Hey! I'm walkin' here!
January 16, 2013 2:11 PM   Subscribe

What should a pedestrian do if hit by a car?

As someone who walks, I am frequently put into potentially dangerous situations by cars. I realized I have no idea what I would do if I were hit. I've never owned a car, so not being familiar with the car-on-car collision procedures, I don't even have that as a benchmark. Do you...get their driver's insurance? Call the police? Then do what? If you have a resultant injury, do you have to sue them for medical costs? Or does this somehow magically come out of their driver's insurance?

I'm assuming for this question that the person didn't just hit you and then peace out.
posted by threeants to Law & Government (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm in the US, I should add.
posted by threeants at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2013

Call the police. Call your attorney. Claims will be paid by either the individual, their insurance, or both, but that's for your attorney to deal with.
posted by HuronBob at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't have an attorney. (Not to threadsit, just to clarify.)
posted by threeants at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2013

Ping your network for attorneys and/or recommendations. You don't have to put someone on retainer, but you oughta have a number you can call if you need legal help/advice.
posted by carsonb at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2013

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I am interested in the administrative details-- so thanks-- but I am also very perplexed about what to do at the "scene of the crime". Hold the driver there and ask them for...? Etc.
posted by threeants at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2013

You should also brush up on your local laws because pedestrians do not always have the right of way.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2013

I think it's similar to what you do if you have a car accident - you would need to get their insurance information, and a police report. Generally, in the case of a car accident, I would call 911 and report it, which sends the police. Then, I call my insurance company and report it to them.

I did have a friend who was hit by a car - she was damaged pretty badly, and had an extensive hospital stay/wheelchair, although she has fully recovered. The lady later sued her for damage to her car, I think. (She was crossing the street not at a crosswalk - the car in the closest lane had stopped and waved her across, the car in the next lane hit her.)
posted by needlegrrl at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2013

I would immediately call the police or 911 if there was even a slight injury. It holds a lot less credibility if you were to have say, cracked a rib, and went to the hospital days later. The driver would be responsible to stay until the police showed up, and (correct me if I'm wrong), the pertinent information like name and license plate number is included in the police report.
posted by andariel at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2013

Get their name, contact information, ask to see (and write down) their insurance card info. Maybe you would be so lucky as to have a witness from whom can corroborate your story and details. Get their name and contact info too.

If even remotely injured, and certainly if you fall down, go to the doctor ASAP.
Call their insurance company, and tell them what happened. Provide doctor's notes, and witness info as well.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2013

I think the basics are the same as a car-on-car collision. Call the police. Get a police report, sign it only after you're satisfied with what the cop wrote down, since the driver will make up all kinds of stories about how it's not their fault. That will be important if you have to deal with the driver's insurance company. Otherwise, it's just your word against the driver's and the insurance will not want to pay you any money, so of course they'll believe the driver.

If you think you'll have any injuries, go to a hospital right away, otherwise if your back/neck starts hurting a week later and you'll have to go see a doctor then, the driver's insurance will try to say that it is not related to the accident. If you're 110% sure that you're not injured (basically, if it was just a bump with the car going like, 5mph), then you don't have to go, but if you fall/get scraped/get pushed by the car, then you should go to the ER.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 2:28 PM on January 16, 2013

First, call the police. If you think you might be even slightly injured, make sure to get an EMT to come to the ER so you can get checked out and document any injury. Document document document. If there is someone nearby that helps you, ask if they'll stick around and be a witness to the cop when giving the report. Or at least get their contact info in case you need a witness later on. Get the driver's info and insurance info. If you end up with injuries, you'll have to contact a lawyer regarding what steps to take to sue.
posted by greta simone at 2:31 PM on January 16, 2013

I was hit once (very low impact, tapped my leg, but it could have been really bad) by a cab taking a turn way too fast as I was crossing the street.

I punched the hood of his car and shouted "what the fuck?!" before continuing on my way.

This may or may not be a resolution that works for you.
posted by phunniemee at 2:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [23 favorites]

1. Call the Police.

2. Ask people who witnessed the accident to stick around, or if they can't for their contact information.

3. Get as much information about the driver, including taking a picture (you would be amazed at how many people claim, "it wasn't me!") Take a picture of the license and the car too. License, insurance card, etc.

