WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU’RE A PEDESTRIAN HIT BY A CAR
If someone told you that pedestrian deaths over a ten-year period were “the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing—with no survivors—every single month” you would be shocked. Unfortunately, the report “Deadly by Design” published by Smart Growth America shows that this statistic accurately represents pedestrian deaths across the United States between 2008 and 2017. What is even more terrifying is the fact that eight of the top ten most deadly places for pedestrians are located in Florida.
Pedestrians face significant physical dangers regardless of where they live if they are struck by a motor vehicle. A pedestrian has no protection when they are struck by a vehicle, regardless of how low the speed limit may be. Distracted drivers, drunk drivers, or drivers who are simply driving too fast for road conditions pose a unique threat to pedestrians in crosswalks or on sidewalks.
Pedestrian Steps After Being Struck
Pedestrians are more likely to be seriously injured after being struck by a car than if they were in a motor vehicle or on a motorcycle. If a pedestrian is hit by a car, and they are physically able, they should take the following steps:
- Step one: Seek immediate medical attention—Remember that the human body has an immediate reaction to trauma that can mask the signs or symptoms of an injury. Adrenaline is a hormone that floods the body’s system at the first sign of danger or trauma and can prevent the person from sensing that anything is wrong. Regardless of how the injured person may feel, seeking medical attention is imperative. Whether they go to the emergency room, see their own doctor, or contact Emergency Medical Services for an ambulance, they must ensure they get checked out by a medical professional.
- Step two: Document as much as possible– If the accident victim is capable of doing so, they should document as much as possible. This includes documenting injuries, taking photos of the scene, recording witness names and contact information, and taking down information about the vehicle involved in the accident. In many cases, this type of accident is a hit-and-run, and if this is the case, the victim should try to get a photo of the car and license plate. If they were unable to do so, they should talk to people who were nearby, including other drivers, to see if others can recall any details. Photos of the scene including crosswalks, traffic signals, speed limit signs and road conditions are also helpful. There is no such thing as too much documentation, so the victim should take a picture or make a note of anything they think might be remotely relevant.
- Step three: contact law enforcement—If someone at the scene of the accident has not already contacted the police, the victim should do this as quickly as possible after the incident. Police officers will take a complete report at the scene from everyone who remains at the scene until their arrival. The accident victim should be cautious when speaking with law enforcement to not take any blame for causing the accident. They should describe what they were doing immediately before being struck and advise police of anything they recall leading up to and immediately following the accident. But they should use caution when answering police questions, as answers to a seemingly innocuous question like “how are you feeling?” can be problematic later. Victims should not speculate or elaborate at all when dealing with police. Facts matter and, in most cases, the driver is in the wrong when they have hit a pedestrian.
- Step four: Contact their own insurance company—If the pedestrian is a licensed Florida driver with automobile insurance, they should contact their own personal insurance company after the accident. Even as a pedestrian, a person’s own insurance coverage may take care of medical costs associated with the accident. The victim should use the same caution when discussing the accident with their insurance company as they used with law enforcement officers. The victim should also contact the driver’s insurance company if the accident was not a hit-and-run. The victim should be very careful when discussing the particulars of the accident with the driver’s insurer because they will attempt to place all or part of the blame for the accident directly on the victim’s own shoulders to limit their own liability.
- Step five: Contact a pedestrian accident attorney—The victim may not think they need an attorney after they follow all of these steps, but it is always advisable to reach out and talk to someone who has previous experience handling pedestrian accidents. These accidents are unlike accidents only involving vehicles for several reasons. An attorney can assess the ramifications of the accident and injuries and can help the victim recover the full amount of compensation they deserve.
Types of Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians
You might think the only way a pedestrian is struck by a car is when they are crossing the street. But if you look at pedestrian accidents in Florida during 2018, you will see there were more than 9,000 accidents involving a pedestrian. Not all of these accidents occurred in crosswalks. Pedestrians can also be struck while in a parking lot, alongside the street, or even while they are firmly in the middle of the sidewalk.
Pedestrian Car Accident Causes
Many people who are involved in an accident do not understand how the accident occurred. The fact of the matter is that accidents involving either pedestrians or vehicles are often caused by similar circumstances. A pedestrian can be the unfortunate victim of a drunk driver, a driver who is paying more attention to their cell phone than the road, or a driver who is speeding in a highly populated area with lots of pedestrians.
