Being hit by a car as a pedestrian instantly induces shock and alarm. Most victims describe the aftermath as a blur. Their recollections are fragmented; they may remember things such as the driver and passersby coming over to help, the ambulance ride, and speaking with police.
Surviving is a blessing. Still, after the shock subsides and you’ve received care for your initial injuries, there will be a ton of stuff to deal with – even with non-life-threatening injuries. You are probably dealing with lots of medical appointments and bills; you may have had to miss time from work or have lost your job altogether because of your injuries; and you are probably confused about what to do next or how to prove a driver is liable.
There are certain steps you’ll need to take to protect yourself medically, financially, and legally. This goes for all pedestrians, whether they are walkers, runners, skateboarders, people in wheelchairs, or bicyclists. And because accidents are, by nature, unpredictable, all pedestrians should know what to do if ever they are struck by a car so that they will be better equipped to handle the situation.
First Steps to Take after a Pedestrian Accident in Seattle
If you’re reading this, you probably already left the accident scene and are ready to get on with the rest of your case. But some people might be reading this because they frequently walk near busy Seattle streets and want to know what to do if a car were to ever strike them. So here is a brief overview of what to do at the scene, followed by your next steps once you leave the scene.
At the scene: If you’re conscious after the car hits you and you land on the ground, try to stay calm and move out of the road. You’ll have high levels of adrenaline rushing through you and you might want take out your anger and frustration on the driver who hit you, but that won’t be productive. Instead, try to control your emotions, get yourself out of harm’s way, and call the police or ask someone to do so for you.
When the police arrive, give them all the requested information and be as detailed as possible. Try to remain calm and rational despite your anger; ranting and raving will not invoke any sympathy and may actually wind up hurting your case down the road. When the officer is done with the report, request a copy of it or ask how to get a copy later. While at the scene, if possible, collect the driver’s name, contact info, and insurance info. Take tons of photos of the accident scene if you’re able (or ask someone to do so for you), including the car, the plates, the roadway, and the streetlights and signs. You never know when these might come in handy if you ever have to file a lawsuit. Also, collect the name and contact info of any witnesses who saw the accident.
After leaving the scene: Many accident victims go to the hospital in an ambulance or get somebody to take them. If you did, follow up with your regular doctor shortly afterwards and follow all of your doctors’ orders.
If you didn’t go to the hospital after the wreck, see your doctor as soon as possible. Even if your injuries look minor and don’t see outward signs of serious injury – get medical attention and a full evaluation to assess your condition. This is important not only for your health (there may be dangerous internal injuries), but also to protect yourself legally.
Also follow up with the police. You can request a copy of the police’s accident report via the Seattle Public Request Unit. You can also follow up with any witnesses at this time as you prepare for the next step, filing an insurance claim.
Filing a Pedestrian Accident Claim
If you have personal injury protection (PIP) on your auto insurance policy, it could cover your medical expenses from your accident. If the driver of the car that hit you has PIP, then his PIP may cover you. PIP covers medical expenses regardless of which party is at fault.
The driver’s liability insurance should also cover your damages. It’s important not to wait too long to file a claim to ensure the evidence is fresh. Plus, the quicker you file, the sooner you can obtain your settlement check. If the insurer refutes your claim or tries to give you a lowball settlement, you may have to file a lawsuit to pursue recovery.
If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, has too little insurance to cover your injuries, or if the driver fled the scene, then you may have to use your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage may follow you even as a pedestrian. Note, UM and PIP are optional coverage in Washington, so you’ll need to check with your insurance company about what your policy covers.
Proving Liability for a Pedestrian Accident
Pedestrian accident cases in Washington hinge on the concept of negligence because Washington is a “fault” insurance state. The party most at fault for the accident is the one who’s financially responsible for the damages. As such, determining liability and proving who was at fault are some of the first elements that claimants or plaintiffs must establish in any claim or lawsuit.
In order for you to recover damages, you’ll need to show that driver who hit you was somehow negligent or acted in a careless or reckless manner. Perhaps the driver was speeding, talking on the phone, or was intoxicated. These are all examples of negligence. Maybe she failed to yield right-of-way or simply didn’t see you because she wasn’t paying attention.
Whatever the factors that contributed to the accident, you’ll need to have adequate evidence to back up your claim. Your word is not enough. You’ll need hard evidence such as photos, eyewitness testimonies, and the police report. If traffic or surveillance camera footage is available, it can be very helpful, too. If need be, you can enlist in the help of an accident reconstruction expert to determine fault and provide testimony.
Other Elements You’ll Need to Prove
In addition to proving that the other party was responsible for the accident, you’ll also need to link the driver’s negligence to your accident. This element is referred to as causation. You’ll have to prove that the driver’s negligent actions are what caused your accident. In other words, you must establish that you would not have been injured, but for the driver’s negligence.
Lastly, after you’ve established negligence and causation, you’ll need to prove that you were harmed as a direct result of the accident. This is because in order to recover, you must have sustained damages. You can use evidence such as medical reports, doctors’ prognoses, photos of your injuries, bills and receipts, an injury journal, and even expert witness testimonies to illustrate your damages to the insurer or courts.
Were you partly responsible for the accident?
Like all road users, pedestrians are expected to abide by the rules of the road. Each state and each city has the authority to impose its own rules for pedestrians. For example, pedestrians must obey traffic signals, follow crosswalk laws, and use sidewalks if they are available. If you fail to abide by the rules and then get hit by a car, your negligence could impact the result of your claim.
That being said, even if you are found partly at fault for the accident, you can still recover a portion of your damages because Washington adheres a rule known at comparative negligence. This rule states that you can still recover after an accident even if you were 99 percent at fault. The only catch is that your settlement will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
So for instance, let’s say that you were longboarding down the road and veered directly into the path of a car. If the driver was texting (considered negligence) but you weren’t paying attention because you were listening to your mp3 player (also considered negligence), you might both be 50 percent at fault. If your damages totaled $100,000, you’ll only be able to recover $50,000. This is why proving liability and fault is such a huge issue when filling a pedestrian accident claim.
Be Prepared for Challenges in Your Pedestrian Accident Claim
Pedestrians often sustain substantial injuries and damages in a traffic accident. It’s quite understandable that one of your top objectives is to secure as high of a settlement as possible. Because of the importance of the outcome of your claim, consider enlisting in the help of an attorney. There are unique challenges that often arise in pedestrian cases that – unless you know the intricacies of Washington personal injury laws – will be difficult to resolve. Being prepared and having an attorney assist you with your case can be helpful as you pursue a full and fair settlement.
For instance, you probably aren’t aware of Seattle Municipal Code Section 12A.12.015(A). This law provides the rules regarding pedestrian interference. Seattle prohibits people and vehicles from blocking pedestrians’ paths. In fact, if someone stands in your way or is aggressively panhandling and you have to take evasive action to avoid contact, the offender can be charged with a misdemeanor offence, punishable by up to a 90 days imprisonment.
Knowledge of laws such as this can be instrumental in a pedestrian case. If your accident was caused by the offender, then you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim to recover your damages. There are actually numerous statutory and case laws which may come into play and benefit your case. A pedestrian accident attorney will be able to review the details of your accident, determine which laws are applicable, and then build a legal argument to support your claim or lawsuit.
Free Consult with a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in Seattle
If you were recently hit by a car in Seattle, call our office, Max Meyers Law. We can help you pursue the compensation you need and the restitution you deserve. Call us today at 425-399-7000 or contact us online for a free consultation.