No one out for a stroll or crossing the street ever expects a car to hit them, but it happens. When it does, a pedestrian accident throws the victim’s and victim’s family’s lives into utter turmoil. Suddenly, they confront the daunting prospect of lengthy hospital stays, intensive medical care, and an uncertain future. They miss work recovering or caring for an injured relative. Unexpected, unplanned-for bills pile up. Making sound, forward-thinking decisions feels virtually impossible.
In this blog post, we aim to bring some clarity to the aftermath of a Florida pedestrian accident by suggesting some steps to take to protect your physical, emotional, and financial health. An experienced Florida pedestrian accident attorney can help you learn more about your rights and options.
How Often Does This Happen?
If a car hit you while you were walking, you’re hardly alone. According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 708 people died in pedestrian accidents in 2019, and another 7,863 sustained injuries. With an injury/fatality rate of 89 percent, collisions between vehicles and pedestrians constitute some of the most dangerous and deadly accidents on Florida roads.
Priority Number One: Seek Medical Care
First things first. In the immediate aftermath of getting struck by a vehicle, the injured pedestrian’s single-most-important priority should be getting medical care. This is true no matter if a car, truck, or motorcycle hit you. Nothing is more important to a pedestrian accident victim’s physical, emotional, legal, and financial well-being than seeing a doctor right away and receiving all of the medical treatment necessary.
This is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Call 911 or ask someone to do it for you, let first responders take you to the emergency room, stay in the hospital as long as necessary to stabilize your condition, and follow-up with your doctor, therapy, and medication for as long as necessary to achieve a full recovery.
Why is getting and following medical treatment so important?
First, obviously, because without your health, everything falls apart. The sooner you put yourself on the path to recovery, the sooner you can return to normal life, be it work, school, taking care of your family, or something else.
Second, because seeking immediate medical care for pedestrian accident injuries protects your legal rights to receive compensation from your own insurance (see below) and from others. If you do not seek this care, insurance companies may deny you benefits. You may also miss a crucial opportunity to generate medical records that prove a connection between the accident and your health condition.
In short, we cannot stress this enough: get medical help after a pedestrian accident.
Next, Know Where Money Might Come From
Getting hurt in a pedestrian accident usually means facing unexpected medical expenses while also missing work while you recover, or while you care for an injured accident victim. Which is to say, pedestrian accidents cost money, and potentially lots of it. Having a basic understanding of where the money to help pay the costs of an accident might come from can help keep you on an even keel.
Does No Fault Auto Insurance Cover You?
Florida law requires all registered owners of a motor vehicle to buy at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. This so-called no fault insurance serves as the primary coverage that pays for medical and disability related expenses after the car owner gets hurt in a crash, regardless of who is at fault for the crash. Floridians covered under PIP policies turn to them first, before any other type of insurance or other source of payment, to pay for medical and disability costs resulting from an accident.
Many Floridians do not realize, however, that no fault PIP insurance covers more than just the costs of injuries and disabilities a registered Florida car owner suffers while behind the wheel in a crash. It also covers, among other expenses, the costs of:
- Injuries and disabilities sustained by the car owner and/or relatives with whom the owner lives as pedestrians who get hit by a vehicle; and
- Injuries and disabilities that the owner’s car causes a Florida-resident pedestrian in a collision, so long as the pedestrian is not otherwise covered by PIP insurance.
If a pedestrian who gets hit by a car is covered by Florida PIP insurance, then that pedestrian must seek medical care for any injuries within 14 days of the accident. Failing to seek care within that time-window can cause the pedestrian accident victim to lose not only PIP coverage, but also coverage under other insurance that may otherwise pay medical and disability benefits as a result of the crash.
Most non-Florida resident pedestrians will not be covered by a Florida PIP policy. They may, however, have similar coverage under no fault insurance they have purchased in their home states.
Does Some Other Insurance You Carry Cover You?
So, to summarize, many, but not all, pedestrians who get hit by a car in Florida are covered by PIP insurance. However, even when PIP insurance covers a pedestrian accident victim, it rarely covers all of that victim’s costs resulting from getting hit by a car. The minimum PIP policy in Florida covers just $10,000 in expenses, which does not go far in this age of skyrocketing healthcare costs.
Many pedestrians who get hit by a car in Florida also carry some other form of insurance that may pay some of their expenses resulting from the collision. A typical health insurance policy, for example, will likely cover the costs of medical care (subject to co-pays and deductibles, of course), after PIP insurance runs our when it does not apply.
Long-term disability insurance may also cover some expenses in the same manner. Depending upon the type of insurance policy, pedestrian accident victims may need to give notice to their insurer of the accident. Consult your policy or speak with an experienced Florida pedestrian accident injury attorney to figure out your obligations.
Can You Pay Anything Out-of-Pocket?