A motor vehicle may be struck by another vehicle, causing them to lose control and strike a pedestrian. A parking lot may have lighting that is insufficient for a driver to see pedestrians clearly, or a driver may swerve to get out of the way of another vehicle, animal, or other roadway hazard and strike a pedestrian walking along the roadway or on a nearby sidewalk. Regardless of the reason, victims of pedestrian accidents involving a motor vehicle have certain legal rights.
Common Pedestrian Injuries
When vehicle occupants are injured in a crash, they can sustain minor or serious injuries ranging from whiplash to fractures and crushing injuries. Oftentimes, car accident victims suffer life-altering injuries even if they are in a new vehicle with top-of-the-line safety features. Pedestrians are much less protected and therefore are even more likely to suffer a serious injury.
Even if the actual impact is minor, pedestrian accident victims often suffer at least a strain or sprain. In many cases, these injuries occur when a pedestrian attempts to flee because they see a vehicle coming toward them. While these types of injuries may seem minor, soft-tissue injuries can cause serious pain and require a long period of time for full recovery. Just because these injuries will heal themselves over time does not mean victims are not faced with issues while they are recovering.
Since a pedestrian has no protection from a car that strikes them, broken legs, pelvis, and hips are common injuries. This type of injury sometimes requires weeks or months of rehabilitative care. Recovery time means lost time from work and may also require in-home or inpatient care.
Anytime a person strikes their head they are at risk for a traumatic brain injury. Pedestrians are likely to strike their heads when they fall to the ground or against some fixed object after being struck by a car. Anyone who has been hit by a car should have a full skull X-ray, especially if they blacked out at any time during the incident. Remember, symptoms of these types of injuries may not show up for weeks or months after the accident.
Spinal cord injuries are also common in pedestrian car accidents. Ruptured discs, bruising on the spinal cord, or dislocated vertebrae can result in life-long pain. An accident victim who ignores the initial pain they feel after an accident can find themselves dealing with more serious or long-term issues later on.
Even a minor injury in a pedestrian accident can leave an accident victim feeling vulnerable the next time they decide to take a walk in Florida. Many pedestrian accident victims struggle with long-term post-traumatic stress symptoms because they no longer feel safe outside their home. This condition can be debilitating and often goes undiagnosed for longer periods of time than a physical injury.
Tracking Symptoms and Doctor Visits
After a pedestrian is injured as a result of being struck by a motor vehicle it is critically important they keep track of their symptoms. Since it is common for injuries to take time to show up, they must be aware of the signals their body is sending even if they think they are fine after an accident. Too often, pedestrian victims assume that because they felt fine immediately after being struck by a car, they are not going to have to worry about any injuries.
Accident victims should make a careful record of any new aches and pains, any difficulty with movement, or anything that seems out of the ordinary in the days and weeks following an accident. They should discuss these symptoms with a doctor and carefully document any visits to a physician. While symptoms may not appear to be related to the accident, the doctor is in a better position than the victim to decide what issues the accident may or may not have caused.
Discussing Pedestrian Accidents With an Attorney
Pedestrian accident victims who have sought the advice of an attorney should avoid speaking with insurance adjusters and refer the adjuster to their attorney. While victims often think an insurance company is looking out for their best interests, this is typically not the case. In most cases, the insurance company has one goal, and that is to settle a claim as soon as possible.
Insurance company adjusters are trained to offer the lowest settlement possible to attempt to get the victim to settle their claim quickly. They understand that victims who are out of work have financial concerns. These “fast” settlements seldom take into consideration future medical costs like testing, pain medication, rehabilitation treatment, or future lost wages. This is why victims should work with an experienced pedestrian accident attorney who knows how to best handle pedestrian accident claims.
An experienced attorney will do their best to work with the insurance company to reach a fair and equitable settlement for a pedestrian who was injured after being hit by a car. However, an attorney will also be ready to go to court to make sure their client is getting the full compensation to which they might be entitled if the insurance company is unwilling to reach a fair settlement.
Some pedestrian victims or families who have lost a loved one in a pedestrian car accident think they cannot afford to speak with a personal injury attorney. But nearly all car accident victims can contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Additionally, many pedestrian accident lawyers will take a case on a contingency basis, which means they will receive payment only if they secure a settlement for the victim.
Whether you are a pedestrian who was struck by a car or you are dealing with a painful loss after your loved was killed in an accident, you have rights. Contact an accident victim lawyer as quickly as possible to make sure your rights are preserved, and to find out what types of compensation you may be entitled to collect. Personal injury attorneys understand that money will not make up for any amount of pain you have suffered, but they also are aware the are financial issues that need attention after an accident. A lawyer can help ease the financial burden by making sure you are treated fairly by the insurance companies.