Injured Pedestrian? Know Your Rights

Whoever said the pedestrian always has the right of way?

In Washington, nothing could be farther from the truth. If you’re a pedestrian, you must obey laws just as drivers do. You also have rights, however, which often include the right to medical coverage if a vehicle hits you, and possibly more.

Your vehicle insurance policy may provide coverage in case of a collision, even if you’re crossing the street on foot. If you aren’t insured, the insurance someone in your household carries — a parent, a spouse, or even a roommate — may pay your medical bills. Or, if the driver caused the accident, his or her insurance may pay.

Insurance companies, however, want to make money, not spend it. Some may unscrupulously try to discredit a pedestrian’s claims of injury or pain.

That’s why calling an attorney is one of the first things you should do if a vehicle strikes you. Because you can bet the insurance companies have already called their lawyers.

And remember: you have the right to remain silent. That claims adjuster may be friendly, but his job is to gather evidence against you.

For example, the adjuster will ask you tell you to make a recorded statement about the accident, and may pressure you to do so. Insurance companies like recorded statements so they can use them, if necessary, to discredit the accident’s severity or the extent of your injuries.

But you don’t have to agree, and in fact you should refuse. As with the Miranda rights, anything you say on a recording can be used against you in court.

The stakes can be high.

Not only may you, the injured pedestrian, be entitled to compensation for medical expenses caused by the accident, but, if your injuries are serious enough, Washington law may allow you to collect damages for wages lost, pain and suffering, and loss of “essential services” such as housekeeping, parenting, or providing companionship to your spouse.

A medical release form is another request insurers often make — but, again, be wary.

Signing such a form may give your insurer the right to view your entire medical history.

Instead of allowing an insurance company full access to your personal information, take matters into your own hands. Request from your doctor the medical records related to your injury, then deliver them to the adjuster yourself.

Remember: the adjuster is not looking out for your interests, but for those of the company. Insurers know that, should your case come to trial, juries usually rule in pedestrians’ favor, and they tend to grant higher awards than to accident victims in vehicles. To avoid paying those higher costs, an insurer may opt for a quick settlement, meaning you could be paid relatively soon, and with less hassle.

And the company’s offer may seem high. Most likely, however, the amount is not as much as a jury would award, or even as much as you deserve, especially if your injuries are serious or long-lasting. An attorney can tell you whether you should expect more, and can usually negotiate a higher settlement on your behalf.

You might be pleasantly surprised. In one recent case, a person walking through an icy Spokane parking lot fell and hit his head against a parked truck. Attorneys at the Quiroga Law Office found payment for the injured person’s medical bills — from the insurance company covering the parked truck. Call us today at (509) 927-3840.

For other resources regarding pedestrians, crosswalks, and the right of way in Washington, please see the following sections of the Revised Code of Washington:

RCW 46.61.261
RCW 46.61.264
RCW 46.61.269