Accidents between pedestrians and vehicles can be injurious, and often deadly. In the last year for which statistics are available, 114 pedestrians were killed in Virginia traffic accidents and 1,571 were injured, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles/Highway Safety Office.
Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one pedestrian is killed every hour and a half—an astonishing statistic that indicates how horrifyingly prevalent these accidents are. Senior citizens make up 20 percent of all pedestrians killed and 15 percent of those injured. Twenty percent of children under 15 who are killed in traffic accidents are pedestrians.
Pedestrian injuries can be catastrophic, simply because vehicles are so much larger and heavier, and pedestrians, unlike bicyclists, are unprotected by equipment such as helmets and shin guards. What should you do if one of these accidents happen to you or a loved one? Here’s a guide.
Immediately After the Accident: Safety and Health First
- In any accident, ensure the safety and health of victims first, before any other action. First, move the victim away from the scene of the accident. If the injured person is in a roadway, they may be subject to being hit by other vehicles.
- If the person is severely injured, call an ambulance. Severe injury can be indicated by blood, broken bones, unconsciousness, and other symptoms.
- Call the police to report the accident. If the victim is not seriously injured, they should stay at the scene to be interviewed by police. A police report can help determine the cause of the accident, as the police will interview all the parties involved and note the trajectory and any other pertinent facts about the accident. Get a copy of the police report.
- Obtain contact information from all drivers involved and give them yours. Contact information should include your name, e-mail address, and driver insurance information. All drivers in Virginia are required to carry insurance in case of a car accident.
- Take pictures of the scene and your injuries. If the victim is not seriously injured and you possess a smartphone at the scene, take multiple pictures of the accident scene, the bicycle and other vehicles, and the injuries. Pictures that can indicate how the accident occurred help with assessing negligence. If you don’t have a smartphone, take notes.
- Get contact information from any witnesses.
- If the victim is not seriously injured and remained at the scene for the police report and exchange of information, make sure the victim is still seen by a doctor or at an emergency room as soon as possible. People can be seriously injured and not realize that they are, or not be aware of the extent of their injuries. This is particularly true in a pedestrian accident, where the person could have been thrown. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and soft tissue injuries are just two potential injuries that can show no symptoms, and the effects of each can be life-long. There are many others.
- Make sure that all treatment recommendations given by a doctor or in an emergency room are followed. Make any necessary appointments for follow-up care and fill any prescriptions.
Assessing Responsibility for the Accident
After the accident, you should have a car accident lawyer assess responsibility for the accident. Virginia is a fault state for vehicle accidents, meaning that the at-fault party is responsible for compensating victims for damages, including the cost of medical treatment for injuries incurred by the accident and wages lost from work as a result of the accident and necessary treatment. In Virginia, you can also receive compensation for noneconomic damages from at-fault parties, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
To be at fault, the driver must have been negligent in the duty of care they owed to the public. “Duty of care” is a legal term; simply put, it means that drivers must obey all traffic laws and regulations and operate their vehicles safely. They must also maintain their vehicles adequately enough so that they are safe to drive and that all equipment works properly. Drivers whose negligence causes an accident are liable for injuries resulting from the accident.
Let’s say, for example, that the pedestrian was crossing in a crosswalk and that a car approaching her was speeding, going 45 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Because of the excessive speed, the driver was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the pedestrian. The speed and inability to stop makes the driver clearly negligent, because they breached the duty of care by disobeying the speed limit.
Receiving Compensation for Injuries and Other Damages
Bear in mind, though, that an insurance company may try to pay you less than your claim is worth. Their goal may well be to pay out the lowest claim possible, regardless of your injuries and the harm done. They have an arsenal of potential arguments. They may try to argue that the victim is either partly or wholly responsible for the accident. They may dispute the amount of the claim, either by disputing whether treatment was necessary or whether you needed to lose time from work. They may dispute the amount of pain and suffering involved.
They also may quickly offer a payout that is very low vis-à-vis the actual cost of the harm done. Why? Because they are hoping the victim or the victim’s family will be incentivized to take an offer they can realize quickly. After all, many families may be under duress as medical bills and other damages mount up. They may be hoping you will settle quickly and for a comparatively low offer.
As a result of these potential tactics, it’s prudent to consult a personal injury attorney to negotiate with the insurance companies for you. An attorney can help you maximize a claim. If the insurance company will not pay a just amount, Virginia law allows victims to file a personal injury claim to recover damages from a pedestrian accident.
If you have any questions about pedestrian accidents and receiving just compensation for injuries, contact an experienced Virginia attorney as soon as possible.