4. Program your phone with an ICE number in case you're seriously hurt so people can get in touch with your loved ones.

Always be a good pedestrian and follow the rules of the road.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:36 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is from a friend who was in a cycling accident, but I think is relevant:

After months of haggling with insurance companies after getting run over on some time ago, the first guideline that comes to mind is: take the ambulance ride.
Not hurt: take the ambulance ride.
Feeling like you could use a burrito: take the ambulance ride.
Don't want to take an ambulance ride and sit in ER: then take the ambulance ride.

Months of headaches and paperwork nightmares would have been eliminated if I had taken the offered ambulance ride. First, you can't be sure you're not hurt. Second, all aspects of the litigation and insurance adjustment process are predicated on assumption that if you were so unscathed as to not need to even need an ambulance "check up trip" then the accident couldn't have been the slightest bit serious.
posted by rockindata at 2:48 PM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]

Assuming you're able, photograph everything right then and there: injuries, damage, the car(s), license plate, driver/passengers, current lighting conditions, location, witnesses, relevant signs, irrelevant signs. Video record the driver if possible. Ditto the cop.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2013

It might be useful to snap some Johnny-on-the-spot photos of the accident scene with your cell phone, if you are able to do so.

Don't discuss fault with the driver. Keep your lip zipped except for the essential exchange of info with cops, EMT, etc.
posted by nacho fries at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2013

I agree that you should refrain from talking whenever possible. If the driver of the car tries to engage you in discussion, say, "I don't feel well. We need to talk to the police NOW." And ask bystanders to call the police and an ambulance immediately if you are well enough to do so.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:21 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never been hit by a car nor hit a pedestrian, but I know people who've been on both sides and have witnessed such accidents. Generally, you or someone nearby will call 911 unless you obviously have no sign of any injuries whatsoever. That will get an ambulance sent to the scene to get you checked out and treated if needed, but in most communities the police will be dispatched as well. The police will collect everybody's information and prepare a report. I'd be honest, but it's probably not going to help your case to volunteer anything that casts blame on you, to admit fault for the accident, or to insist that you're fine and then make claims for injuries later, even if legitimate. Just be professional and don't bother arguing about what happened. You may well have huge difficulty proving your injuries later if you don't get transported by an ambulance and checked out at the ER, so keep that in mind. If the accident is truly minor, you might skip the calling the police step at your own risk, but you should exchange contact information and make sure you have the driver's insurance details. If the driver refuses or doesn't have insurance, call the police. Get information for any witnesses as well. If you refuse ambulance transportation but think there's any chance you may have any kind of injury, I'd arrange to see a doctor immediately to get that on the record (and take care of yourself).

The driver's insurance is generally on the hook for your medical expenses if the driver is liable for your injuries (in the worst case, you might be responsible for damage to his car!), but if you have personal health insurance, your coverage may get routed through that first. Through a process called "subrogation," your health insurance company may go after the auto insurance company for the costs and you might well be able to get reimbursed for any co-payments or charges below your deductible. If you wind up getting personally reimbursed for any expenses your health insurance already paid for, you'll probably have to pay them back from that reimbursement. For more serious injuries, you might also be able to claim damages due to time off work and other circumstances. These situations get increasingly complicated and it would definitely be the time to get a lawyer involved on your side.

Story time: I once witnessed a car-on-pedestrian accident in San Francisco and called 911 as the pedestrian was knocked down in the street. I talked to the police at the scene and by phone later that night when the officer called, and that was the end of it. Until literally a year and a half later, when a lawyer for the driver (or really, his insurance) called me because they still hadn't managed to settle the matter. I was able to tell him that I had pretty much no recollection of anything and anything I told him now was just as likely to be wrong as right. No idea if they ever managed to settle. Point is, these things can take a long time.
posted by zachlipton at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2013

Likely, you will not have to do anything.

People will take care of you, comfort you. If you are in a residential neighborhood, people will come rushing out of their homes. If in NYC, pedestrians have a tight brotherhood and will come to your aid, while also preventing the accident-causer to drive away. People awaken when man is hit by machine.

Police get called quickly. They show up pretty fast. Along with decorated ambulances. Guess what? - the local newspaper will write a short story. It gets picked up on the radio news as well. The accident-causer will be petrified and likely shaken. Hitting a person with a machine is bad karma, soul rattling.

