Every hour, at least 14 pedestrians are injured in traffic accident on U.S. roads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 breakdown of road-related deaths and injuries paints a bleak picture people traveling on foot. For you, the driver, this is a warning that accidents involving pedestrians are all too common.
But what should you do in the aftermath of a crash with the country’s most vulnerable commuters? Not only are these incidents often fatal, but courts and insurers have a track record of siding with pedestrians.
Fortunately, our Geeks have compiled a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on what to do after a pedestrian accident. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to stay safe, collect the right evidence, and file a formidable claim.
1. Contact Emergency Services
As a driver, you’re kept safe behind layers of safety features, from airbags to roll bars. Unfortunately, pedestrians are the most vulnerable people on our roads. Even a minor knock can cause untold damage, leading to serious injuries or even death. After a pedestrian accident, you should almost always grab your phone and call in the assistance of emergency services.
Even a single wasted second could be the difference between life or death for the victims of a crash. However, this important step will also play an important role when you file your claim with your insurer. Typically, when police arrive at the site of a crash, officers will take down a detailed report on the accident. This report may help corroborate your account of the collision during settlement negotiations and any litigation that may follow.
2. Stay Safe
A jaywalking pedestrian brought you to a screeching halt. While you may have been left shaking, it’s important to take a deep breath and assess the situation. Ask yourself:
- Is my vehicle blocking the road for other motorists?
- Am I still able to drive my car?
- Can I safely move or usher the pedestrian out of the way without aggravating any potentially serious injuries?
If the answer is “yes” to all of these questions, you should take steps to ensure the safety of both you and anyone else involved in the crash. It takes just a single distracted motorist to turn a pedestrian accident into a three-car pile-up.
Take note: You should never attempt to move or treat an injured pedestrian who exhibits signs of neck, head, or spine trauma.
3. Collect Evidence
The daily thoroughfare of commuting vehicles has a habit of erasing important evidence that will help you prove your claim. That’s why most experts recommend that you start documenting damage, injuries, and more in the first few hours after an accident has taken place. If you are able to, you should begin by taking pictures of:
- Property damage or injuries sustained by you or any of the other parties involved in the crash;
- The area where the crash took place;
- Road signs and markings; and
- Any other useful evidence such as skid marks that show you attempted to come to a stop.
You should file these pictures as part of you claim, labelling each image to help the adjuster in their investigation when determining liability.
After taking photos, look around for eyewitnesses. It may have been late at night in a remote part of your neighborhood, but chances are someone witnessed the crash taking place. Your insurer cannot settle your claim based on only your personal account of the incident. With the help of eyewitness accounts, you may be able to prove to your auto insurance company that you were not at fault for the accident.
When speaking to witnesses, make sure you take down their statements, names, and contact details. If you have asked for consent, you can also use your phone to record these conversations.
A list of credible witnesses can be one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal when filing a claim. In many cases, these testimonies have turned the tides during negotiations, flipping severe penalties into surprise paydays.
4. Do Not Admit Fault
A crash site confession is the quickest way to tank your chances of compensation. Even if it looks like you are to blame, it’s always best to remain quiet. Your admittance could be used to undermine later evidence that shows the other party was at fault. If the pedestrian attempts to intimidate you into incriminating yourself, you should contact the police and, if possible, move to the safety of your car.
Side note: Con artists sometimes stage pedestrian accidents to for a quick payday. In this event, you should follow these three basic rules:
- Never hand over cash to a pedestrian after an accident;
- Use your camera to document the situation; and
- Call the authorities.
5. Contact Your Insurance Company
When filing a claim, dragging your heels can drag down your chances of receiving fair compensation. Notifying your insurer that you were involved in a pedestrian accident should be your top priority once you’ve left the site of a crash. Typically, providers require you to file a claim within short window of time following the date of the accident.
But it’s not just about ticking boxes; it’s also about speeding up the time between the crash and compensation. The sooner you inform your insurer of a crash, the quicker you can get back on your feet with the money you need to cover your hospital bill and repair costs.
6. File the Claim
Filing a claim for a pedestrian accident is, for all intents and purposes, identical to completing a typical auto accident claim. You will be required to complete paperwork, provide your insurer with a description of what caused the accident, and supplement your version of events with detailed evidence corroborating your story. Your “package” should include:
- Pictures cataloguing property damage, injuries, road markings, etc.;
- Witness details and statements; and
- A copy of the official accident report from the police.
