the plaintiff’s claim and no lawsuit against the defendant is allowed.
If a pedestrian has medical insurance, that is probably the first place the pedestrian should turn to pay for medical bills -- it will often be up to the medical insurance company to collect reimbursement for the pedestrian’s medical expenses from a responsible auto insurance company. Also keep in mind that if the pedestrian was working at the time of the accident, a worker’s compensation carrier may be required to compensate the pedestrian as well.
In many states, under either a no fault system or a standard UIM system, a pedestrian who has automotive insurance will still be able to collect from his insurance company even though he wasn’t driving when the accident happened.
In some (but not all) no fault states, the insured pedestrian’s insurance will be required to cover the costs regardless of the driver’s coverage, up to a certain limit. In all other states, if the driver caused the accident, the driver’s insurance will provide the compensation -- assuming the driver has insurance. If the driver is uninsured, then the pedestrian’s UIM or no fault coverage will compensate the pedestrian for his or her losses.
An uninsured pedestrian will simply be out of luck if the driver who caused the accident was uninsured and has no other assets. If the driver is insured, an uninsured pedestrian under any kind of state system will be eligible for compensation from the driver’s insurance company.
As discussed elsewhere, the states have several different ways of treating a case when both parties are at fault. If a pedestrian in a no fault state had some or all of the responsibility for an accident, she will still be eligible for compensation from either her or the driver’s insurance company up to certain limits.
In the other states, if the pedestrian was mostly or completely responsible for the accident, the driver’s insurance company may not be required to pay the pedestrian’s damages. If the pedestrian has auto insurance, whether she will be covered depends on the kind of insurance she purchased, i.e. the extent of her own “at fault” policy limits.
Mandatory coverage in no fault states and under UIM insurance can be quite low and often excludes compensation for pain and suffering. For example, UIM coverage is often as low as $10,000, although an injured pedestrian may have opted to get more coverage when he or she purchased auto insurance.
In many no fault states, the no fault insurance will only pay up to a certain amount of compensation for medical bills and lost income. After that threshold is reached, either the pedestrian’s medical insurer or the pedestrian will need to collect medical costs from the defendant’s auto insurer or the defendant himself.
Additionally, if a pedestrian was disfigured, suffered a broken bone or was killed, the pedestrian (or his or her family) will need to collect from or sue the defendant’s auto insurer or the defendant for the pain and suffering. Remember, no lawsuit for pain and suffering damages is allowed in no fault states if the pedestrian’s injuries were not severe (this is usually called the "serious injury threshold").
The main point is: unless the pedestrian or the defendant chose to have a very extensive insurance policy, an injured pedestrian may have to sue an under or uninsured driver responsible for the accident to collect for damages not covered by insurance. If the driver has little or no assets, and no other parties are at fault, the pedestrian’s expenses beyond the insurance limits will go uncompensated.