A leisurely walk around the neighborhood can become a life-changing experience if a car strikes you or an uneven sidewalk trips you, leaving you with broken bones, bruises, even internal damage.
With the right medical care and enough time, your injuries may heal. But your medical bills, and the stress of paying them off, won’t leave you alone any time soon—especially if you know you shouldn’t pay them because someone else injured you.
Who should cover your medical bills? And how can you get those entities to pay you what you’re due?
Figuring out these big, often complicated questions can leave you frustrated—which is the last thing you need while you’re healing, physically and emotionally, from a traumatic injury.
For many accident victims, the solution is clear: They need a pedestrian accident lawyer to analyze their accident, determine fault, and pursue compensation for them.
Pedestrian Accidents Involving Vehicles
According to data gathered by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, pedestrian victims accounted for 18.6 percent of traffic fatalities and 22.5 percent of serious traffic injuries between 2013 and 2017.
The Pedestrian Safety Advisory Council reports that most of these incidents occurred when cars struck pedestrians crossing the street. The severity of the pedestrians’ injuries was worse when the driver was distracted or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol because, in those cases, the driver was usually also speeding. The faster the car is going, the greater the force of impact when it collides with another object.
Pedestrian Accidents Involving Dangerous Sidewalks
Not all pedestrian accidents involve cars.
Other hazards can also send pedestrians to the emergency room or urgent care clinic:
- Broken or uneven sidewalks
- Dim or uneven lighting
- Overgrown vegetation or objects that create obstructions
- The absence of warning signs, barriers, and gates before dangerous passages
Several Washington state laws require cities and property owners to maintain safe sidewalks and streets. For instance, the Revised Code of Washington requires owners to address unsafe conditions in front of their properties. This includes removing overgrown vegetation obstructing a sidewalk, a common problem given the state’s robust foliage.
Who Pays an Injured Pedestrian’s Medical Expenses?
Washington adheres to the principle of comparative fault in determining liability in pedestrian personal injury claims. This means the courts evaluate the actions of everyone involved in an incident and assign each party a percentage of fault. These percentages represent the proportionate amount of blame each party bears for the accident.
Under the doctrine of comparative fault, injured parties can recover damages even if they bear partial responsibility. They recover compensation proportionate to their degree of fault.
Proving Liability and Recovering Costs
In the days, weeks, and even months after an accident, you can help establish liability and build your side of the case. Each of the following suggestions is essentially about gathering the evidence you’ll need. The more credible your evidence, the more likely you’ll recover your costs.
Gather and organize information about the accident.
If you took accident scene photos, store them in a folder on your computer. Include images of your injuries, the sidewalk or roadway you fell on, the car that hit you (if one did), relevant signs and traffic lights, and any others that show the general conditions. You may not see any significant details in them, but your attorney might.
Create a hardcopy or digital folder for the police report, too, if they were on the scene. You can obtain a copy of the police report by contacting your local police station. These reports can be very useful in recovering payment from insurance companies, especially if police cited the other party for a violation such as running a red light or having overgrown vegetation. You can store the contact information of witnesses to the accident, if there were any, in the same folder.
Seek medical attention and collect medical records related to the accident.
Although you may have received medical care at the accident scene or immediately after, you might not realize the true extent of your injuries until later.
Whiplash, anxiety, concussions, and post-traumatic disorder, for instance, can all take time to manifest. If you start to experience pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, insomnia, or panic attacks in the days and weeks following an accident, seek medical attention. These symptoms could be a sign of delayed onset injuries that become increasingly difficult—and costly—to treat the longer they’re left unaddressed.
Likewise, stay on top of follow-up appointments for injuries your doctor has already diagnosed and treated, and don’t skip physical therapy or acupuncture treatments.
Failure to follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan after an accident can make your injuries worse and, as a result, more expensive. A court will be more inclined to assign all of your medical bills to the other entity if you’ve been diligent about your healing.
