If you've been hit by a car as a pedestrian, you're obviously focused on recovering from your injuries. But at some point you may wonder what sort of settlement you can expect from the at-fault driver's insurance company, and you might even be curious about the "average" settlement awarded to pedestrians after a car accident. In this article, we'll focus on factors that typically have the biggest impact on settlement value in a car-versus-pedestrian injury case:
Theoretically, yes. But from a practical standpoint, the terms of most injury settlements are confidential, so this sort of data isn't publicly available. Insurance adjusters and attorneys have access to terms and statistical trends when it comes to a fairly wide swath of injury settlements, but unlike court-ordered damages awards after a trial, the numbers behind out-of-court settlements aren't public information. And even if they were, any "average" figure wouldn't tell you much as applied to the unique facts and circumstances of your accident. So, as with any personal injury settlement, the unique facts of your car-versus-pedestrian case will decide what your claim is worth.
Every case is unique, of course. But the following five factors probably carry the most weight when it comes to the value of your insurance claim if you've been hit by a car.
As you might guess, the more serious your injuries, the higher the settlement offer you can expect. Severe injuries are more likely to lead to more medical complex medical care, longer stints in therapy, and more missed time at work. But they also increase the likelihood of related losses, including "pain and suffering" (which we'll discuss later).
Maybe a less obvious consideration (at least claim value-wise) is the part of the body affected by the accident. For instance, if an arm injury to your arm requires you to wear a splint for a few weeks, that injury probably won't be "worth" as much to a car insurance company adjuster as an eye injury that affected your vision for several weeks.
It might seem like an accident involving a car and a pedestrian will automatically be the fault of the driver. But that's not always the case. Sometimes the pedestrian can be at least partially at fault—if they were jaywalking at the time of the accident, for example. The higher the pedestrian's share of fault in causing the accident, the smaller the settlement offer they can expect from the insurance company. Yet there are two caveats to this.
The first is what kind of shared-negligence legal rule applies in the state where the accident happened. Every state uses some version of a comparative or contributory negligence system that can reduce, or eliminate, an injured person's potential legal recovery if they're partially at fault for the underlying accident. Technically, these rules apply to court cases at the trial stage, not to car insurance settlement offers. But these shared fault rules still have a big influence on insurance adjusters when they're analyzing what a claimant's case might could be worth if a lawsuit was filed, so the state's comparative/contributory fault rule will be a factor in any settlement offer the injured pedestrian receives, if fault for the accident is anything less than clear-cut.
The second caveat relates to how easily the claimant can prove who caused the accident. The driver of the vehicle may be 100% responsible for hitting the pedestrian. But if the pedestrian can't prove it (and the insurance adjuster knows that), the value of the claim drops significantly.
In contrast, if the claimant has police reports, various eyewitnesses, and surveillance footage showing the driver was at fault, then the injured pedestrian has a stronger claim. This will usually lead to a larger settlement offer from the insurance company.
This is similar to the first factor about the nature and severity of your injuries. But it's different in that it typically takes into account how your injuries affect specific aspects of your daily life. A good example is if your injuries affect your job. If your foot injury requires you to use crutches to move around, this might not affect your work life much if you work primarily in an office.
But what if you're a semi-professional athlete or construction worker? In those cases, your foot injury could prevent you from earning a living. So the settlement value of your claim takes into account this lost income.
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of proving who caused the accident. A similar but equally important part of a car accident settlement claim is how well you can substantiate your damages stemming from the accident, which can sometimes hinge on what you did (and didn't do) afterward.
This means gathering evidence following the accident. If you're lucky, you can do much of this yourself while you wait for the police and ambulance to arrive. You'll want to take pictures of any relevant details at the accident scene, get the names of any witnesses, and see if any security or surveillance cameras might have recorded the car hitting you. If your injuries prevent you from taking these actions at the scene, you'll want to start gathering as much information about the accident as soon as you recover.
Most drivers (most people for that matter) don't have significant amounts of cash or assets. Maybe they have five figures in the bank and own their home. But this would be a rare exception for the typical driver. Even then, that probably won't be enough to fully compensate someone who suffered severe injuries in a pedestrian-vehicle accident that results in permanent disabilities and extensive medical care.
That's why for most drivers, if they're found to be responsible for causing an accident, it'll be their car insurance coverage that pays out any insurance settlements or court judgments. But the car insurance policy will only pay up to policy limits. For many drivers, this will be the state minimum for liability insurance, which is often less than $50,000 per accident. If a claim against the at-fault driver exceeds their policy limits, the claimant may be out of luck when it comes to recovering anything else. Learn more about how insurance affects a car accident case.
In the vast majority of car accidents, you can divide your recoverable damages into two main types. The first type refers to economic damages, which compensates someone for the financial effects of the accidents. Common types of economic damages that might stem from a pedestrian-car accident could include:
The second major type of damages is non-economic damages. These are tougher to define (and put a dollar value on) than economic damages, but they're meant to compensate a victim for the more subjective negative effects of the accident, the resulting injuries, and necessary medical treatment. For a pedestrian injured in a traffic accident, non-economic damages could include:
Earlier we discussed how gathering evidence can help prove your pedestrian-car accident case, whether to an insurance company or in a courtroom. But other steps you take after the accident can be just as effective in improving your chances of getting the best settlement from the insurance company, including getting prompt medical attention. Any delay can make your injuries worse, and could give the insurance company an excuse to argue that your injuries aren't as bad as you say they are. Learn more about the importance of getting prompt medical attention after a car accident.
Another key is keeping accident-related records. This means copies of documents like the police report and your medical bills, but it also includes keeping a journal of the events following the accident (including how you're feeling and how your injuries are affecting you), and taking notes of any communications you've had with anyone concerning the accident, including insurance companies and witnesses.
Almost all personal injury cases reach settlement well before any court trial, and many are resolved through the insurance claim process, before a lawsuit even needs to be filed. Out-of-court settlement is typically advantageous for everyone involved in an injury claim: for the injured person making the claim, for the insured person/business who was at fault for the accident, and for the insurance company (which wants to avoid the unpredictability of a court trial).
But there are situations where it might make sense for an injured pedestrian to escalate things and file a personal injury lawsuit in court. This is especially true if the pedestrian's injuries are serious (including long-term or even permanent effects) but the insurance company isn't coming close to a fair settlement offer.
In this situation, the simple act of taking things to court might force the insurance company to take the claim more seriously, as the lawsuit process will require the insurer to pour even more company time and resources into defending the case. Learn more about what happens when a car accident case goes to trial.
All of this discussion so far may sound a bit overwhelming, especially if you're still receiving treatment for your accident injuries and you're just trying to focus on getting better. This is one one of many reasons why it might make sense to put your pedestrian-car accident case in the hands of an experienced legal professional.
You aren't legally required to have an attorney handle your insurance claim following a car-pedestrian accident, but it's often the best way to offload the stress of the claim process and ensure the best result, especially if you have extensive injuries or there's disagreement between you and the car insurance company. And if it looks like filing a lawsuit might be the right move, having a lawyer on your side is crucial.