A pedestrian can be hit by a car, bike, motorcycle, or even an unleashed dog. Because there is no protection between the pedestrian and the surface to which they will land after an accident, even a slight knock-down accident can lead to severe injuries. Under California’s personal injury laws, any person injured in a pedestrian-related crash can bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party. In this article, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm explains the steps you should take to recover damages and how to recover compensation if you are a pedestrian hurt in an accident caused by a negligent party.
Who is a Pedestrian?
A pedestrian is any person that is walking on foot, a skateboard, roller skates, hoverboard, or any other moving object, using a tricycle, wheelchair, or any other similar gadget that is not a standard bicycle.
When you are riding in an auto, either as a passenger or the driver, you have several types of equipment to protect you, including airbags, seat belts, and the vehicle itself. Even motorcyclists and bicyclists wear helmets which protects them to a given extent. Additionally, every automobile on the roadway is crash-tested and has to meet high safety standards, which contributes to keeping occupants safe in case of a crash.
However, as you can guess, pedestrians are always disadvantaged in case they collide with a vehicle. As we mentioned earlier, they are not protected; therefore, fully exposed to the crash. California has enforced right-of-way laws to help protect pedestrians. However, these laws only save lives if they are followed to the latter.
What You Should Do Immediately After a Crash
The steps you take after you have been involved in an accident determine whether you are eligible to recover damages or not. Naturally, one would feel upset after being in an accident, but do not let that diminish the possibility of recovering damages or even the amount that you are supposed to get. You should compose yourself and do the following:
Get Legal Help
Contact the police and inform them of the accident, so they can come and take a report. When the officers arrive at the scene, give them honest statements concerning how the crash took place. You can describe the events that occurred before and after the accident. The police officers will also take the driver and witness statements to determine which party was to blame. They might make preliminary findings at the scene or conduct further investigation.
The police report obtained from the crash scene may indicate what party the officers saw as being to blame. However, auto insurance companies might dispute these kinds of findings. Generally, an insurance company sends an adjuster to the accident scene or views the damage you incurred as well as damage to the property immediately after the collision has taken place. If you believe your insurance provider will unjustly assign you a significant percentage of fault, you should consider hiring an injury lawyer who will help you fight your case.
Get Medical Help
Also, ensure you get checked up by a doctor as soon as possible if you sustained injuries. Even if you don’t have a physical injury, it is still advisable that you see a doctor and get examined. This is because various injuries take time to show themselves, and by the time they reveal themselves, they would have gotten worse. You may have also suffered an internal injury that you may not know about until you are thoroughly examined.
Getting medical help immediately after a crash improves your chances of recovering compensation. Ensure that when undergoing treatment, you record any information that could be helpful when filing a claim, for instance, the doctor’s report of your visits, the extent and nature of your injuries, and the duration and course of your treatment. You may want to show this information to the insurance company of the negligent party or the court as proof that you genuinely were injured. If your claim is successful, you will be compensated for the medical bills you incurred while undergoing treatment.
Failing to keep the doctor’s report could hurt your case. This is because the at-fault party’s insurance company could merely claim that the treatment you are going through is not for the injuries the accident caused, but that your injuries were caused by something else. Or, they may claim that the injuries already existed when the accident occurred. If you have nothing to prove them wrong, then you may not recover any compensation.
Exchange Contact Details, Nothing More
Exchange information with everybody involved in the crash, including names, email addresses, insurance information, and phone numbers. Avoid talking too much with the at-fault party, be it a driver or the owner of the dog that caused the accident or their family members and friends. This is because by talking to them, you may find yourself admitting fault unconsciously. For instance, you may find yourself making statements like “I feel so guilty,” which the other party may translate as having admitted guilt. Therefore, be careful of whatever you say to the other involved parties. Admitting fault before the case is determined will hurt your chances of recovering compensation. Also, avoid talking directly to the insurance company or lawyer of the at-fault party.
Don’t Discuss Fault While at the Scene or With the Driver’s Insurance Company
Irrespective of the facts showing that the occurrences that resulted in your being hit by a car were your fault or the driver’s fault, you most probably don’t fully understand the law as far as pedestrian accidents are concerned. Anything you say to the motorist’s insurance company or while at the accident scene may be used against you when trying to recover damages. You are supposed to discuss your side of the story only with your lawyer, your insurance provider, and medical personnel. Always remember that these are the only parties that have your best interest at heart.
