According to NHTSA, more than 6,000 people die in pedestrian accidents yearly. Thousands more suffer severe injuries. When you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident, you may need to recover compensation as soon as possible to take care of the many expenses that may accompany the accident.
Unfortunately, in many cases, a pedestrian accident claim will take longer to settle than you think. The time needed to settle a pedestrian accident claim can vary substantially. While some claims settle within a matter of weeks, others can take months or, in extreme cases, years to resolve. A number of factors may influence the time needed to settle a pedestrian accident claim. Consulting with a pedestrian accident attorney can help you a lot.
Who Caused Your Accident, and Do You Have Clear Evidence of Liability?
Your pedestrian accident claim may depend heavily on who caused your accident and how much effort it takes to establish liability. In some cases, you will have clear evidence of exactly who caused your accident: for example, you may have witness testimony that clearly states that the driver involved in the accident chose to go through an intersection without stopping despite a clear red light or that the driver chose to speed down the road, resulting in your accident. In other cases, however, the accident may prove much more complicated and require a much deeper investigation.
Both the insurance company that covers the driver that caused your pedestrian accident and your lawyer will need to take a careful look at all the factors that contributed to the accident to establish liability. The more detailed that investigation, the longer it may take to reach a resolution. The investigation process may include several key steps.
Talking to Witnesses
Ideally, lawyers and insurance companies want to talk to witnesses as soon after the accident as possible. As more time passes, witness memory may fade or grow less certain. However, getting a statement from any witnesses who saw the accident can take time.
Recreating the Accident
Having experts recreate the accident can help when the liable party does not admit to causing the accident, and you need help recreating the conditions that led to the accident. However, that recreation process takes time. Experts may need to carefully examine the accident scene, the damage to the driver’s vehicle, and even your injuries to better understand what likely led to the accident. That expert recreation may extend the time needed to settle your claim.
What Injuries Did You Sustain in the Accident, and What Does Your Recovery Timeline Look Like?
Your injuries can significantly impact the time it takes to reach a settlement in your pedestrian accident claim. First and foremost, severe injuries often mean equally high medical bills. You may need to ask for substantial compensation for those injuries if you have high medical bills. On the other hand, the insurance company may want to reduce the compensation it has to pay out as much as possible, which means that it may fight harder to reduce the compensation you can recover in the case of pedestrian accidents with severe injuries.
Your attorney may also advise you to wait until you have completed part of the recovery process before moving forward with your injury claim. Depending on your injuries, that might mean waiting six months or more before you move forward with a pedestrian accident claim. Your attorney wants to ensure that you receive compensation for all the losses associated with your injuries, including the ones that your doctor cannot predict. You can better account for all the potential costs by waiting to file your injury claim.
Better Understand Your Likely Recovery
For some people, recovery after severe injuries may look different than it does for others. Doctors might not accurately predict your recovery until six months or more after the initial accident.
Take a traumatic brain injury, for example. Some people who suffer brain injuries may recover within a few weeks of the accident. In other cases, patients with even minor traumatic brain injury may have symptoms that linger for more than a year after the initial accident. The same holds true in spinal cord injuries, particularly incomplete spinal cord injuries: your doctor may not know how much mobility you will regain until months after your initial injury.
Your long-term limitations and any permanent disability you may suffer after a pedestrian accident can significantly impact the compensation you can recover for those injuries. For example, you will generally have the right to include lost earning potential if your injuries permanently prevent you from working in your field.
However, you may not realize, in the early days after your accident, that you will not recover enough to go back to work eventually. Likewise, you may not realize that your injuries will permanently prevent you from engaging in the activities that you love or that they may permanently impact your relationship with friends and loved ones.
Lay out a Better Look at Your Medical Costs (Including Future Anticipated Medical Costs)
In the early days after a serious pedestrian accident, your doctors may not know what your progression through recovery will look like or what medical procedures you will need. Some patients simply heal better or faster than others and may require fewer procedures to get there. Others may have setbacks and complications that lead to increased medical expenses.
