In a nutshell, the best pedestrian accident lawyer is a good litigator, a good negotiator, and a good communicator.
Victims have a limited amount of time to act following a pedestrian accident or other injury. So, the clock is ticking. An attorney must quickly, yet thoroughly, prepare and present an effective injury case in court. Only experienced attorneys have these abilities.
Most injury cases settle out of court. Therefore, good negotiating skills are just as important as good litigation skills. During settlement talks, attorneys must know when to compromise and when to stand firm. If they don’t do the right thing at the right time, the settlement is delayed and/or is for less than maximum compensation.
Good communication requires more than one paragraph. So, we’ll spend some extra time answering some common questions about pedestrian accidents and your rights after a pedestrian accident.
What is a Pedestrian Accident?
These incidents normally aren’t malicious. Very few drivers intentionally run over pedestrians. Likewise, very few pedestrians (or skateboarders in this case) intentionally throw themselves in front of Love Bugs.
However, pedestrian accidents are intentional mistakes. Mr. Burns might accidentally leave the water running at stately Burns Manor. But he doesn’t accidentally drive carelessly and hit a pedestrian. Nor does anyone else for that matter.
In his own eyes, Mr. Burns might be rich and powerful and not like other men. But he, like you and me and everyone else, must accept responsibility for the accidents he causes.
Are Pedestrian Accidents Common?
Numerically no, but statistically yes. Pedestrians account for less than 2 percent of roadway traffic. But pedestrian accidents account for 17 percent of roadway fatalities. The two most common causes of pedestrian accidents are:
- Impaired Driving: Alcohol is the most common driver impairment. Just one drink seriously impairs judgment ability and motor skills, making it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle. Drugs and fatigue affect the brain and body in similar ways. Driving with a medical condition, usually a serious one that could cause a loss of consciousness, and driving while distracted round out the five kinds of driver impairment.
- Aggressive Driving: Speed is the most common, and most dangerous, form of aggressive driving, especially for pedestrians. At impact speeds under 20mph, the pedestrian death rate is less than 10 percent. Velocity has a multiplying effect. At impact speeds above 50mph, the pedestrian death rate is close to 90 percent.
Defective tires and other defective products cause most of the rest of the fatal pedestrian accidents in the United States.
What Happens if You Hit a Pedestrian by Accident?
If you hit a pedestrian, even by accident, you must accept responsibility for the incident and pay compensation.
If Jim runs over Billy’s bike, he must replace the bike. Furthermore, he should buy Billy a new bike, to compensate Billy for his pain and suffering. If Jim runs over Billy, he must not only pay Billy’s medical bills. He should also compensate Billy for his pain and suffering.
If Jim runs over the bike, he usually does the right thing on his own. But if Jim runs over a person, Jim’s insurance company gets involved. Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and not by paying compensation to victims. So, a pedestrian accident lawyer must usually get involved as well.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer if You’re Involved in a Pedestrian Accident?
Quite simply, you need a lawyer because the insurance company has a lawyer. Insurance companies earn over $1 trillion a year. So, they have plenty of money to hire teams of lawyers. If the victim doesn’t have a lawyer, the victim must accept whatever settlement the insurance company offers, whether it’s fair or not. A nonlawyer has almost no chance to beat a lawyer in court.
How is Fault Determined in Pedestrian Accident Cases?
Before we answer this question, we should point out that there’s a difference between fault and liability. Someone, usually a biased insurance investigator, determines fault based solely on the evidence at the scene.
Liability is a later determination that’s based not only on the facts at the scene, but also on additional evidence and on applicable legal doctrines. Looking at the whole picture is the only way to determine if a pedestrian was at fault for a car accident or not.
Assume Rachel was on her cell phone when she crossed against the light. Sally hit her. According to those facts, Rachel was clearly at fault for the car accident.
During a subsequent investigation, Rachel’s lawyer pulls device use logs and proves she just swiped away a phone call. She wasn’t “on” her phone. Furthermore, Rachel’s lawyer discovers that Sally was an Uber driver. Usually, commercial operators have a higher duty of care.
So, based on all the facts and legal issues, Rachel might have been partially at fault for the wreck, since she crossed against the light. But she almost certainly wasn’t mostly at fault.
What Should You Do If a Car Hits You While You Are Walking?
As mentioned, high-speed pedestrian accidents usually cause catastrophic (life-threatening) or fatal injuries. These victims are in no condition to do anything after a pedestrian accident.
After a lower-speed accident, many victims are at least semi-conscious. What they say and do, or don’t say and don’t do, after an accident could almost literally make or break their legal claim for damages.
Victims should always see doctors, even if they don’t “feel” hurt. Allman Brothers bass player Berry Oakley was in a motorcycle crash in 1972. He refused medical attention and rode home with a friend. ABout a day later an undiagnosed head injury killed him.
Furthermore, if victims don’t immediately see doctors, insurance company lawyers later argue that their injuries weren’t too severe and therefore they aren’t entitled to as much compensation.
Additionally, victims shouldn’t give statements to anyone except an emergency responder. Insurance adjusters know how to twist innocent statements into damaging admissions.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Pedestrian Accident?
This last question takes us back to the beginning. But a lawyer’s negotiating skill level isn’t the only factor to consider.
If liability, damages, and other issues are clear, most insurance companies have a legal duty to settle most claims within about thirty days. Such cases are few and far between. We discussed liability issues in the Rachel/Sally example above. We also touched on the amount of damages as well. These questions usually take some time to sort out.
If negotiations stall or break down, most judges ask mediators to supervise the talks. Since mediators ensure that both sides negotiate in good faith, these supervised talks usually result in settlements. However, mediation usually doesn’t happen until relatively late in the legal process.
So, if a victim wants maximum compensation, the victim must usually wait. That’s the nature of the process. The wait is almost always worthwhile. Attorney-negotiated settlements are almost four times higher than non-attorney negotiated settlements.