Not everyone has the savings or other resources to pay out-of-pocket for needed care after getting hit by a car. It can help, however, to have a sense of what you can manage to pay on your own, or with the help of family and friends, if need be. Think of these financial resources as your emergency cushion. They help to clarify how long you could keep going financially without suffering a severe financial crisis.
Having a sense of this cushion helps you, and your lawyer, set priorities in terms of when and how to enforce your legal rights to have someone else pay for the expenses caused by your pedestrian accident.
Do You Have the Right to Sue an At Fault Party For Damages?
Most people tend to think of a pedestrian getting hit by a car as the type of accident that the pedestrian can sue someone over. As lawyers for pedestrian accident victims, we couldn’t agree more. In Florida, however, experienced lawyers know they have a few legal complexities to consider before knowing whether a pedestrian accident victim can take legal action against an at fault party.
Here is what we mean. Your rights as a pedestrian who gets hit by a car depend, in part, on whether you are covered by PIP insurance.
Under Florida law, if you are covered by PIP insurance, then you can only sue the party or parties at fault for your accident if your medical and disability costs exceed the amount of PIP coverage available to you and you sustained one or more of the following injuries:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or
In contrast, if you are not covered under a Florida no fault PIP insurance policy, then (subject to any laws in your home state that may apply) you likely have the right to take legal action against an at fault party regardless of the cost or severity of your injuries or disabilities.
If this all sounds somewhat confusing, that is because it is. Over the years, Florida’s no fault law has grown into a legal behemoth that can leave unsuspecting accident victims scratching their heads in confusion. To develop a clear picture of their rights, most pedestrians who sustain injuries in a collision with a car benefit from seeking the advice of an experienced Florida pedestrian accident injury attorney right away.
Then, Take Actions and Make Decisions to Protect Your Rights
Aside from seeking and following-up on appropriate medical treatment, and getting a handle on the potential sources of payment of your expenses, following some simple guidelines in the aftermath of getting hit by a car can go a long way in protecting your rights. Keep in mind, however, that these are broad and simple rules of thumb. How they may affect your particular case can vary. That said, in virtually any scenario, following these rules will not leave you worse off, and may well pay significant dividends in the future.
Keep Records of Your Medical Treatment
Healthcare providers and insurance companies seem to have a special talent for clogging our physical and electronic mailboxes with documentation. Many of these records come filled with medical and insurance jargon that make them incomprehensible to most mere mortals. Do not, however, give in to the frustration of feeling baffled by these documents. They may well prove critically important to your ability to prove the connection between getting hit by a car and the massive costs you have incurred as a result.
Not all records of your medical treatment need to be written in impenetrable medico-insurance-speak, either. You can, and should, keep your own journal or diary of the treatment you receive. Take notes when you meet with doctors (or have a close friend or family member do it for you). Write down questions that arise. Track significant developments or setbacks in your recovery. Your recollection of the ups-and-downs of getting hit by a car and traveling the long journey back to health may well prove crucial in supporting your case for receiving maximum insurance benefits and/or damages from an at-fault party.
Avoid Other Peoples’ Insurance Companies
As we noted above, you may have legal obligations under your own insurance coverages to put your insurance carrier on notice of the accident that injured you—although you may wish to have a pedestrian accident lawyer handle those communications. In some cases, a medical provider will effectively give this notice for you by billing your insurance company for care. In other cases, you may need to dial the insurance company’s toll-free number to let them know you were hit by a car.
The important thing to remember in these interactions is that you have no obligation to say more than necessary. Stick to the simple facts. Do not give your own opinions about who was at fault, and do not make casual comments that someone could misinterpret as you taking the blame (e.g., “I should have seen him coming” or “Maybe I should have waited to cross”). Again, your pedestrian accident lawyer can help you do this.
The rules are different, however, when it comes to talking to someone else’s insurance company. Simply put: don’t do it. If someone else’s insurance company contacts you after you get hit by a car, it means only one thing: That insurance company thinks it might owe you money, and it wants to get itself (and the party it insures) off the hook as cheaply as possible.
Insurance companies—including your own PIP carrier—may prey on victims, hoping they will not have lawyers and that they will be desperate for cash. They dangle quick money settlement offers, never for enough money, betting the victim will take the bait and give up valuable legal rights in return.
Do not fall for these tactics. Refuse to speak with another person’s insurance company. Let a lawyer handle that conversation instead.
Retaining an Experienced Pedestrian Accident Lawyer
The most reliable, effective way to protect and enforce your rights to compensation after getting hit by a car is to hire an attorney who knows the ropes of pedestrian accidents. A lawyer can advise you on your right to receive insurance benefits, and can guide you through the process of taking legal action to seek compensation from at fault parties. Speak with a pedestrian accident attorney today to discuss your legal rights and options.
Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765