For every appointment related to your pedestrian accident, keep detailed notes and save your receipts. This is vitally important. Document every visit to every doctor, urgent care clinic or emergency room, physical therapy clinic, diagnostic imaging center (for X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans), and pharmacy. If you want to be reimbursed for your medical expenses, you’ll have to have accurate records.
Consult a pedestrian accident attorney.
Contact a personal injury attorney with experience helping injured pedestrians recover their medical expenses as soon as possible. Your attorney can assess the details of your accident and help you file an insurance claim and establish liability.
If you’re not feeling up to the task of finding and meeting with an attorney because of the severity of your injuries, enlist the help of a friend or family member. Retaining an experienced, compassionate personal injury lawyer is vastly easier than putting together a compelling insurance claim, convincing the insurer to cooperate when they stonewall you—as their employers trained them to do—and negotiating a fair settlement that covers all of your accident-related expenses. This is all your lawyer’s job. Let them do it.
How Do Insurance Claims Work?
People who don’t deal with insurance companies every day—which is to say, most people—find the claims process complicated and difficult. The insurance company in your case is not going to go out of its way to teach you the law or ensure that you understand the claims process.
Although the timelines for insurance claims vary depending on the extent of the victim’s injuries and other factors, they typically follow these steps.
Reporting the Accident
To start, someone must report the accident to the insurance company covering the responsible party. That party usually files the report, whether they’re an individual, a business, or a government, but sometimes the victim must notify them of the accident. The insurance company will want to know the date, time, and location of the incident, as well as the names and contact information of the parties involved.
Investigation and Medical Evaluation
Insurance companies conduct their own investigations into accidents to determine liability. They may review police reports, collect witness statements, and evaluate photos or videos from the accident. As part of their investigation, insurance companies usually assess the injured party’s injuries.
Negotiation and Settlement
Once the insurance company establishes liability and evaluates the victim’s injuries, it may deny the claim or offer a settlement. The company will want to minimize its losses in the case, so will usually offer a very low settlement. Your personal injury attorney will negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. They’ll work hard to ensure your settlement adequately covers your medical expenses. If the insurer refuses to settle, your lawyer may file a lawsuit.
Injured parties may receive reimbursement for medical expenses and other accident-related costs through a settlement or a court order. Reimbursable treatments usually include hospital and doctor visits, surgeries, physical therapy, and medications. Your settlement or court award should cover necessary medical equipment like crutches, wheelchairs, and braces. Compensation can also include anticipated future costs if an injured party requires ongoing medical treatment.
In addition to medical expenses, claims often include reimbursement requests for lost wages and child care, expenses incurred traveling to doctors’ appointments, and property damage to items the pedestrian was carrying, such as a laptop, phone, or handbag.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Gathering, reviewing, and understanding the insurance paperwork after a pedestrian accident with substantial medical expenses can overwhelm you—especially when you’re in pain and focused on healing.
Communicating with insurance companies that actively undermine your case can frustrate you even more. A skilled personal injury attorney can help you with this time-consuming process by handling all of this for you. In fact, many insurers only cooperate when the person on the other end of the line is a personal injury attorney.
Your personal injury attorney will know how to collect, analyze, and organize the documents related to your claim. And they’ll go to bat for you with the insurance company by negotiating a settlement on your behalf.
While insurance companies are notorious for lowballing individuals without legal representation, an attorney who does the talking levels the playing field. Attorneys know how to engage with insurance adjusters and speak their language. Working with an attorney safeguards you from them taking advantage of you.
Focus on Healing. Let Us Do the Legal Work.
If you’re an injured pedestrian, you’re probably dealing with physical pain, anxiety, and mounting medical expenses. The big insurance companies have teams of adjusters and lawyers who protect their interests by reducing your payout.
Don’t fight Goliath alone. Contact a compassionate and skilled personal injury attorney with the legal knowledge, resources, and honed negotiation skills to assist you during this challenging time and craft a strategy that meets your unique needs.