Don't try to do everything yourself - you may aggravate your injuries. A man down will bring people over, be it a 7-11, the crew of seemingly hardened construction workers, or the blueberry pie granny watching from her porch.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:31 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Breathe. I almost got hit by a car once as a pedestrian. Someone was pulling out of a driveway without looking. I think my exact words were, "Jesus f!@#ing Christ, what the f!@# is wrong with you?"

When I've been in any kind of accident, my adrenaline has taken over. So I would accept the help others give you and call 911. Get the driver's info and fill out a police report.
posted by kat518 at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2013

I've been hit by a variety of exciting motor vehicles, from Italian scooters to big sedans. I frequently get almost hit by a variety of vehicles, because no one uses turns signals or checks the crosswalk. It has, thank God, never been serious. If you are lucky, they will stop, and will be extremely apologetic . If you are lucky, you won't be hurt.

If you are in Italy and you get smacked by some teenager upstart with bad hair and a knockoff Vespa, you should definitely have it happen in front of an amazing Italian grandmother, who will berate him for you, check you for visible injury, and then offer you an espresso despite the time of 8 P.M. Based on that, I would say that Italian grandmothers are great at the scenes of pedestrian injuries, but your mileage may vary.

If you are actually hurt, call the police. Document everything if you can: the area, the license plate if possible, your injuries, the street. If the car is still there, take pictures of their car. Get their insurance information. If you can, write down your memories of what happened as soon as possible. If there are witnesses, make sure they talk to the police and that you have their contact information. It really isn't a bad idea to know a lawyer friend and have their number around, just in general; even if they can't practice in your state, better to try their local contacts than the ambulance chasers, you know?

If you are hurt but unable to take the above steps, I can only recommend that you have forms of ID and emergency numbers on you at all times. (I am a big, big fan of Road ID.) A friend was nearly killed while biking by a hit-and-run driver. He was left with hundreds of thousands of dollars of hospital bills because he was uninsured, and the driver (and their insurance) was never found. He had a wallet with an ID and contact information, which greatly facilitated his family's arrival and care. Thankfully, there were witnesses, who probably saved his life by getting him medical attention as soon as possible.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Step one: get to a location where you won't be hit by another vehicle.

Step two: glance at the car and memorize the plate number and make/model, and if you can see the driver take note of their general description as well.

Step three: call the police.
posted by yohko at 4:20 PM on January 16, 2013

I'll tell you what not to do: don't be so fucking relieved and delighted not to be hurt that you tell the driver you're fine and wave him away when he stops to make sure you're okay. You are under the influence of a shit-ton of adrenaline and you have NO way of knowing whether you're fine. You may feel bloody fantastic, in fact you'll probably be shaking with pleasure from the fact that you're still alive at all, but that is no indication of your actual level of health. Get his insurance info and identification in case some injury turns up later.

As it turns out, I actually was fine, but I had some bad bruising and some aches and pains for a couple of weeks after I was hit, and if it had turned out to be something serious I would have felt quite the fool for not getting his info so he could be held accountable.
posted by town of cats at 8:10 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, if you're like me, you'll fall down and be surrounded by people asking if you're okay, including a lawyer who will press his card into your hand. Police will be called by someone, and an ambulance, and you'll take it to the hospital. Information will be given to you by the police report regarding the driver's insurance. And when you don't immediately call the insurance company back to give a report, they'll throw money at you like it's going out of style, presumably terrified you're going to sue the crap out of them.
posted by RedEmma at 7:48 AM on January 17, 2013

I used to walk to work, and had frequent close calls while in the crosswalk, with the Walk light, including a police car who cut me off. I used to carry my phone in my hand, and would call the police. If possible, get the license plate, cab#, police car #, etc. If I wanted to be self-employed, I'd market paintball guns to pedestrians as a self-defense option. A nice, bright orange, self-defense ding in the car would be a learning opportunity, as well as marking the vehicle so other pedestrians would know the driver is a dangerous jerk. If you get hit, try to get information about the car that hit you, ask anyone helping you to do the same, and ask the police to take notes/ get statements from any witnesses. Keep copies of any notes. Drivers will only change if it becomes too expensive not to. Any city or town is better to live in if it's possible to walk safely.
posted by theora55 at 7:44 AM on January 18, 2013

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