After a pedestrian accident, the driver and the pedestrian should remain on the scene and call the police. If the driver is blocking traffic, he or she should move out of the roadway.
The victim should get medical attention immediately, but should not discuss who caused the accident. In the days that follow, he or she should contact the insurance company(ies) and a lawyer.
What should I do after a pedestrian knockdown?
After a pedestrian has been hit, the driver and the pedestrian should focus on getting medical attention and preventing further injuries. Only after they are getting the medical care that they need should they begin to think about who was at fault.
In chronological order, the driver and the pedestrian should:
- get out of the roadway, if there is a danger of getting hit by another driver and if the injuries permit the movement,
- call the police,
- exchange their name and contact information, while the pedestrian also notes the vehicle’s license plate number,
- if feasible, take pictures of the accident scene,
- wait for the ambulance to arrive,
- get the medical care they need,
- keep a record of all of their bills,
- contact their insurance company and, if necessary, the Department of Motor Vehicles to report the accident, and
- call a lawyer.
Very importantly, neither the pedestrian nor the driver should ever leave the scene of the crash. Doing so can amount to hit-and-run, which is a crime. It is also unwise to discuss who was at-fault for the crash at the scene of the accident. This includes apologizing or admitting fault.
It can be helpful to break down the aftermath of a pedestrian accident into 3 periods of time:
- immediately after the crash, at the scene of the accident,
- the first few weeks after the accident, and
- the next few months.
At the scene of the car accident
At the scene of the pedestrian crash, both the driver of the vehicle and the pedestrian who was hurt should focus on preventing further injuries and getting medical attention. This generally involves:
- gauging how badly the victim has been hurt,
- moving the victim out of harm’s way, if his or her injuries will allow it,
- moving the vehicle out of the way, if it poses a risk to other drivers, and
- calling 911.
Importantly for the driver, it is very important to not leave the scene of the accident. Doing so amounts to the crime of hit-and-run.
Once these emergency measures have been taken and the risk of further injury resolved, the driver and pedestrian can:
- exchange names, contact information, phone numbers, and insurance information,
- take pictures of the accident scene, making sure to include details like:
- the state of the roadway,
- where the crosswalk or intersection was,
- the weather, and
- property damage to the vehicle;
- direct traffic around the scene if safe to do so, and
- wait for the ambulance and law enforcement to arrive.
The lull in the action before emergency responders arrive is where both parties feel an urge to talk to each other about what happened. This is not a good idea. Statements made at this stage can be used as evidence of responsibility for the crash. Apologizing for the crash is often seen as an admission of guilt in the subsequent investigation. Accusing the other party of causing the accident or breaking traffic laws can escalate an already tense situation. In many cases, the accident happened so suddenly that neither party has a good sense of what really happened, anyway. It is better to let the insurance adjusters do their investigation and find the cause.
The first weeks after the accident
Once the injured parties have gotten to the hospital and started receiving the medical care they need, it is time to notify the insurance companies of the accident. Depending on the state, drivers may have to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the crash, as well. Injured parties are likely to be approached by an insurance adjuster, who will make an initial settlement offer. At this point, victims should strongly consider hiring a personal injury lawyer.
Auto insurance policies require the policyholder to report accidents to the insurer. The timeframe for reporting will depend on the policy. Not reporting the accident within this timeframe can be used as a reason to deny coverage.
In addition to reporting the accident to the insurance company, drivers may also have to file an accident report with their state’s DMV. In California, for example, drivers have to file a crash report on an SR-1 Form within 10 days of any accident that:
- injured or killed someone, or
- caused at least $1,000 in property damage to a victim.1
When the insurance companies learn of the accident, they will send an insurance adjuster to investigate what happened. Once they determine who was likely responsible for the crash, an adjuster for the at-fault driver’s insurance company will approach the injured party and make an initial settlement offer. This offer will generally cover some of the victim’s medical bills. To accept the offer, though, the victim has to waive his or her rights to file a lawsuit or an insurance claim.
Having a personal injury lawyer at this juncture is essential. The initial settlement offer is designed to seem adequate, when it actually undercompensates the victim. A lawyer will have a much better idea of what the victim’s legal damages are.
Months after the accident
In the months after the accident, the victim should keep all of their medical records, including bills and receipts of medical expenses. These will make it easier to prove how much compensation the victim deserves. Victims should also continue to discuss their case with their lawyer to decide whether to accept a settlement from the insurance company or to take the case to court.
Why should I not discuss who was at fault for the pedestrian accident?
At the scene of the crash, the driver and the pedestrian should not talk about who was responsible because what they say can be used as evidence against them in a subsequent crash investigation. Additionally, accusing the other party of causing the crash can escalate the situation.
For example: Judy makes a left turn at an intersection and her car hits Claire, who was jogging in the crosswalk. Judy jumps out of the car after the traffic accident and exclaims, “I am so sorry! I didn’t see you there!” Her statement is then used as evidence that Judy was negligent and caused the crash, even though the traffic signals gave her the right of way at the time of the accident.
Discussing the vehicle accident in its immediate aftermath is also usually pointless. Both parties are likely to be flustered and in shock from the accident. This makes it nearly impossible for them to remember what happened correctly. Additionally, many accidents come as a surprise to the people involved in them. This can make it very difficult for them to know what caused the crash.
Why is it important to hire a personal injury lawyer?
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is important after a pedestrian accident because an experienced attorney can:
- find and present evidence that the victim was not at-fault, and
- ensure that the victim is adequately compensated for all of his or her losses.
Establishing an attorney-client relationship with a lawyer from a reputable law firm soon after the accident is essential. Insurance adjusters who learn that a victim has legal representation will know that they cannot make lowball settlement offers. They know that a lawyer will see how unfair they are and will demand more, and will file a personal injury claim for the injured pedestrian if a fair one is not offered.
A personal injury attorney will also know where to look for evidence that the victim did not cause or contribute to the accident. This can ensure that the victim’s compensation is not reduced by his or her share of fault for their losses under their state’s comparative fault rules. In some cases, this can mean challenging the police report filed by the police officer who responded to the crash.
A pedestrian accident lawyer can also pursue the full amount of compensation for all of the pedestrian’s injuries. This is especially important, given how car accident cases involving pedestrians and motorists often lead to serious injuries, up to and including severe brain injuries and pedestrian fatalities. The compensation that the victim and his or her family members deserve in these injury cases will go beyond just the cost of medical treatment. It also includes:
- past and future medical care,
- lost wages,
- lost earning capacity,
- pain and suffering, and
- loss of consortium for the victim’s loved ones.
Victims have a legal right to that compensation. Recovering it from the at-fault driver’s car insurance coverage is something that can take the experience of a pedestrian car accident lawyer.
- California Vehicle Code 16000(a) VC.