What Are My Rights and Legal Options as a Pedestrian Accident Victim?

Philadelphia Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

Walking may be something you do for fun or exercise, while many people also take to foot when getting around in large urban areas like Philadelphia. Whatever the reason you walk on public streets and thoroughfares, you might not realize that there are threats all around you from careless, reckless drivers. You are vulnerable, being unprotected by a metal barrier like the occupants of a passenger vehicle. Your injuries could be severe or catastrophic, while many pedestrian accidents are fatal. If you are affected by such an incident, it is important to understand your rights and legal options as a pedestrian accident victim.

Pennsylvania personal injury laws treat pedestrian collisions similar to other traffic crashes, so you have legal remedies. You may qualify to recover compensation by following the steps in the legal process and complying with all requirements. Unfortunately, you are at a disadvantage when going up against an insurance company with a large budget and experienced legal team.

To ensure the protection of your rights, you will need legal help navigating the process of filing a claim, negotiating settlement, and going to court. A Philadelphia pedestrian accident attorney will handle all essential legal tasks and explain your rights, but some basics about your options is also informative.


Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Many of the underlying causes of these incidents involve motorist violations of traffic laws, as pedestrians are legal road users that are protected by certain right-of-way rules. Statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PA DOT) reveal that many drivers are careless around people on foot, leading to around 180 fatalities from pedestrian accidents every year. Plus, another 3,110 walkers are injured in pedestrian collisions.

Pedestrian crashes represent 2.8 percent of the total motor vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania annually, yet they are behind 15.6 percent of all traffic collision deaths. Unfortunately, crashes involving people on foot were on the rise in recent years, at a total of 3,211 every year. The most common causes of pedestrian accidents include incidents when the driver was:

  • Speeding;
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • Running red lights or stop signs;
  • Failing to yield right-of-way;
  • Making illegal lane changes;
  • Texting, talking on the phone, or other use of an electronic device; and,
  • Other forms of distracted driving, such as eating, drinking, putting on makeup, or reaching for a bag.


Rights of Pedestrian Accident Victims

Though the specific reasons behind a pedestrian collision may vary, these incidents typically happen because of driver negligence. In the practice of law, negligence is a theory of liability that provides you with rights and legal options. There are four essential elements you must prove to recover compensation in a negligence case related to a pedestrian accident:

  1. You must establish that the other motorist had a duty to drive safely and avoid causing a risk of harm to other road users.
  2. You need proof showing that the at-fault driver breached this duty of care;
  3. You must have evidence proving that the breach of duty was the direct cause of the pedestrian accident, such that you would not have been injured but for the breach; and,
  4. You must prove that you suffered physician, financial, and emotional losses because of being hurt.

In addition, though it is not an essential element of a pedestrian accident, you need to comply with Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. This law gives you 2 years to file a lawsuit in court, and you are barred from suing the at-fault driver if you miss the deadline.


Damages for Pedestrian Accident Claims

When you have sufficient proof of the above essential elements, you may recover compensation for your losses. Monetary damages are meant to make you whole as the victim of a pedestrian collision, and back to a normal life as if the accident never happened. There are two categories of compensation under Pennsylvania law:

  1. Economic Damages: This class of damages involves your tangible, measurable losses, usually ones that can be proven by invoices, receipts, and other documents. One of the main components of the economic damages for a pedestrian crash claim is medical costs. You can obtain amounts for emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, and other services. It is also possible to recover for lost wages if you miss work because of your injuries.
  1. Noneconomic Damages: In this category, you are seeking compensation for personal, subjective losses that cannot be measured in dollar value. You endure hardship because of your injuries, which affect your ability to enjoy favorite activities and your quality of life. Noneconomic damages are recoverable for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, and related losses.


