In 2021, 16% of all fatal traffic accidents in Utah involved a pedestrian, for 848 crashes. In those accidents, 46 pedestrians lost their lives and 800 sustained injuries. Utah ranks 35th of all states in the number of people on foot or in wheelchairs who died after being struck by a car in 2019.
However, if you are the person who sustains injuries or loses a loved one after getting hit by a vehicle, it doesn’t matter whether the state ranks highest or lowest. When a motorist’s negligence leads to injuries or fatalities for a pedestrian, the person the vehicle struck has a right to recover damages. A Siegfried and Jensen attorney is here to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Understanding Pedestrian vs. Motorist Responsibilities
Understanding the differences between pedestrian and motorist responsibilities is essential. Many people believe that drivers are always at fault when cars strike pedestrians. Legally, it isn’t as simple as that. Pedestrians have a legal duty to engage in safe and responsible behaviors on or around roads, just as motorists are accountable for their driving behaviors when around pedestrians.
Utah law defines a pedestrian as anyone on foot or in a wheelchair. When traveling near roadways, you must obey any traffic signal or sign that is put in place for pedestrians, such as the walk/don’t walk signals at intersections with traffic lights. The law also stipulates the following:
- You cannot jaywalk (crossing outside of a marked crosswalk when between two traffic-light-controlled intersections).
- Vehicles have the right-of-way when you cross outside of unmarked or marked crosswalks.
- You cannot dart out into traffic.
- You can only walk on the shoulder of the road if there is no sidewalk, and if there is no sidewalk and no shoulder, you must walk in the direction that faces traffic.
- If you have been drinking or using drugs, you must stick to the sidewalks.
If you did not meet any of these requirements when the vehicle struck you, it might reduce how much you are eligible to recover in a legal claim.
Drivers are not allowed to operate their cars within three feet of a pedestrian and can’t purposefully distract the pedestrian. Additionally, motorists are required to give pedestrians the right-of-way when pedestrians are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk on the vehicle side of the road.
Drivers must yield to pedestrians in adjacent crosswalks at stop and yield signs. A driver can’t pass another vehicle when that driver is stopped for a pedestrian. Drivers also have to try to avoid hitting a pedestrian in all circumstances.
Filing an Insurance Claim
After seeking medical attention, the first thought when you have an accident that results in injuries is usually about filing a claim with the insurance company, but where do you file if you are a pedestrian who has been hit by a car? There are a couple of possibilities.
Utah No-Fault Insurance Coverage
This state is a no-fault accident insurance state. Utah laws stipulate that every driver carry personal injury protection on the auto insurance policy. When motorists get into an accident, they file with their own insurer, regardless of who caused the accident.
If you have PIP coverage, it may pay for medical expenses and — depending on your policy — lost wages even when you are not the driver. Passengers who sustain injuries in an auto accident can file with their own insurance companies. Likewise, bicyclists and pedestrians can do the same.
Before you file with your insurance company, you may want to talk to a pedestrian accident lawyer. You may have more options than you realize, and an attorney can help you learn what they are.
Motorist Liability Coverage
If a car hits you while you are on the road, in a parking lot or on the sidewalk, you can also file with the driver’s insurance company. Utah law requires motorists to carry liability insurance to cover damages when they are at fault in a car accident.
They must have at least $25,000 for bodily injuries to one person and a minimum of $65,000 for physical injuries for one accident. However, your injuries and other damages may amount to more than the motorist’s policy limits. Additionally, insurance companies are usually reluctant to offer a settlement that actually covers your losses, even if the accident was clearly their customer’s fault.
Filing a Utah Personal Injury Legal Claim
You may have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit. While we know that the idea of filing a claim can be intimidating, it may be the only way to recover a fair settlement. Depending on injury severity, you may be entitled to more than what insurance pays for. To collect compensation, you must prove the driver’s negligence was responsible for the accident that caused your injuries. State law also considers your responsibility for the accident in case determinations.
Personal Injury Compensation
Insurance policies only compensate for a few damages related to injuries from an auto and pedestrian accident. They only cover economic losses, meaning losses you can directly calculate. PIP and liability coverages pay for medical expenses, but if your injuries are severe, the payout may not be enough to pay for all your accrued costs, let alone future medical fees. Insurance also only (sometimes) pays for a portion of lost wages.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you can pursue compensation for all economic losses and non-economic damages. The law in Utah allows for the potential to recover the following:
- Current and projected medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- The cost of transportation to and from appointments
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
In some cases, punitive damages are allowed. A severe pedestrian accident can alter your life. Though money can’t fix everything, a lawsuit may alleviate some of the burdens associated with your recovery and fill in income gaps should you lose the ability to work to the same extent you did before the accident.
Proof of Negligence
To win a settlement, you must prove the motorist’s negligent actions or inactions caused your injuries. It may seem obvious to you that the driver was at fault, but you must have the evidence to back up your claim. Proof of negligence involves four steps:
- Proving duty of care: You must establish that the driver owed you a duty of care. Generally, it is a given that drivers are responsible for looking out for the safety of other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Establishing a breach of duty: This step is where it sometimes starts to get tricky. You need to present evidence demonstrating that the motorist failed in their duty of care. If a pedestrian runs out between two parked cars into traffic, the individual may find it harder to prove the driver was not fulfilling a responsibility to you.
- Showing causation: If you can establish negligence, you need to show that the driver’s negligent behavior led to the car hitting you.
- Demonstrating harm: Finally, you must demonstrate that getting hit is what caused your injuries and that these injuries are severe enough to justify the damages you seek.
As the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to prove the driver was negligent. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” holds with civil and criminal claims.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Under Utah’s judicial code, your role in the accident determines how much of a damage award you are allowed to collect. Even if you can prove that the driver was negligent, if you were also partially at fault, it impacts the outcome. You can be reasonably certain that the defendant’s legal representatives will do their best to place blame for the accident on you.
The state follows a modified comparative negligence rule. If you are more than 50% at fault, you forfeit the entire amount of compensation awarded. Anything less than or equal to 50% still allows you to receive payment, but how much depends on your percentage of fault. You receive the full settlement minus a rate equal to your liability.
Statute of Limitations
You don’t want to put off filing for too long. You may find that the insurance company starts to drag its feet, or they may try to push you into accepting a low-ball, quick settlement. Neither of these actions is in your best interest. If you accept their offer, it likely won’t be enough to cover all your losses, leaving you footing the bill for additional expenses.
If you let them drag out negotiations for too long, you may miss the window to file a legal claim. Every state sets a statute of limitations for criminal and civil proceedings. In Utah, the statute of limitations for a traffic accident personal injury lawsuit is four years.
Hiring a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer
At Siegfried and Jensen, we have been helping clients obtain fair compensation for more than 30 years. We know the law and understand how insurance companies work. Let us help you with your pedestrian accident claim. We take care of the investigations, paperwork, communications and negotiations, and we won’t hesitate to go to court to fight for you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Finding An Experienced Utah Accident Attorney Is Easy
When you team up with us, you can expect the best:
- We’ll answer your questions and address your concerns throughout the entire process.
- We’ll help you get what you need to recover your old life or adapt to a new one.
- We’ll pull together the information needed to build your case, including medical records, police reports, insurance policies, expert testimony, etc.
- We’ll make sure everyone plays by the rules and treats you fairly.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident, contact Siegfried and Jensen today for a free, no-pressure consultation or for more information.