For a pedestrian hit by a car, your primary legal claim will likely be against the driver of the car that hit you. But depending on the circumstances, you might also be able to bring a claim against the municipality in which you were hit, if unsafe streets or traffic control devices (i.e., traffic lights or signs) played a role in your accident. After a little preliminary information, let’s look at both of those potential claims in a little more detail.
Immediately After the Accident
If you are injured in any type of car accident, you should definitely call the police, take photographs of the accident scene and of the car that hit you, get witnesses’ names, and call your insurance company.
Getting Medical Treatment
If you are in pain after getting hit by a car, you should seek medical attention immediately. If the pain is severe, you should go to the emergency room. Otherwise, you should see your primary care provider as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Insurance adjusters (and juries) generally assume that if you did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you weren’t that hurt. So it's crucial for your health and for your legal rights that you get proper medical attention, and get your injuries and your medical treatment documented.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills?
Who pays an injured pedestrian’s medical bills after a car accident depends primarily on the state where they live. If the accident occurred in a no-fault state, then the driver’s insurance company will pay some or possibly even all of the injured person’s medical bills.
If the accident did not occur in a no-fault state, then the pedestrian’s health insurer (if he/she is insured) will pay the bills.
If the pedestrian did not have health insurance and the accident occurred in a non-no fault state, then the pedestrian will likely be responsible for paying the bills him/herself.
Making a Claim Against the Driver
If a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver of the car that hit the pedestrian is usually (but not always) considered to be at fault, even if the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk.
The reason for this is that most states’ negligence and traffic laws require drivers to be alert to what is around them and to pay attention to hazards in the road. A pedestrian certainly qualifies as a hazard in the road. In other words, drivers have a legal obligation to see and avoid what is there to be seen.
If a car hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk, the accident will certainly be the driver’s fault. A driver who hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk will have almost no chance of avoiding liability. If the pedestrian is not in the crosswalk when he/she is hit, the pedestrian will still have a good chance of winning the case as long as he/she paid attention to the road and did not run into the street or otherwise try to beat the traffic.
A pedestrian does not have the legal right to go into the street and have cars stop for him/her if the pedestrian is not in a crosswalk. Remember that jaywalking is still illegal in most, if not all, states. So the pedestrian must use common sense. If a pedestrian who crosses a street somewhere other than in a crosswalk was not paying attention or was not using common sense, that pedestrian will probably lose the case against the driver. Learn more: Can a Pedestrian Be at Fault for a Car Accident?
Making a Claim Against the Local Municipality
Some vehicle-pedestrian accidents might be the fault of the city or town because of how the street is laid out or because of a failure of traffic control devices like traffic lights or stop signs. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
An obvious example is if the traffic light is broken. If somehow both the pedestrian and the oncoming traffic get green lights, and the pedestrian crosses the street without noticing that the oncoming traffic also has a green light, then a claim for negligence against the municipality might be possible.
If, however, the pedestrian noticed that the oncoming traffic also had a green light and crossed anyway, then he/she would not really have a good chance of winning against the town.
Another example of municipal negligence might be a poorly placed crosswalk. Let’s say that there is a crosswalk right after a curve on a busy street and that there is no street sign in place to alert oncoming drivers that there is a crosswalk coming up right after that curve. That is a poor municipal planning, and it has created a safety hazard. Drivers will come whipping around that curve never knowing there is a marked pedestrian crossing coming up very quickly. Learn more about Government Responsibility to Maintain Roads.