If you were hit by a car as a pedestrian, you need to know a few things before trying to deal with the insurance company. Pedestrian vs. car accidents can be tricky, because there are many pitfalls that can cause you to lose your case right off the bat, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
No matter how friendly the adjuster on the other end of the phone sounds, they are not your friend. Insurance adjusters, especially early in a case, will go out of their way to be nice to you in an attempt to settle your case. They’ll send you a medical authorization so taht they can collect your medical records (to save you the trouble), they’ll check in on you every once in a while to see how your injuries are resolving, they might even come by your house to write you a settlement check. But make no mistake, the job of the first adjuster who handles your case is to get your case settled as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible.If you made the mistake of accepting a settlement check too early, you must read our article on rescinding a personal injury settlement in Virginia and call an attorney ASAP to take steps to correct your error.
Virginia has an ancient rule of law called Contributory Negligence. This rule says that someone who is even 1% at fault for their injuries can recover absolutely nothing from the other party. And in pedestrian accidents, there is plenty of room for an insurance company to blame you for being negligent. Maybe you weren’t in a crosswalk. Maybe you didn’t look both ways. Maybe you were wearing a black sweatshirt at night. Maybe you had headphones in while you were walking or running. Insurance companies can hang their hat on any one of these things and say that they are not going to willingly pay you any money.
The fact that contributory negligence can deep-six your case means that it is absolutely vital in a pedestrian accident case to have an eyewitness statement. Ask the police officer who drafted the police report whether he took any witness statements. If it’s just your word against the other driver’s and he is saying that you “darted out” into the street, the insurance company is probably not going to be settling your case easily.
The question of who should be paying your medical bills after a Virginia car accident comes up in all auto accident cases, but it is particularly important in a pedestrian case because pedestrian cases tend to have more significant injuries than most car crashes. If you have health insurance, they should be paying for your bills first. But be aware that some health insurance plans might be subject to repayment at the end of your case. If you do not have health insurance, you want to check your own auto insurance policy to see whether you have MedPay benefits (or PIP if you’re a Maryland resident). Most people don’t think to look at their own policy in a pedestrian case, but it is an additional source of money. Remember that you will not get a check from the driver’s auto insurance company until you finally settle your case.