What to do After a Pennsylvania Pedestrian Accident

The aftermath of a collision can be chaotic and confusing, leaving you bewildered about what to do next. With a few tips, you can play a critical role in ensuring your claim is a successful one. Your ability to tackle these tasks depends upon the severity and nature of your injuries, but consider the following:

  • Call 911 to get first responders on the way. You protect your safety when these crews divert traffic as soon as possible after the crash.
  • Seek proper medical care, either at the emergency room, an urgent care facility, or at your primary care physician’s office.
  • Exchange contact information with all involved motorists, and obtain insurance details.
  • Avoid discussions regarding fault or how you think the pedestrian accident happened.
  • If contacted by an insurance company, you should decline to answer questions or make any statements about the collision.
  • Never sign any documents without first consulting with a pedestrian accident lawyer. In particular, signing a release is harmful because you give up critical rights.


How the Pedestrian Accident Legal Process Works

Because Pennsylvania vehicle crash laws cover incidents involving pedestrians, you will be dealing with an auto insurance company. Your first step to recovering compensation is filing a claim with the at-fault motorist’s insurer and requesting payment for your losses. However, the insurance company is a for-profit business, and your case affects its bottom line. Therefore, you could encounter pitfalls when trying to obtain fair monetary damages. The insurer might allege that its own policyholder was not responsible for causing the pedestrian crash or you did not have sufficient proof of your losses.

If the insurance company will not settle for a reasonable amount, you will have to go to court to protect your rights. Litigation involves filing a complaint, going through pretrial proceedings, dealing with discovery and depositions, and going to trial.


Risks of Settling Too Early

Despite the challenges, many pedestrian accident claims do settle out of court. There are numerous benefits to you, especially because you have certainty in the outcome. With a trial, the jury may render a decision that you never expected. Plus, you can receive monetary damages for your losses quickly as compared to litigation, which can take many months or even years to conclude.

Still, keep in mind that there are also risks involved with settlement. An insurance company may pressure you to sign an agreement right away, knowing that the funds will seem attractive when you have suffered losses. However, you might still be receiving treatment and may not know the full extent of your losses. Mistakes with settlement could mean you do not get the compensation you deserve.


Pennsylvania’s Contributory Negligence Rule

When reviewing your legal options after a pedestrian accident, you should be aware of Pennsylvania’s law on comparative negligence law. Under this rule, the focus is on the actions of the pedestrian and how the victim’s  misconduct could have caused or contributed to the collision. The effects can be harsh:

  • If you were partly to blame for the pedestrian crash, your compensation is reduced by the amount of fault assigned to your acts. For instance, you may have strayed outside the lines of the crosswalk and into traffic, which contributed to the motorist striking you.
  • When your conduct was more than 50 percent as the cause of the accident, you cannot recover any monetary damages for your losses. An example might be where you were jaywalking in a dark area at night, and you tripped into traffic because you were intoxicated.


Reasons You Need a Pedestrian Accident Attorney

One of the most important reasons to retain legal representation as the victim of a pedestrian crash is that you even the playing field compared to the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. The insurer is looking for ways to pay as little as possible, either by denying your claim or offering a low amount to settle. You need a Pennsylvania pedestrian accident lawyer to aggressively pursue your claim, ensuring you settle for fair monetary damages when the time is right.

It is even more critical to have experienced legal counsel at your side when you must go to litigation to enforce your rights. Your case is impacted by many different statutes, case precedents, court procedural rules, and other factors that you may not realize without a background in law. Your pedestrian accident attorney will handle all essential tasks up through and including a trial on the merits.


Talk to a Philadelphia Pedestrian Accident Lawyer About Your Remedies 

Though it is critical that you know your rights and legal options as a pedestrian accident victim, you can rely on experienced legal counsel for assistance with the process. Our team at Mattiacci Law, Inc. is skilled at dealing with insurance companies, but we are equally prepared to fight for your interests in court. Please contact us to schedule a no-cost consultation with an experienced Pennsylvania pedestrian accident attorney. We can advise you on the laws after reviewing the facts of your case.

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