What to Do if You Are Hit by a Car as a Pedestrian
Four Important Steps to Take
Across the United States, almost 6,000 pedestrians die after behind hit by a vehicle each year. More than 129,000 visit emergency facilities for treatment following these accidents. You might assume that sidewalks and crosswalks provide a reasonable buffer of safety for pedestrians in your city, but in reality, pedestrians face substantial danger on the roads. You can’t avoid walking through parking lots and down sidewalks, nor should you have to. But if you do get hit by a car as a pedestrian, what should you do next?
Step One: Evaluate Your Physical Condition
After a high-speed strike by a car that continues moving after striking you, you may have more serious injuries than if, for example, a car bumps into you as it makes a turn at a slower speed. Carefully evaluate your physical condition after being hit by a car as a pedestrian. Take inventory of any potential injuries, including aches and pains or bleeding, which may need to be addressed immediately. Depending on your physical condition, you should:
Move out of the road.
Remaining in the middle of the road can block an intersection or street, snarling up traffic and causing complications for other drivers, which can in turn increase the risk of another accident. Remaining in the road can also increase the risk that you will get hit by another vehicle if another driver fails to notice you. If you can safely move out of the road without exacerbating your injuries, do so as soon as possible.
Take care of immediate injuries.
If you notice a large amount of blood coming from scrapes or cuts, find a clean cloth to press against the bleeding. Try not to get dirt or grit into the wound, since this can substantially increase the risk of infection.
Step Two: Call 911 to Report the Accident
When you call 911 to report a pedestrian accident, you will summon police and paramedics to the accident scene. The police will put together a report of the accident, including collecting witness statements and establishing fault in the accident. Paramedics can provide immediate medical attention at the scene of the accident, including providing an emergency assessment of your injuries. You should:
Remain at the scene of the accident until police arrive.
Unless you need to seek immediate medical attention, remain at the scene of the accident until police arrive. This will give you a chance to provide your statement about the accident and collect contact information from the responsible party, including insurance information.
Give the police a clear statement of events, if you can.
Ideally, you want to provide the police with a statement as soon as possible after the accident, since the longer you wait, the more the events may blur or grow confused in your mind. Answer any questions the police ask as calmly and respectfully as you can. Avoid making any statement that could cause you to accept responsibility for the accident, if possible.
Most of the time, the police will collect evidence at the scene of the accident, including witness statements. The police may also review traffic cameras or footage from nearby security cameras to help better establish the chain of events that led to the accident. You can, however, collect information of your own, including photos of the accident scene and your injuries, which can help support your personal injury claim later.
Follow any instructions given to you by first responders.
Both police and paramedics may issue clear instructions about what to do at the scene of the accident. This may include moving to a specific safe location, answering key questions, or avoiding interactions with the driver of the vehicle, especially a drunk or angry driver. Paramedics may issue instructions about your medical care, including recommending that you proceed to the hospital as soon as possible. Follow those instructions carefully at the scene of the accident to protect yourself and any others with you.
Step Three: Seek Medical Attention
When it comes to pedestrians versus cars, the car will nearly always win. Cars have a great deal more mass, and pedestrians have little protection against the vehicle, the pavement, or any objects in the way. If you are hit by a car as a pedestrian, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. In some cases, you may require ambulance transport from the scene of the accident, especially if you have broken bones, signs of organ damage, or symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
If you do not have injuries that require ambulance transport, you may choose to forego the ambulance and transport yourself to a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. Regardless of the perceived extent of your injuries, even if you think them fairly minor, you should visit a medical care facility for a full exam as soon as possible. Common injuries from pedestrian accidents include:
- Road rash. When a car knocks you to the pavement, you may scrape your skin across the pavement, resulting in road rash. Even minor road rash should be carefully cleaned to remove any debris from the wound and encourage healing. More severe road rash may cause scarring, disfigurement or decreased mobility in impacted areas around joints. Without professional treatment for road rash, you increase the risk of infection and scarring.
- Broken bones. Many victims of pedestrian accidents suffer broken bones due to the force from the vehicle, whether the break occurs directly where the vehicle struck them or as a result of striking the road or other hazards in the area. Many people do not realize they have a broken bone immediately. Some people even walk around on a broken limb before realizing the full extent of the break. Failing to seek medical treatment can cause the injuries to worsen, including doing more damage to surrounding soft tissue. Broken bones may also begin to heal wrong if you do not seek prompt medical attention.
