According to the NC Department of Transportation, each year more than 2,000 police-reported motor vehicle accidents involve a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle; 150-200 of those are fatal and 200-300 of those accidents result in serious injury.
Those statistics may or may not mean something to you, but do you know what to do if you or someone you’re with becomes one of those seriously injured in a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident? Many of us know what we need to do (but if not, here’s a free printable checklist) in the case of a two car collision. After all, those are far more common statewide. In 2016, NC had over 267,000 police-reported vehicle collisions.
So if the unexpected happens and you or someone you know is injured in a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident, what is your next step?
First, seek medical attention.
This may go without saying, but it is the most important thing to do in an accident – call 911. Emergent injuries need to be addressed by qualified medical personnel. Someone on the scene (usually the police) will collect insurance information, get the names of witnesses, take statements, etc. It is helpful (if you are not the injured party) to observe that this is in fact occurring. Make a note of the officer’s name and ask for a copy of the incident report, or the incident report number.
After urgent injuries have been addressed, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
It’s important that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney you trust as soon as possible. Your injury recovery is a stressful and complicated time, and it is critical to have someone who will be able to provide you professional guidance on what you should and shouldn’t do, as well as what your options are moving forward.
Offering Step-by-Step Guidance
An attorney will be able to provide you necessary insight about your interactions with insurance adjusters – you should not put yourself in a position where you will be speaking directly with an adjuster, especially without the guidance of an attorney. Insurance adjusters, while not out to get you, are employed by the insurance companies and are protecting the interests of those companies, not your personal best interests. Their goal is to settle a claim for the lowest possible amount, regardless of what may be best for your situation.
Your attorney will also discuss what contributory negligence is and what it might mean in your case. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that applies this principle, and the results can be harsh.
In a typical negligence lawsuit, such as one involving a motor vehicle accident, one party is “at fault” and the other party is “not at fault.” Our legal system holds the “at fault” party responsible to pay for the damage he or she caused to the “not at fault” party. In some cases, however, both parties are at fault, for example in an accident where both drivers were driving at unsafe speeds for the road conditions.
It makes sense that if both parties are at fault, neither gets to recover any money from the other. But what if one driver was going 1 mile over the speed limit while the other was going 90 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone? What about if one driver was distracted and the other was going 5 miles over the limit?
It can be difficult for courts to decide who is more at fault in cases like this, so the contributory negligence doctrine does away with the question entirely. According to the doctrine of contributory negligence, if the party seeking to collect damages is just 1% at fault, despite the fact that the other party is 99% at fault, neither party can collect damages from the other, except in a few rare circumstances.
Reviewing Your Options
Beyond explaining the current situation and dos/don’ts, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to explain what the options are for you as you move forward. One of the most intimidating parts of a catastrophic injury like being struck by a vehicle is the cost of medical treatment. Your personal injury attorney can help you understand your eligibility for medical payment coverage and reimbursement of medical bills, because the cost of treatment – including prescription medications, prescribed medical assistance devices, and physical therapy – should not stand in the way of your recovery.
In addition, your attorney will work with you to properly document your lost wages so that you can recover them as part of your damages. If your injuries cause you to use up all your hard-earned Paid Time Off (PTO), your attorney may be able to recover the value of that time from the party at fault. Recovering lost wages for someone who is self-employed can be complicated, so it’s vital to ensure you hire an attorney who has experience dealing with these types of situations.
Providing You with a Partner in Recovery
Unfortunately, with catastrophic personal injury claims, like most other personal injury situations, you may not receive reimbursement or compensation until your claim has been settled. After all negotiations and calculations are made, you will be asked to sign a release by the adjuster. It is important to not sign that release without an experienced personal injury attorney, because once it is signed, the insurance company is off the hook for paying you anything else on your claim, even if your injuries end up requiring further treatment.
Recovery from a serious accident is a long and difficult process physically, but it can also cause financial and emotional stress. Your personal injury attorney will be able to provide guidance and reassurance throughout the process, and will fight to recover as much as possible on your behalf. If your injuries will require ongoing treatment for a period of time, it may be in your best interest to settle the claim sooner rather than later, but only your experienced personal injury attorney can advise you based on your circumstances.
An attorney will be your advocate through the legal process.
Regardless of the type of personal injury situation you are in, it is best to seek someone with experience and knowledge who will stand up for your rights so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries and getting your life back on track. Our personal injury team is ready to help you every step of the way.