Depending on the circumstances, automotive insurance companies may make a low settlement offer or refuse to pay on a claim altogether when their policyholder has struck a pedestrian. If you are in this type of situation now, it's important to understand the relevant laws that may help you obtain better compensation -- as well as the laws that may hurt your case. Regulations vary a great deal by state and even by municipality, but some of these factors may apply to you.
Examples of Factors Insurers Consider
Primarily, insurers seek to determine whether you were at fault, even though you were the one on foot.
A common situation involves a pedestrian crossing a street outside of a crosswalk, commonly known as jaywalking. However, some jurisdictions don't consider jaywalking an issue unless you darted into traffic.
Depending on state laws, some other factors that may assign fault include:
- crossing during a "don't walk" sign
- being intoxicated
- not paying attention while jaywalking, such as reading a text message while crossing the street
Comparative & Contributory Negligence
It's important to learn whether your state follows a comparative or a contributory negligence premise.
Comparative negligence means you can make a claim against the driver's insurer even if you were partially at fault (partially negligent). Some states allow you to make a claim even if you were more negligent than the driver was. Others only allow a claim if you were considered less than half at fault.
If you were somewhat at fault, you cannot collect the full amount you would receive if you were completely blameless. The amount you can receive is prorated according to the percentage of your fault.
The level of negligence is first decided by an insurance adjuster. If the case progresses to court, the level is determined by a judge or jury.
Determining the level of fault can be complicated. For instance, you may have been jaywalking in a jurisdiction that considers this to be illegal activity no matter what the circumstances. However, the driver may have been speeding or may have run a red light.
Contributory negligence means you are not justified in making a claim because you were partially at fault and contributed to the incident in some way.
Contact an Attorney
Accident attorneys, like the ones at Littman & Babiarz Law Office, usually provide free consultations. During this meeting, you will explain what happened, including reasons the insurer is not cooperating. The lawyer can tell you about regulations that apply in this case and determine whether you have a good reason to dispute what the insurer is offering. Then you can decide whether to proceed with hiring legal representation and pursuing a better financial outcome.