You may already be familiar with the basic process of filing an auto insurance claim. You gather evidence at the scene, get a police report, seek medical care, calculate your damages, and you or your attorney submits the claim package. Although these same steps apply to pedestrian accident cases, the laws that govern liability are slightly different when a pedestrian is involved. Also, the injuries suffered by pedestrians tend to be severe, which can affect settlement negotiations.
If you were hit by a negligent driver as a pedestrian and you need help filing a claim, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. We will evaluate your case for free and help you make informed decisions. Call (562) 206-1939 to get started.
Read on to learn a few key differences between pedestrian accident claims and traditional auto accident claims:
1. Different Laws Govern Liability
Every year in California, thousands of people are injured and hundreds die in pedestrian accidents. Many of these crashes involve pedestrians who were jaywalking or violating other traffic laws.
When a pedestrian’s negligence contributes to a crash, he or she may be held partially or entirely liable for the resulting damages; however, just because a person was jaywalking doesn’t mean the driver will get off scot free. If nothing was obstructing the driver’s view and there was plenty of time to stop or take evasive action, the driver may be held responsible.
When two parties share liability, each is assigned a percentage of fault. Pursuant to California’s comparative negligence law, you can file a personal injury claim even if you were more than 50% liable for a crash; however, your monetary award will be reduced by your own percentage of fault.
If you were injured and you believe the insurance company will dispute liability, it is especially important that you consult an attorney. Depending on the facts of your case, having your settlement or verdict reduced by just a few percentage points could equate to thousands of dollars lost.
A skilled personal injury attorney can compile all available evidence of liability, which may include the driver’s cell phone records. A significant number of pedestrian accidents are caused by distracted drivers, and if your lawyer can prove the motorist was using a cell phone just before the wreck, this will strengthen your case considerably.
Another sign of distracted driving is failing to slow down before impact. If you were hit by a commercial vehicle, there’s a chance it had a black box onboard, which may have recorded the vehicle’s speed just before the crash. Your attorney can try to access this data and use it to prove liability.
When Do Drivers Have to Yield to Pedestrians?
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 21950, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who cross the road within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. Also, drivers are required to exercise due care by slowing down and taking other necessary steps to prevent an accident if a pedestrian enters the roadway.
Pedestrians are also required to exercise due care. If, for example, a pedestrian leaves the curb suddenly and walks into the path of a vehicle, that person can be held liable for the resulting damages. Pedestrians are also prohibited from stopping or delaying traffic, even if they’re on a marked crosswalk.
2. Drivers Who Cause Pedestrian Accidents Often Flee the Scene
Pedestrian accidents account for a disproportionately high percentage of hit-and-runs. These claims tend to be more complicated than traditional car accident cases because the at-fault driver isn’t always caught. That means filing a third-party claim might not be an option for the injured person.
Fortunately, there are several potential ways to seek compensation after a hit-and-run. If you or someone in your family has medical payments coverage (Med Pay), it might help cover the cost of hospital bills. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you are able to file a claim against that policy, as well.
The best way to find out your options is to consult an attorney. At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we can assess your insurance policies and help you identify all potential avenues for pursuing compensation. We can also investigate your claim and possibly help identify the person who caused your injuries.
Hit-and-Run Pedestrian Accidents Are Often Fatal
This is another factor that makes pedestrian accident claims unique. If a driver hits a person on foot and doesn’t call for emergency assistance, there’s a high probability the victim will die. In this scenario, surviving family members might have grounds for both a wrongful death claim and a survival action. Also, punitive damages may be awarded against the defendant for such egregious behavior.
3. Pedestrian Accidents Tend to Result in More Severe Injuries
If you file a personal injury claim, the amount of compensation you pursue can have a huge impact on the proceedings. The more damages you claim, the more incentive the insurance company has to dispute your case. Also, even if the at-fault driver had liability insurance, the policy limits may be too low to cover your medical bills.
When pedestrians are severely injured, it is especially important to get an attorney involved. A seasoned personal injury lawyer can help you understand the tactics the insurance adjuster might use to dispute your claim. Your attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes such as making a recorded statement, posting about your injuries on social media, or missing doctor’s appointments. If your injuries resulted in pain and suffering or have affected your relationships with loved ones, your lawyer can help you pursue non-economic damages in addition to compensation for medical bills and lost income.
4. Injured Pedestrians Are Often Unable to Gather Evidence at the Scene
If an accident involves two motor vehicles, the people involved are likely to walk away unscathed. The same cannot be said for pedestrians.
When a person on foot gets hit by a car, it is not uncommon for the victim to require emergency care. He or she may not be able to walk around and gather evidence at the scene.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s a good idea to call a family member or friend and ask them to gather information for you. Otherwise, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to initiate an investigation.
The less evidence you have to prove liability, the higher the probability of facing a liability dispute. If you did not compile evidence at the scene, your attorney can visit the crash site, interview people who work nearby and may have witnessed the collision, and look for surveillance footage of the incident. If necessary, your attorney can bring in an accident reconstruction expert to help with the investigation and provide testimony.
Discuss Your Case with a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has more than 30 years of experience representing the injured and their loved ones throughout Southern California. If you or a member of your family was hit by a negligent driver, we want to hear your story.
Michael Waks will review your case in a free consultation and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed. To get started, call us today at (562) 206-1939 or send us a message online.
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