Pedestrian Injuries: What to Do if a Car Hits You While You're Walking
One of the many benefits of living in Oregon, especially in the Portland-area, is the ability to freely take advantage of our many walkable neighborhoods and parks. It is common for us to learn when talking to new clients that walking and hiking are among their favorite recreational activities. As Portland continues to grow and more cars are on the road, the potential for car vs. pedestrian collisions increases.
Due to the very nature of these tragic incidents, Pedestrians commonly suffer catastrophic injuries when a car hits them. Pedestrians are exposed and vulnerable when crossing the street and a car (even when driving slowly) can instantly deliver thousands of pounds of force to an innocent victim. In addition, it is not uncommon for motorists, witnesses, or even the police to (at least at first) blame the victim for getting hurt.
Because of all of this, it is important that an injured pedestrian immediately seek legal counsel in order to protect themselves.
What Does Oregon Law Do to Protect Injured Pedestrians?
Fortunately for Oregonians, our state laws favor pedestrians. This does not just extend to laws defining crosswalks and pedestrian rights of way, but also insurance laws guaranteeing the extension of certain vital benefits. The following is a very brief summary of a few critical rules. Consultation with an attorney is necessary to obtain a full review of the potential legal issues that arise when a motorist injures a pedestrian.
Critically, Oregon law broadly defines both “pedestrians” and “crosswalks.” A pedestrian is any person who is afoot or confined in a wheelchair. ORS 801.385. A crosswalk is not just limited to marked or striped intersections but includes all intersections. ORS 801.220. However, it is not every portion of an intersection and a careful legal analysis is required to determine what portion of every intersection constitutes that particular intersection’s “crosswalk.”
Oregon law requires that motorists yield the right of way to any pedestrian walking on a sidewalk or crossing the street in a crosswalk. ORS 811.025 and 811.028. Similarly, motorists are required to stop and check for pedestrians when emerging from an alleyway, driveway, or building. ORS 811.505. Of course, a pedestrian can potentially waive these protections if they themselves ignore walk signs or leave a place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle in a way that constitutes an immediate hazard, or if they behave in a way that does not constitute exercising due care. ORS 811.050, 814.020 and 814.040.
There are many more Oregon rules that apply to pedestrians and motorists. But as illustrated above, Oregon provides broad protections to pedestrians. Despite these protections, we urge every Oregon pedestrian to use common sense and walk defensively. Do not trust that motorists will know and understand the rules. Always remain vigilant of cars and trucks, as pedestrians always fare worse than drivers in any collision.
Oregon insurance law similarly extends protections to injured pedestrians. Particularly helpful to injured Oregonians is the requirement that every automobile insurance policy provides two relevant types of coverage: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM). ORS 742.524. PIP covers a pedestrian’s medical bills and lost wages if they are injured due to a car collision. The minimum amount of medical coverage is $15,000 in paid medical bills (for up to two years). PIP will also cover a minimum of 70% of an injured pedestrian’s wage loss up to a maximum of $3,000 per month (for up to fifty-two weeks). In order for the wage loss benefit to apply, you have to be injured and unable to work for at least fourteen calendar days.
In addition to accessing your own PIP coverage, Oregon law helpfully requires that an injured pedestrian be able to access the at-fault driver’s own PIP coverage. ORS 742.526(1)(e). In this situation, your own PIP is “primary” which means that it is first in line for your medical bills. Your health insurance is then secondary (or second in line to cover your medical expenses) in the event that your primary PIP is completely used up. The at-fault driver’s PIP (through their own car insurance) is also “excess” and can be accessed to cover the co-pays and deductibles you are faced with in the event you need to rely upon your own health insurance. If you don’t have car or health insurance of your own, the at-fault driver’s PIP will be primary and provide you with the minimum $15,000 in medical coverage.
UIM covers your damages if you are injured while walking and the driver did not have car insurance of their own (or if the insurance they did carry is inadequate to cover all of your damages). In other words, your own insurance company will step into the at-fault driver’s shoes and pay your monetary damages (for things like pain and suffering). This provides at least one source of recovery for our clients to make claims against if the at-fault driver is uninsured, or a second source of recovery if our client suffers severe injuries and the at-fault driver did not carry adequate car insurance coverage.
What to Do If You Are Injured as A Pedestrian?
The following general rules of thumb should be followed:
- Obtain witness and insurance information: Ask the person who hit you for their car insurance information. If they hesitate, simply call 911 and advise them that a motorist hit you and is refusing to give you their car insurance info. An officer will typically be dispatched to help facilitate the exchange of information. If anyone witnessed the collision, politely ask them for their name and contact information. Finally, if you can, take photos of the scene.
- Get immediate medical care: If you have PIP coverage, then give your medical providers the PIP claim number as your own car insurance will be first in line to pay your medical bills. If you do not have PIP coverage (because you do not have car insurance of your own), then your health insurance will be first in line to cover your medical bills. If you do not have either PIP coverage or health insurance, give the medical provider the at-fault driver’s car insurance information.
- File a police report: Generally, when a person suffers obvious injuries, police will be dispatched to the scene of a collision after someone calls 911. However, sometimes police do not respond (for a variety of reasons). In this situation, it is important that you file a report with the police by calling the police station and reporting the incident. Tell them you want to file a report after a car hit you and obtain proof that the report was filed (such as by obtaining a case number).
- Report the incident to your own car insurance: As mentioned above, Oregon law requires that mandatory PIP and UIM insurance extend to cover injuries an insured suffers while walking.
- Call a respected attorney: The personal injury attorney will want to ensure that witnesses are contacted, evidence and claims are preserved, and that potential pitfalls for you are avoided. After these initial and critical steps are taken, the attorney will help shepherd your case while you recover from your injuries, before doing everything possible to maximize your potential civil claims for things such as outstanding wage loss, unpaid medical bills, physical pain, and mental suffering (among others).
If a motorist hit you or someone you know while walking, call our office today for a free consultation: (503) 288-8000. For close to forty years our firm has focused on helping innocent injured people with their personal injury claims.