Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You vs. A Two-Ton Death Machine: What To Do If You Get Hit By A Car While Walking

You’re walking down the sidewalk on the right side of the road and get to an intersection. You see the Don’t Walk sign is on so you pull out your phone and check to see if you’ve gotten any messages. You put up your phone and look up to see the sign change to Walk and step out into the intersection. Unfortunately, you didn’t see the car to your left who has decided to turn right on red, and everything happens really quickly, and you get hit. 

What do you do?

Unfortunately, this and many variants of this situation occur daily in our country, and every 3 days in Oklahoma City on average. And most of the time they end in injury. In fact, out of the more than 1,400 pedestrian collisions that have occurred in OKC since 2003, less accidents have resulted in no injuries than have resulted in a pedestrian fatality.

If you were in the situation described above it would be less likely that you would suffer serious injury as a car turning right on red is probably traveling relatively slowly. Speed is the real killer, which is why nearly 95% of all pedestrian collision fatalities occur on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or greater.

So what do you do in this situation? I’m no lawyer, but I’ll do my best to offer advice based on what I’ve learned.

  • If you see that you’re about to be hit by a car and there’s no chance of getting out of the way, try to jump up so that you land on the hood; it’s much better to go over a car than under a car.
  • First thing is first; seek immediate medical attention, as internal injuries may not manifest themselves for some time.
  • Call the police as well to get them onto the scene to file a report. If there are witnesses, have them speak with the police. If the driver leaves the scene, witnesses will be your best chance at justice.
  • Exchange insurance information with the driver. If you have car insurance, use it. If not, then health insurance. If you are uninsured, things are going to be more difficult if any of the liability rests upon you.
  • Do NOT discuss the accident with anyone except the police. And when you do, do not assign blame or make any accusations; the investigation will take care of this.
  • If you plan to make a claim on the driver’s insurance, speak with an attorney to ensure that you do not somehow get cheated out of what is due to you.
  • Take pictures if possible of injuries, the scene, and any damage that occurs to belongings.
Who is at fault will be determined by a variety of measures, so it’s best if you make sure that you have followed all of the laws that govern pedestrianism. In Oklahoma City the laws surrounding crossing at intersections are quite outdated, and could lead to you being liable for being hit even if you think that you’ve followed all of the rules:

§ 32-66. Pedestrian control signals.
Special pedestrian control signals exhibiting the words "walk," "wait" or "don't walk" shall regulate pedestrian movement as follows:

(1) "Walk." Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right-of-way by the drivers of all vehicles.

(2) "Wait" or "don't walk." No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his crossing on the "walk" signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone while the "wait" signal is showing.

The signals downtown give you 6 seconds of “Walk” and then around 20 seconds of flashing “Don’t Walk”, and this ordinance seems to say that if you were to walk out into the intersection after 7 seconds of the “Walk” sign coming on, you would then be held liable for the collision as you are not allowed to start to cross a roadway, even though 20 seconds is more than enough time to cross a 4-lane street. I’ve timed myself, and I usually get a little over half-way across the street before the “Don’t Walk” signal begins flashing. Other signals in the city have countdowns, which are much better.

Don’t jaywalk. Well, do it if there’s no chance of you being hit and you’re paying attention, but as a rule – Don’t jaywalk. If you’re hit while jaywalking, you’re likely to incur the majority of the liability for your injuries.

Don’t wear headphones. You could be accused of negligence for not being aware of your surroundings being distracted by your music device/phone.

Don’t cut corners on crosswalks. If you step out of the designated crosswalk area, you could bear liability for not following the rules.

Don’t risk it. If you have the right-of-way and a vehicle doesn’t look like it is going to yield to you, don’t risk being hit. “I had the right-of-way” would make a great inscription on a tombstone.

If you follow all the rules for being a pedestrian, in case you do get hit someday, you shouldn’t be liable for covering the costs of injury, suffering, and property damage.

Be safe out there.


  1. Reading the list from top to finish, I wouldn't know that you're not a lawyer! These are definitely sound advice for the common people. I just wish more individuals get to see this post of yours. I'm sure that it would help a lot of them! Stay safe and healthy!

    Jamie @ Butler & Company

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I see pedestrians take unnecessary risks all the time, and I doubt they know the laws that will likely hold them accountable for any damages. I looked up your firm, and was surprised to see you're located in Vancouver. My wife and I have Vancouver in our mind for our future. Know any planning firms looking for a young and hard-working employee?? Just kidding, but seriously, Vancouver looks amazing.

  2. Do you have any sources for your statistics? "every 3 days in Oklahoma City on average. And most of the time they end in injury" etc.
    This post was very interesting and I would like to use it in a student paper if I could.

    1. I got my data from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Safe-T database, which came in the form of GIS data. Shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to talk about your project, and I may be able to facilitate getting you the data. As far as sources go, I've interpreted that data for a report and could send that to you for you to use as source material. JohnMTankard@gmail.com

    2. http://ok.gov/ohso/Data/Crash_Data_and_Statistics/index.html

      This link has some good data you could work with, but it's not spatially located like the data I used.

  3. I was crossing the street and I checked both ways four times(since there is no crosswalk at the light) and didn't see anyone coming from any direction. I didn't spot the car until it was too late and I was hit in the leg. If I had my phone playing music, am I liable if I did not have headphones in my ear? The phone was zipped up in my jacket pocket if that helps.

    1. There are a lot of different things that could affect the situation. If it was a light and you got hit by a car traveling perpendicular to your crossing, that would imply that they either ran the red light or had the right of way. Were there any witnesses other than you and the driver? Did you get the driver's license plate number, or did they stop to help you?

      I don't think having music playing on your phone without your headphones in would be a cause of concern b/c I assume you would have heard the car coming since phone speakers are not very loud.

      These are just my impressions, but I'd recommend consulting an attorney, and they can help you determine what the best course of action is.

      Good luck, and sorry about your accident!

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  5. This is really a good reminder, John. Most of us usually tend to forget to follow pedestrian rules, especially when we are already on the road and seem impatient to cross. It pays to be careful on the road to prevent any difficulties. If there’s a car running even though the “walk” sign is blinking, it’s best to refrain from walking and let the car pass. But if the situation seems unavoidable, it also helps to seek advice from the lawyer and discuss about the case you were in.

    Kim E. Hunter