For example, if you unexpectedly need another surgery to help you recover from your accident, you may have thousands of dollars in additional medical expenses. If you need physical or occupational therapy to aid your recovery, you may not know how many sessions you will likely need for months after the initial incident.
Immediately after your pedestrian accident, your doctors may also have difficulty predicting what medical expenses you may face. Some injuries may not immediately come to light. In other cases, your doctor may realize, weeks or months into your recovery, that you can expect additional treatment costs. As part of your injury claim, you may have the right to include those future anticipated medical expenses. If you do not know what those expenses will look like, however, you cannot include them as part of your pedestrian accident claim.
Understand the Impact on Your Income
Immediately after an accident, many people do not know how long they will ultimately have to spend out of work because of their injuries. You may not know whether your employer will make the modifications to get you back to work as soon as possible, whether that means allowing you to work remotely or adapting to your new needs.
Furthermore, you may not know how much time at work your body will support when you return. Some people find that, even when they return to work, they have to work limited shifts rather than spending their usual full shifts on the job. Others struggle to keep up with all the demands of their positions, which means they may take longer to get back on the job.
You may also have to miss time at work for any follow-up procedures related to your accident. Sometimes, that lost time can prove unpredictable until well into your recovery.
How Much Do You Have to Negotiate to Get a Reasonable Settlement Offer?
Sometimes, after a pedestrian accident, the insurance company may start with a settlement offer that reasonably reflects the damages you sustained because of the accident. The insurance company might start with a lower offer than you really deserve, but with a few rounds of negotiation, you may come to a reasonable settlement agreement.
In other cases, you and the insurance company may start very far apart on what you consider a reasonable settlement offer. The first offer you get from the insurance company might fall well below the compensation you really deserve for your injuries, and the insurance company might refuse to budge. As a result, it may take you much longer to come to a reasonable settlement arrangement.
The negotiation process may also drag on to the point that you and your attorney acknowledge that the insurance company will likely not offer you a compensation package that fits your needs. You may, at that point, proceed toward court for your claim. Before your court date, you will likely schedule an appointment for mediation: a last chance to come to an agreement. You will need to wait for an opportunity to talk to a mediator, which can take time, especially if court appointments get backed up.
If you cannot reach an agreement through mediation, you may need to take your claim to court. Waiting for a court date can take even longer. Furthermore, you will have to lay out all the evidence related to your accident for the court, then wait for the court to assign a resolution. That extended time to come to an agreement can mean a much longer wait for the compensation you deserve.
You should not settle for a settlement that does not fit your financial needs. Instead, work with your attorney to determine a reasonable timeline.
Do You Have an Attorney on Your Side?
If you try to handle a pedestrian accident claim on your own, the insurance company may try to delay or drag out the process. The longer the insurance company waits to pay, the longer it can keep those funds to itself.
Furthermore, the insurance company may not want to rush through the claim process or may get backed up and allow your claim to fall through the cracks. You may have to struggle just to get the insurance company to call you back or get someone on the phone. The insurance company may even use delaying tactics to convince you to accept a low settlement offer just so that you can get some sort of compensation in hand.
With an attorney on your side, on the other hand, you can substantially streamline the claim process, making it easier for you to get that compensation in hand. An attorney can offer a number of advantages.
First, an attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to establish your right to compensation when filing your claim. The lawyer can guide you to ensure that you have all the correct medical records and that you have put together a complete list of the bills you may have faced after the accident. Then, when you submit the claim, the insurance company will not have a call to come back to you for more information.
An attorney can also increase the odds that you will get a call back from the insurance company on time. Often, just having a lawyer on your side will heavily encourage the insurance company to take you more seriously. Finally, an attorney can also help cut through the red tape and make it easier for you to clearly show all the areas in which you deserve compensation.
If you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident, do not wait to get in touch with an attorney, especially if you want to settle your claim as quickly as possible. Instead, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to better understand how you can best move forward with your claim, including how you can streamline the claim and reach a resolution sooner.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.