Pedestrian Hit By a Car: Legal Options

If a car hit you in a pedestrian accident, you probably have a claim against the other driver, but the local municipality might also be liable.

By , J.D.
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  • A pedestrian-car accident happens when a vehicle hits a pedestrian. Pedestrians typically include any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down who is involved in a car accident. Most pedestrian accidents happen at intersections and in crosswalks, but they can happen in parking lots, on highways, and anywhere else cars and people meet.

    • In 2020 alone, 6,516 pedestrians were killed on streets and highways in the U.S. (a 30 year high), and another 54,769 pedestrians were injured, according to NHTSA.gov.
    • If you're hit by a car, your primary legal claim will likely be against the driver who hit you (typically through that driver's insurer).
    • A pedestrian may also be able to bring a claim against the city or state government, if road conditions or traffic control devices played a role in the accident.

    What Pedestrians Should Do After Being Hit By a Car

    If you're injured in any type of car-pedestrian accident, the actions you take right after the accident are key to protecting your health and your legal rights:

    • Call 911 if you or anyone else involved in the accident needs immediate medical attention.
    • Exchange contact and insurance information with the driver who hit you. If the driver of the car isn't the owner of the car, get the owner's contact and insurance information too.
    • Don't discuss who might have caused the accident, or anything related to fault or your legal options.
    • Call local law enforcement to the scene of the accident, so that the police can investigate and write a police report.
    • Take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, damage to the car that hit you, and anything else that might come into play later if you make an injury claim.
    • Get the names and contact information for any witnesses who might have seen any aspect of the accident.
    • Call your insurance company, if you have car insurance.

    Get more tips on what to do after a vehicle accident.

    Get Medical Treatment If You're Hit By a Car

    If you're experiencing any level of pain or discomfort after getting hit by a car, get medical attention immediately. Going to the emergency room is usually the best option, but at the very least it's a good idea to contact your primary care provider as soon as possible. Don't wait. Insurance adjusters (and juries) generally assume that if you didn't 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 If You're Hit By a Car?

    Liability (legal responsibility) for paying for an injured pedestrian's medical bills after a car accident varies from state to state. In most states, the person who is at fault (liable) for the accident typically has to pay for accident-related losses. Options after a pedestrian-car accident typically include:

    • the drivers involved in the accident
    • the owners of the cars involved in the accident if the owners are different from the drivers
    • the employers of the drivers if the drivers were on company business at the time of the accident)
    • anyone who contributed to the accident (like a government agency who failed to properly maintain a road or crosswalk signal), and
    • the pedestrian's own auto and health insurers.

    You can always use your own health insurance to pay for your medical care if you've been hit by a car. Your insurer can seek reimbursement from the at-fault party, and might have a medical provider claim on any settlement or court award you receive. Learn more about using health insurance for a car accident injury.

    If the accident occurred in one of the dozen or so no-fault car insurance states, then the driver's insurance company (or the car owner's insurer if the owner is different from the driver) will likely pay some or all of the injured person's medical bills. That's because most no-fault ("personal injury protection" or PIP) policies cover not just the policyholder but also pedestrians who are injured in an accident with the policyholder's vehicle. If the pedestrian has their own no-fault or PIP policy, that coverage will apply to pay the pedestrian's medical bills.

    What Legal Options Do I Have If I'm Hit By a Car?

    If you're an injured pedestrian, you're probably wondering who will pay your medical bills and cover your rent while you recover from the accident. The quickest way to get compensation for your accident-related losses is often through an insurance claim. If settlement negotiations fail, you can file a car accident lawsuit in civil court. Pedestrians typically file insurance claims against the driver who hit them and potentially the city or state government responsible for planning or maintaining the road where the accident happened.

    Making a Claim Against Drivers and Car Owners

    If a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver of the car 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 take reasonable steps to avoid hitting anyone or anything on the road. In other words, drivers have a legal obligation to see and avoid what is there to be seen.

    If a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, the accident will almost certainly be the driver's fault. Even pedestrians who are hit outside crosswalks can win settlements and lawsuits if they can show that they were paying attention to the road and didn't dart into the street.

    In most cases, the at-fault driver's liability car insurance will cover losses related to the pedestrian-car accident. In some cases, fault is clear-cut. For example, when a speeding driver hits a pedestrian in a clearly marked crosswalk. When liability and damages are clear, a driver's insurance company will likely be very willing to settle the claim out of court.

    Making a Claim Against the Local City or State Government

    Some vehicle-pedestrian accidents might be caused by how a town, city, or state laid the streets or highway out or because of failures of traffic control devices like traffic lights or stop signs. Let's look at a couple of examples.

    An obvious example is when traffic lights are 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 responsible for maintaining the light might be possible.

    If, however, the pedestrian noticed that the oncoming traffic also had a green light and crossed anyway, they might not be able to get compensation from the city or 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 with no street sign in place to alert oncoming drivers that there is a crosswalk coming up right after that curve. That is 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.

    How Much Is My Pedestrian Car Accident Lawsuit Worth?

    This is a common question from injury claimants in the wake of any kind of accident, but it's not an easy one to answer. There are simply too many variables at play. But in general, the value of an injury claim (including one stemming from a car-pedestrian accident) depends on:

    • the clarity of the fault picture when it comes to the underlying accident
    • the nature and extent of the claimant's injuries, including whether they're long-term (or even permanent)
    • the impact of the accident on the claimant's livelihood and everyday life, and
    • the mental and physical pain and suffering arising from the claimant's injuries and the medical care necessary to treat those injuries.

    Keep in mind that "lawsuit value" isn't usually the key consideration here. Most vehicle accident injury cases reach an out-of-court settlement through the insurance claim process well before trial, and many get resolved without a lawsuit ever being filed in court. Get more details on how insurers value an injury claim and learn more about how much you might get from an injury claim.

    Can a Pedestrian Be at Fault for an Accident?

    In a word, yes. A pedestrian does not have the legal right to walk into the street and assume that cars will be able to stop or take evasive action (jaywalking is illegal). Especially if the accident occurred while the pedestrian was violating the law (jaywalking or walking on a highway or bridge where pedestrians are prohibited, for example), the fault picture can become pretty muddy pretty quickly.

    But it's also worth noting that while a pedestrian's own negligence can play a part in causing a traffic accident, it's pretty rare for the driver to be blameless in a car versus pedestrian scenario. When the claimant shares some amount of blame for the accident that led to their injuries, "contributory negligence" and "comparative negligence" rules come into play, and can limit how much the claimant might receive in the way of compensation. Learn more about pedestrian fault for a car accident and contributory/comparative negligence after a car accident.

    What's Next After a Car-Pedestrian Accident?

    Especially if your injuries are serious, handling your own claim after a pedestrian accident probably isn't the best strategy. An experienced attorney can be crucial to getting the at-fault driver's insurance company to come to the table with a fair settlement offer, and getting the best outcome for your case.

    If you're ready to discuss your legal options after a car-pedestrian accident, fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with a lawyer for free. Learn more about how an attorney can help with a car accident case.

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