7. Find out If You Will Be Held Liable
Once your adjuster has all the required paperwork and supplementary evidence, he or she will begin assessing the case to determine who was at fault. Now, it’s important to note that the insurer might assign a portion of the blame to each of the parties involved.
For example, let’s assume you collided with a pedestrian who was running across the road outside of a marked crosswalk. In this scenario, it would appear that the pedestrian is 100 percent liable, but if evidence shows that you were speeding, you may be partially to blame. In most states, the claims adjuster would assign each party a percentage of fault, and the amount of damages you would be able to recover would be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Here are a few more examples of negligent actions taken by pedestrians that could cause an accident:
- Walking while using a phone or texting;
- Crossing a road while intoxicated and falling or tripping in the way of an oncoming vehicle;
- Chatting with other pedestrians while walking; and
- Ignoring road markings, street signs, or signals.
As you may already be aware, without witnesses or video footage, many of these actions are hard to prove. That’s why our Geeks always stress the importance of building a watertight case by collecting as much evidence as possible at the scene.
Unlike motorists, pedestrians aren’t required to carry insurance. In the event of a pedestrian accident, those on foot who are found to be at-fault will have to rely on health and disability insurance policies to cover the costs of any injuries sustained. However, if the claims investigation determines that you were to blame for the accident taking place, you will have to tap into your own policy to pay the pedestrian’s hospital bills and cover the expenses of repairing or replacing any of the pedestrian’s property that was damaged in the accident.
In so-called “no-fault” states, the motorist’s provider will pay a certain amount of the pedestrian’s medical expenses up to the personal injury protection insurance limit. This provision kicks in regardless of who was at fault for causing the accident. However, there are a few exceptions, such as New Jersey, where uninsured pedestrians are covered by a statewide fund.
Be warned: In many “fault” states, the courts, police, and insurance companies will give pedestrians the benefit of the doubt. Why? As a driver you are expected to remain observant and avoid any hazards on the road. For the most part, pedestrians are classed as a potential hazard that has to be avoided when making safe use of the road.
8. Take Steps to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents in the Future
A single pedestrian accident is one accident too many. This collision is now a black mark on your driving record. Statistically speaking, you are now more likely to be involved in another accident. But you can still hedge the odds back in your favor and reduce your crash risk by picking up some of these safe driving habits:
- Be vigilant. When you’re behind the wheel, you should always be on the lookout for pedestrians. It takes just a single lapse in concentration to turn your morning commute into the start of years of litigation.
- Drive slower in bad weather conditions. When the roads are slick with rain, it takes much longer to come to complete stop. By driving slower, you will give yourself a comfortable window of time to swerve out of the way or hit the brakes when someone steps in front of your vehicle.
- Adhere to the speed limit. Speed limits are intended to prevent accidents. But many of us creep a few clicks over the posted digits. Pay close attention to speed limits in neighborhoods and school zones where children could be crossing.
- Never pass a vehicle waiting at a crosswalk. The vehicle could be stopped for pedestrians moving across the road. By overtaking a stopped car, you aren’t just in danger of breaking the law; you could also collide with someone and cause severe injuries.
- Cut down on distractions. As tempting as it is to look down at your phone, it takes just a split second to turn your Sunday drive into a sudden crash.
How to Reduce Your Car Insurance Premium After a Pedestrian Accident
Even if the pedestrian was at fault, your premium may still increase. Depending on your coverage, this rise in your rates could put unexpected pressure on your finances. Fortunately, our Geeks have discovered several discounts to help reduce the cost of your auto insurance policy:
- Low-mileage discounts: Whether you’re working from home or taking advantage of your city’s public transport network, you may not be driving as often as you once were. Companies are now giving you more reasons to leave your car in the garage by offering low mileage discounts available to those clocking in less distance than the average driver. Bonus: You’ll lower your risks of a pedestrian accident the less time you spend on the road.
- Multi-vehicle discounts: If you own more than one vehicle, you could benefit from purchasing a multi-car policy from your provider. These packages are often sold at a discounted rate and can work out far cheaper, particularly if you want to insure the high-risk teenage drivers in your home.
- Transfer discounts: Providers want your business and they’re willing to sweeten the deal by reducing your rates. Even if you are happy with your current insurer, it may be worth swopping your policy to a new company to bag the big benefits of a transfer discount.
- Safety equipment discounts: Space-aged safety tech won’t just save your life in a crash; it could also save you thousands of dollars in rates. Many insurers will offer you a discounted rate if your car is equipped with features such as anti-lock brakes, blind spot detection, tire pressure monitoring systems, and rear-facing cameras.