What to do if you get hit by a car

As young children, we learn to be cautious around traffic. Safety rules are drilled into us: Always look both ways before crossing the street. Don't cross at an intersection without first making eye contact with the driver. Assume that drivers don't see you, even in crosswalks.

As adults, we lose some of those habits. We're busy, rushed and distracted. We might be checking our phones or listening to music. We forget about the risks that every pedestrian - adult, child or adolescent - must take seriously.

Of course, even when you're following all the rules as a pedestrian, accidents still happen - and with unfortunate regularity. Nearly 5,000 pedestrians are killed by cars each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The roads are teeming with inattentive, drunk and careless drivers.

So what should you do if you get struck by a car?

  1. Call 911. If you're not able to call for help, ask someone else to do so. Get the police involved even if you think you're okay. It could turn out that the driver was violating the law. Or, you may have suffered injuries that don't come to light until later.
  2. If you might be injured, stay where you are. Unless you're absolutely sure you can move to a safe location, such as the sidewalk, stay put. You might have suffered from back or neck injuries that can worsen if you attempt to move. If in doubt, wait until help arrives.
  3. Get the driver's contact and insurance information. If you were unfortunate enough to be involved in a hit-and-run, take a moment while your memory is fresh to write down any identifying information you can remember. Even the car's make, model or color may be helpful.
  4. Take photos at the scene. If you're able to do so, use your cellphone to take photos of the car and surrounding scene. These photos can serve as valuable evidence later on.
  5. Collect contact information from any witnesses. Do your best to discourage witnesses from slipping away before the police arrive. At minimum, ask for their contact information before they leave. These people can potentially make or break your case later on.

A final note: Don't make any statements that could be held against you later on, and certainly don't get pressured into making formal insurance statements without first consulting an attorney. Even if you think you may have been partly at fault - for example, by jaywalking or darting out in front of the car - it's best to avoid jumping to conclusions. The investigation may reveal a completely different picture than what you imagined. And you may very well be entitled to significant compensation for the harm you've suffered.

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