Also, it is worth noting that you shouldn’t speak to the at-fault driver’s insurance company since they don’t care about you as such. Don’t sign any document that they might send you. Similarly, don’t agree to any settlement offer they propose. Only request the address, name, claim number, and phone number from them. Only provide your contact information, the contact info of your insurance company, and your lawyer to the at-fault driver’s insurance company if applicable.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
If you have auto insurance, reach out to them as soon as possible. Although you were knocked down while walking, most auto insurance coverages cover these kinds of crashes. You have to do this to make sure you will be capable of making disability or medical claims after the accident.
Seek Expert Legal Help
Pedestrians who are knocked down by an automobile are most likely to sustain more severe injuries than passengers in a vehicle. These injuries could cause physical, financial, and emotional difficulties that may seriously affect your life. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will try to blame you for the accident and deny you any injury claims you bring against them. Suppose the company proposes an offer to settle your case. In that case, it most likely will be undervalued, failing to consider any difficulties you may experience in the days to come, way after the accident. By hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer, you’ll be making sure you are protecting your livelihood and legal rights.
If you are knocked down by a vehicle in a parking lot, road, or even on a crosswalk, you may be capable of seeking compensation by filing a personal injury suit. As per California negligence law, if a negligent motorist caused the accident from which you sustained injuries, the driver could be responsible for those injuries.
However, for you to recover compensation after the crash, you generally should prove that the motorist was negligent. Proving negligence involves substantiating that:
- The motorist owed you a duty of care
- The driver violated that duty through negligence
- Motorist’s negligence was a significant factor in causing your injury
- You suffered substantial damage and losses as a result of the driver’s negligence
In the case of wrongful death, the family members of the deceased pedestrian will have a chance to file a wrongful death claim. Even when filing this claim, negligence also needs to be proven for compensation of wrongful death to be awarded. Wrongful death compensation includes burial and funeral costs, medical bills from the time of hospitalization until death, loss of financial support, loss of consortium, etc.
Generally, drivers owe a duty of care to all pedestrians. Also, motorists owe the same duty of care to cyclists and other drivers on the roadway. Motorist negligence could be indicated by distracted driving or traffic violations.
One of the primary causes of pedestrian/vehicle crashes involves failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. As per California VC 21960, drivers have to give way to pedestrians when they are at an intersection or in a marked crosswalk.
Note that VC 21709 makes it unlawful for drivers to drive in safety zones. Safety zones are areas designated for pedestrians, without vehicular traffic. Any driver that violates this code and thereby knocks down a pedestrian may be held responsible.
However, even when you were not at an intersection or crosswalk, the motorist can still be liable for your injuries. Any motorist negligence that resulted in the crash could lead to the driver being held accountable for the injury caused. Additional examples of motorist’s negligent acts that lead to pedestrian-related accidents include:
- Texting and driving
- Driving while intoxicated
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Running a stoplight or stop sign
- Going around a stopped school bus
- Hitting a motorist in the break-down lane
- Not giving sufficient room for a pedestrian that’s entering a parked vehicle
If you are struck by a car in the streets or a crosswalk, you should talk to an injury lawyer before talking to the insurance company of the at-fault party. The at-fault party’s insurance company will usually attempt to persuade you to settle your claim for less than you deserve. Your attorney will deal with the insurance provider to ensure the provider doesn’t take advantage of you.
Who Else Is to Blame in a Pedestrian-Related Accident?
Apart from the driver, several other possible parties can be blamed in a pedestrian-related crash, who may, therefore, be compelled to pay compensation if you are capable of proving their negligence. These parties include:
- A truck, taxicab, or bus company when the truck, taxi, or bus is operated or maintained negligently
- A private or public entity when a hazardous condition of private or public property is proven to have contributed to or caused the accident, for instance, improperly maintained roadways, lack of adequate lighting, inoperative traffic lights, etc.
- Any automobile operator who carelessly causes the crash
- A repairer of any motor vehicle that’s involved in the crash
- A manufacturer of any automobile that’s involved in the collision
- In the case of incompetents or minors, any individual who didn’t fulfill the duty to ensure the incompetent or child safety when crossing the road.
Damages You Can Recover After Filing a Pedestrian Accident Claim
The compensation available after involvement in a pedestrian accident depends on the severity of your injuries. It also depends on whether or not the victim died or was injured due to the collision.
You can sue for or claim compensatory damages. These kinds of damages are meant to put you back to the same situation you would have been, were it not for the accident. Compensatory damages include:
- Hospital and medical bills
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Lost wages and earnings
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of limb
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Out-of-pocket costs
Loss of consortium refers to the loss of support, intimacy, and companionship between domestic partners and spouses. Loss of consortium claims or suits allows you to seek damages that will compensate the domestic partner or spouse for their loss of intimate relations or companionship.
