Key Settlement Factors for a Pedestrian Injured In a Car Accident

You can figure out the value of your pedestrian accident claim by understanding a few key settlement factors.

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If you're one of the thousands of pedestrians involved in car-versus-pedestrian accidents each year in the United States, you're probably wondering how much money you can expect to get for your pain, inconvenience, and expenses. Getting hit by a big, powerful car as a vulnerable and defenseless pedestrian is scary and dangerous.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to settlements in pedestrian-car accident cases:

  • Figuring out the "average" settlement amount in pedestrian-car accidents is impossible and not that helpful to you. The details of most settlement deals are confidential and each car accident claim and settlement is unique.
  • Liability (fault) isn't always as cut-and-dry as you might think in pedestrian-car accidents. In some cases, a pedestrian might share blame for the accident, which brings down the value of the pedestrian's injury claim.

Factors That Impact Your Pedestrian Accident Settlement

It's true that every case is unique, and it's impossible to predict the value of a given case without knowing the specifics. But here are some of the key factors that will influence your pedestrian injury settlement:

The severity of your injuries. Adjusters tend to divide injuries into two categories: soft and hard. Hard injuries tend to fetch larger settlements.

The amount of time you have missed at work. Your lost income is reimbursed and becomes part of the overall "damages" picture.

The nature and extent of your medical treatment. Not all medical services are created equal. The type of medical treatment you receive will impact how much an adjuster values it, as will the type of provider. Treatments by non-physicians (like chiropractors and acupuncturists) carry less weight than services provided by doctors.

The impact of your injuries on your daily life and routine. Life disruptions and pain and suffering (physical and mental) are hard to quantify, but can add up to a big share of your damages.

Your prospects for a full recovery. If you suffer long-term or permanent injuries, the settlement value of your claim goes up very quickly.

The presence or absence of clear fault for the accident. In most pedestrian accidents, the driver is at fault for the accident. The easier it is for you to show that the driver caused the accident, the faster and more favorable your settlement is likely to be.

The impact your injuries will have on your ability to earn a living in the future. If an accident-related injury will impact your ability to work in the future, you will be compensated for your lost future income.

How an Insurance Adjuster Might Approach the Settlement

An injured pedestrian will typically need to submit a claim to the at-fault driver's insurance company to get compensation for accident-related losses. The case will be assigned to an insurance adjuster. Adjusters are responsible for investigating claims and negotiating settlements. Insurance companies don't reveal exactly how adjusters calculate settlements. But here are a few common approaches.

The Multiplier Method

Most adjusters used some variation of the multiplier method. Adjusters using this method multiply the total cost of your medical expenses by a number between one and five (called the "multiplier") to get an estimate of your general damages. General damages compensate you for hard-to-quantify losses, like pain and suffering and lowered quality of life.

Adjusters choose a multiplier based on factors like the severity of your injuries, the nature of your medical treatment, and the length of your expected recovery. So, for a broken ankle that requires multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy, an adjuster might use a multiplier of three. But if your ankle is sprained instead of broken and you fully recover within a month, an adjuster will probably use a multiplier closer to one.

The Per Diem Method

Another method adjusters use to estimate general damages is called the per diem method (Latin for "by the day"). Adjusters using the per diem method assign a dollar value for every day you have to live with the pain caused by your accident. The daily rate is often your daily average wage.

Adding It All Up

No matter which method an adjuster uses to estimate general damages, the next step is for the adjuster to add your estimated general damages to your out-of-pocket expenses (called special damages), like medical bills, the cost to repair or replace damaged property, and lost wages to arrive at a potential settlement figure.

The adjuster will likely make an initial offer that is significantly less than the settlement figure, which opens the door for back-and-forth negotiations between you and the adjuster. You will need to present arguments and evidence for bringing the initial offer up to a dollar amount you can accept.

Learn more about the two ways adjusters calculate pain and suffering.

What Damages Can Pedestrians Recover?

Pedestrians can potentially get compensation for any accident-related loss or expense. Here's a breakdown of common categories of damages.

Medical Expenses

Past medical expenses are one of the easiest types of damages to calculate. Medical expenses can include:

  • ambulance rides
  • hospitalization costs
  • surgery costs
  • doctor's visits
  • prescription medications
  • physical therapy or rehabilitation bills
  • medical equipment, and
  • at-home care costs.

If you will require ongoing medical treatment for your injuries, you'll need to estimate the cost of your future medical expenses. You might need a medical expert witness to help you do this. A lawyer can help you find the right expert for your case.

Lost Wages

If your injuries prevented you from working, you can get compensation for the wages and bonuses you could have earned.

If the accident left you permanently disabled and unable to work in the same job or unable to work at all, you can get compensation for your reduced earning capacity.