- Traumatic brain injury. When your head strikes the pavement or the car, you may lose consciousness briefly. That loss of consciousness is the first sign of a potential traumatic brain injury. Any time you lose consciousness during an accident, you should seek medical attention to determine the full extent of the damage. In some cases, even paramedics and police officers at the scene of the accident may confuse signs of traumatic brain injury, including slurred speech, confusion, and disorientation, for an adrenaline dump after the accident. Seeking medical attention can help identify brain injuries and increase your odds of making a full recovery.
- Spinal cord damage. If you suffer damage to your spinal cord due to the force from the accident, it can cause a permanent loss of mobility or, in some cases, paralysis. Some people suffer serious spinal cord injuries without realizing it at the time of the accident: even with a complete spinal cord injury, they may get up and walk around, seriously increasing the risk of further injury or paralysis. Seeking medical attention can help more effectively identify signs of spinal cord damage and prevent the victim from doing more damage that could result in paralysis.
- Severe cuts and lacerations. Often, pedestrian accidents result in cuts and lacerations from either the vehicle or objects in or near the road. These lacerations can require careful cleaning to avoid infection as well as stitches in the emergency room to stop the bleeding. In some cases, cuts and lacerations can cause permanent scarring and disfigurement.
Even if you believe your injuries are relatively mild, seeking medical care after a pedestrian accident should top your priority list. With proper medical care, you substantially increase your odds of a full recovery. You should also:
Follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Doctors may recommend decreased activity during the healing process or give specific instructions about how to take care of your injuries as you recover. Failure to follow those instructions can slow your healing and prevent you from recovering as well as you might have hoped. Listen carefully to any instructions given by the doctor. Make notes, if needed. Many accident victims find it helpful to have a friend or family member present for medical evaluations, so that someone else is there to listen to those instructions and remember important details later.
Keep track of any information provided by your doctor as well as your medical bills.
If you file a personal injury claim after your pedestrian accident, you may need to provide evidence of the full extent of your injuries and how they limit your life as well as how much those injuries have cost you. Non-surgical treatment of a broken bone alone, for example, may cost an average of $2,500. More serious injuries may significantly increase your medical bills. When you file a personal injury claim, you will need to provide evidence of the full cost of your medical treatment so that you can seek the full compensation you deserve for your injuries and those expenses.
Step Four: Contact an Attorney
After a pedestrian accident, many people consider filing a personal injury claim on their own. You have contact information for the driver’s insurance company and a copy of the police report. Do you really need a personal injury lawyer to take care of that claim for you?
You do not have to hire an attorney to file a personal injury claim. Many victims, however, find that having an attorney on their side offers key advantages, including:
An attorney can give you a better idea of the full compensation you should expect.
If you work directly with the insurance company, the company may contact you shortly after the accident with a settlement offer. Generally, that settlement reflects the anticipated cost of your medical bills and any property damage you experienced during the accident. Many people accept that offer, assuming it represents the best offer they can get. An attorney, however, can help you better understand the full compensation you deserve for your injuries, including:
- Compensation for associated medical expenses. Did you need psychological therapy after your accident? What about long-term physical or occupational therapy? Did you include expenses like adding a wheelchair ramp to your home or the cost of in-home care immediately after your return home? An attorney can help you gather evidence of all of those expenses and get a better idea of how they add up after your accident—and how they impact the compensation you should receive.
- Compensation for your pain and suffering. A pedestrian accident can cause substantial pain and suffering. Road rash, for example, can take a long time to heal. Scarring from your injuries may change your perception of yourself, especially if that scarring occurs on your face or a highly visible area of your body. You may suffer far-reaching psychological trauma that makes it difficult for you to walk through a parking lot or down the street after your accident. An attorney can help you better define how the pain and suffering from the accident has shaped your life and what compensation you deserve for those difficulties.
- Compensation for lost wages. Many injuries prevent you from working during your recovery. Other injuries may allow you to return to work, but prevent you from following your normal schedule as you miss work for therapies, appointments, and surgeries. An attorney can help you fight for compensation for those lost hours.
An attorney can reduce the stress of dealing with the compensation process.
Many people find negotiating with an insurance company very stressful. You may worry that you will miss important details or that you will not take the insurance company’s offer at the right time. Working with an attorney can help alleviate a great deal of that stress and allow you to spend time better focused on other aspects of your recovery rather than dealing with an insurance company.
Did you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident? Do not wait to contact an attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner that attorney can start working on your behalf.