You may also seek to recover punitive damages when involved in a pedestrian accident. Punitive compensation is rarely awarded in injury cases. For you to be awarded punitive damages, you generally have to prove that the at-fault party acted with outrageous or extreme conduct. For instance, you could prove that the motorist intentionally hit you.
Insurance Coverage for Pedestrian-Related Accidents
An injured pedestrian is usually covered under his/her health and disability insurance policy or worker’s compensation coverage if the crash occurs on the job. He/she could also be covered under a single or many auto insurance coverages.
Payment by Auto Liability Insurance
Usually, injured pedestrians can bring an injury claim against the auto owner’s or driver’s vehicle liability insurance policy. California requires that drivers and vehicle owners have liability insurance, which covers personal injuries to a third party and damages third parties’ property. Recovering damages depends on who caused the crash and the details of the insurance policy.
Payment by No-Fault Coverage
California requires that an insurance company pays for the lost wages and medical expenses of its policyholders irrespective of what party is to blame. This type of insurance is also called Personal Injury Protection (PIP).
Comparative Negligence Law
The motorist may blame you for the accident that resulted in your injuries. A driver can claim that since you weren’t using the crosswalk, then it was your fault that you got knocked over. Nevertheless, just because you weren’t using the crosswalk doesn’t mean the motorist was not negligent. A pedestrian, just like a cyclist or driver, has to exercise a duty of care for his/her safety.
After a crash, each party may try to blame one another for having caused the crash. If a motorist blames you, don’t be quick to admit that you were indeed at fault. The fault isn’t always apparent, particularly if you did not know what precisely happened. Agreeing that you may have made the accident take place could imply that you’ll have to cater to your medical costs and even compensate the motorist for their losses.
As per California’s comparative fault laws, you may still recover compensation even if you are partly to blame for the crash. If over one party is at fault for a collision, the judge will apportion the fault and share out damages as per the level of guilt of each party. By this, it means that you may have your damages reduced depending on your degree of fault.
Who Can Bring a Claim if a Spouse or Child Died in a Pedestrian-Related Accident?
In most severe pedestrian crashes, the pedestrian could sustain fatal injuries. A victim that has passed away cannot file a suit. However, surviving members of the family may be capable of filing a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim permits family members to recover damages after their loved one has died to cover:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Compensation for loss of support and companionship for the deceased’s surviving family members
- Financial earnings that the dead victim would be earning had he/she survived the accident
Only specific people can bring a wrongful death claim in California State. Surviving members of the deceased’s victim’s family that can bring a wrongful death suit include:
- His/her children
- His/her spouse
- Grandchildren (in case the dead victim’s children are also deceased)
- A domestic partner
- Any person that’s entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession law of California
A survival cause of action is the same as a wrongful death claim. It is filed on behalf of the deceased victim’s estate (Code of Civil Procedure 377.30). In wrongful death cases, the family members file for damages, whereas in survival actions, the estate seeks compensation for the loss incurred by the dead victim from the wrongful act.
The Statute of Limitations for Pedestrian Accident Lawsuits
If you’re considering bringing a pedestrian crash lawsuit, the timeframe is critical. Should you file your lawsuit late after the deadline, your case may not be attended to, which means you may not recover damages for your injuries. In California, you generally have only two years to bring a suit to the court or file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. This timeframe is what we call the statute of limitations. The period is counted from the day your accident took place. After filing your suit, the period it’ll take to settle the case depends on several factors, including how severe your injuries are and how complex the legal issues involved in the case are.
If you were severely injured, the at-fault party or their insurance company might want to settle your claim before your case proceeds to trial. This is because they expect that the compensation amount that the jury or judge will award you will be too high. Should you receive an offer to settle before trial, your attorney will help you determine whether what you’re being offered is a just amount of compensation for the injuries you sustained plus other losses you incurred. If your case proceeds to trial, the process to solve it may take several months or years. Your attorney may help you to comprehend better how long your suit will take after he/she starts working on the case.
Find a Pedestrian Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Working with a reputable attorney gives you the best chance at winning your pedestrian accident lawsuit or claim. A lawyer will collect proof and make sure he/she has presented the best arguments possible. Also, he/she will relieve you of the stress of having to navigate the process of negotiating with the insurance provider of the at-fault party and reaching a settlement offer or having to deal with the legal system. You should retain the services of a lawyer you trust who has managed to obtain just settlement offers and verdicts for their pedestrian clients. If you are looking for an attorney of this caliber in Los Angeles, California, contact The LA Personal Injury Law Firm at 310-935-0089. We will evaluate your case and explain to you your legal rights. Our case evaluation and consultation are free of charge, and we won’t ask for any fee from you until we have won your case. Call us today for top-notch legal services.