Santa Monica is known for its pedestrian foot traffic. Oftentimes pedestrians find themselves in harm’s way when inattentive drivers fail to adhere to traffic signals. In some cases people who are struck are left with long-term injuries and medical expenses that can lead to financial ruin. Knowing your rights after an accident is critical. Here are some things to know just in case you unfortunately find yourself the victim of a collision.
Pedestrian right of way, proving fault
Who has the right of way is an important element of any pedestrian accident. If the pedestrian is deemed at fault, the driver’s insurance company will often deny any compensation for injuries. Determining who was at fault is a very fact-sensitive procedure. Remember, in California, even if you were partially at fault you will be able to recover payment for a portion of your injuries.
After your accident, it is important that you attempt to recall the events leading to the injury. Make sure you record what you remember.
Proving fault can require a survey of the traffic lights, signal patterns and other important factors. However, these are not always conclusive. Witness statements are critical to determine fault in these types of accidents. Police reports are also considered an important piece of information, but they are not generally admissible as evidence in the event that the case proceeds to trial.
Ultimately proving fault — if it is disputed — will require a reconstruction of the accident scene. Often times experts are employed by your attorney to properly evaluate whether you were at fault.
Evaluating case value
So how do you evaluate case value in pedestrian accident cases?
First, look at the medical reports. How much do you have in medical expenses as a result of this accident?
Second, consider the loss of income or salary as a result of the accident. In cases where you are unable to work as a result of the accident you will be able to recover for loss of income.
Third, you must consider the pain and suffering element of your claim. There is no exact mathematical equation used to identify this.
If the party who caused the accident is uninsured, you will have very little chance of recovery for your injuries, unless they have assets or you have independent coverage.
If the at-fault party has assets it is possible to pursue a claim against them for your injuries and ultimately recover. However, most of the time we have found that little to no assets exist.
When the driver causing the accident has no insurance or assets, you can potentially pursue a cause of action against your own insurance. However, to do so you must have uninsured motorist coverage. It is possible that this type of coverage can extend to accidents when you are a pedestrian.
Get a copy
Traffic collision reports are a critical element of your claim for two reasons. First, they will help reconstruct the scene of the accident and how it happened. Second, they will have all the pertinent information regarding your accident. This will include identified names of the driver and any witnesses. It will also include proper insurance information and any other necessary information needed to pursue your case. Most importantly, it will assign who was at fault for the accident and note their condition at the time of the incident.
Obtaining a copy of your police report can be done in person or through the mail. Police reports will usually be ready three to five days after the accident. Remember a small fee will apply depending on the location.
Report numbers will be on a small slip of paper provided to you at the scene of the accident. If you were transported to the hospital and no papers were given to you, the records department can identify you by name and date of the incident.
Recovery for medical expenses is permitted in a personal injury lawsuit. Usually this will be paid out at the time of settlement in one lump sum.
Your attorney will have to submit your medical bills, along with your general demand for damages to the insurance company for recovery. Once the case is reviewed they will either make a counter offer or accept your attorney’s demands.
It is important to remember that any claim for damages should include an allowance for future medical care costs.
City liability for injuries
In certain cases the city will be liable for your injuries as well. This issue will arise when the municipality fails to install illuminated cross walks, safety signals or other safety measures. To hold the city liable you will need to evaluate past statistics. If those statistics show that the city had knowledge of the potentially dangerous elements of that intersection, then liability can be extended to them.
However, keep in mind that a claim against a government entity is different. In such cases you have only six months to file your claim.
Farid Yaghoubtil is a senior partner at the Downtown L.A. Law Group. He deals with victims of catastrophic personal injury cases.