Property Damage

Another category of damages that's pretty easy to calculate is the cost to repair or replace damaged property. A pedestrian's property damage might include personal items like a watch, phone, clothing, jewelry, laptop, or glasses.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is a legal term used to describe the physical and mental suffering caused by someone's negligent (careless) or wrongful act. The idea is that you deserve compensation for the negative impact an accident caused by someone else has had on your life.

Pain and suffering can include:

  • physical pain and discomfort
  • mental anguish, stress, anxiety, depression
  • loss of enjoyment of life
  • the impact of permanent disability or disfigurement, and
  • loss of consortium (paid to family members in wrongful death lawsuits).

Pain and suffering is the most subjective and often the largest part of a pedestrian-car accident settlement, so it's likely to be a focus in your settlement negotiations with the adjuster.

How Do I Get the Most Out of My Pedestrian Accident Claim?

Immediately after a pedestrian-car accident, you might be sore, confused, angry, and worried. You've just been hit by a car! But taking a few simple steps as soon as you can after the accident can make the claim process smoother for you and increase your chances of getting fair compensation for your injuries.

Write Everything Down

You might think that getting hit by a car is something you'll never forget. But you'll be surprised by how quickly the details of your injuries and their effects on your daily life can fade from your memory.

Start writing down what you can remember about the accident while it's fresh in your mind. Write down:

  • every detail you can remember about the accident
  • daily notes about your injuries
  • lists of everything you lost because of the accident (work hours, job opportunities, classes, vacations, social events), and
  • medical appointments and treatments.

Preserve Evidence of Fault and Damages

You'll need to show the adjuster (or a judge or jury if you end up in court) who caused the accident, the nature and severity of your injuries, and how your injuries have impacted your life.

If you're safe and physically able to do so, you can start gathering evidence following the accident. Get the names and contact information of all witnesses. Take pictures of the accident scene, including crosswalks and traffic signs and signals. Find out if there are any surveillance cameras or doorbell cameras in the area that recorded video of the car hitting you.

You'll also want to be sure to get a copy of the police report. Police reports can play a big role in insurance claim negotiations. Adjusters use police reports to get a sense of what happened and figure out who was at fault for the accident.

Get immediate medical attention for your injuries. Let the medical professionals treating you know about all your injuries, pains, and discomforts. Now isn't the time to be stoic. Getting medical treatment is the best way to support your claim and heal from your injuries. Be sure to save bills, receipts, letters, records, and other documents related to your medical treatment.

Can Pedestrians Be at Fault for Pedestrian-Car Accidents?

In a pedestrian-car accident, pedestrians tend to get the worst of it. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 6,000 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 76,000 pedestrians were injured nationwide in 2019.

But that doesn't mean drivers are always at fault when they hit a pedestrian. Pedestrians might be entirely or partially to blame for an accident when they:

  • cross a street in an area other than a crosswalk
  • walk where pedestrians aren't allowed to walk, or
  • don't obey traffic signals.

Pedestrians who are entirely at fault for an accident have to foot their own accident-related bills and pay for any injuries and damages they cause.

A more common scenario in pedestrian-car accidents is when the driver and pedestrian share blame for the accident. For example, a speeding driver might collide with a jaywalking pedestrian.

Laws about shared blame situations vary from state to state. In most states, if you are a pedestrian who shares blame for an accident, your damages will be reduced in proportion to your share of the blame. In other states, you will be barred from collecting damages if you were 50% or more at fault for an accident. In still other states, you can't sue if you are even slightly at fault for the accident.

Learn more about contributory and comparative negligence in car accident cases.

Will I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Pedestrian-Car Accident?

After a pedestrian-car accident, you typically have a right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. But most claims settle outside the court system because lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable.

You might want to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company is refusing to make a fair settlement offer. You should also talk to a lawyer about filing a lawsuit if one or more of the following is true:

  • your injuries are serious
  • you require ongoing medical treatment
  • you are disabled, or
  • you have residual or permanent pain.

Filing a lawsuit doesn't mean you are destined for trial. Sometimes just getting a lawyer involved and starting the lawsuit process is enough to get the insurance company to come to the table and make a reasonable settlement offer.

Learn more about steps in a personal injury lawsuit.

Getting a Lawyer's Help After a Pedestrian-Car Accident

Pedestrian-car accidents often end with the pedestrian suffering significant injuries, but it might not be as easy as you think to establish fault and get the kind of settlement offer that will provide full and fair compensation. If the other driver's insurer isn't coming to the table with a decent offer, it may be time to put your case in the hands of an experienced car accident attorney.

Learn more about when to hire a lawyer after a car accident. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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