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Pedestrians: Protect Yourself and Don’t Become A Target

As a pedestrian hit by car, you should know what your next steps need to be.

In 2016, 43 people pedestrians died in traffic related accidents in Toronto. That was the highest number recorded since 2005. A disproportionate number of those killed were over the age of 55, which begs the question as to whether our aging population is a factor in the increase in numbers, or is it that driving has simply become more hectic on Toronto streets. Either way, more needs to be done to curb the current trend.

Hamilton isn’t a whole lot better, posting the highest recorded pedestrian fatalities in 2015 for the area, which local law enforcement put down to a rise in driver impatience. Certainly, it’s a rare day, driving anywhere in the golden horseshoe, that a driver doesn’t make a rash move with their two tons of speeding metal, putting smaller vehicles, including cyclists and pedestrians at risk.

While a good number of pedestrians are very often on the right side of the law in these accidents, they’re on the wrong side of the laws of physics: You just can’t win against a pickup truck, but you can go a long way to helping yourself with a dose of prevention.

Know The Rules Of The Road—Written And Unwritten—To Avoid An Accident

Knowing the rules won’t prevent you from getting hit but you can literally and figuratively put your best foot forward in terms of avoiding an accident by following the rules!

  • While technically not illegal, jaywalking is a great way to get hit by a car. A driver may be looking out for you at an intersection or crossover. They’re not looking for you in the middle of the road. Is it really worth the few minutes you’ve saved to risk a serious accident?
  • Drivers in both directions are supposed to wait until you’re fully crossed at a crossover before proceeding, but many drivers are not aware of this more recent change to the Highway Traffic Act. Don’t assume that they know the law when you’re crossing. Be cautious.
  • Drivers are allowed to turn right on a red light unless otherwise marked, so don’t assume that just because your light is green, it’s safe to cross. Make eye contact with the driver so that you know that they have seen you. This is doubly important if that driver is sitting in a truck.
  • If you’re walking in a place that has no sidewalks—as is the case with smaller side streets or the shoulder of a sideroad in rural areas—walk facing traffic. Better to see what’s coming towards you so that you can react, than have a vehicle come up and hit you from behind.
  • Be aware of private laneways or driveways: both for vehicles coming out, or going in. In an attempt to rush in or out before traffic comes down the road, a driver might not notice you walking by.
  • Don’t ignore the countdown clocks at intersections. Legally, you’re not supposed to start crossing if the countdown has already begun—a task made difficult to manage since many intersections start counting down a mere moment after the light has turned green. The point of that is to allow cars who are turning right against a red, as mentioned in the previous point, can do so without worrying about pedestrians.
  • Lose the earphones. It’s vital to stay alert around vehicles of all sizes and having your earphones blasting or looking down at your phone while walking isn’t ideal. Call it ‘distracted walking’: it’s not against the law (yet) but it’s a major factor in many accidents.

What To Do If You Do Have An Accident

Whether you have car insurance or not, you’re covered in the case of an accident. Under no fault laws, as we have in Ontario, if you are a pedestrian and the victim of an accident, you have recourse to file a claim and deal with your injuries in a couple of ways, regardless of fault:

  1. Your own insurance company, if you have a car and valid insurance—for example, if you were hit in a hit and run and the other driver cannot be identified.
  2. The driver’s insurance company, assuming they have valid insurance.
  3. In Ontario, there is the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims (MVAC) fund, which is the last resort for those hit by an uninsured / unidentified motorist and who doesn’t have their own car insurance.

Regardless of who is going to pay, there are four things you need to do if you are a pedestrian and you’ve been hit by a car:

First, file a police report. At the scene, which is the most likely scenario, or at the hospital. Get a report number from the officer who takes your statement, a name, badge number and find out which division they belong to. Make sure that you get a copy in due course and that it includes the driver’s insurance information.

Secondly, see a doctor (obviously is you’re seriously injured, this will come first.) Your health is most important. Always see a doctor – it’s common sense.

Third, notify your insurance company or that of the driver within seven days of the accident. If the vehicle didn’t sustain damage, you can’t assume that the driver will do it. In fact, you can probably bet that they won’t.

Fourth, call a lawyer. Accident benefits forms for injury claims are not easy and if you’ve been seriously injured, you might be close to a threshold that would demand considering a lawsuit to ensure that you get what you’re entitled to. Don’t wait: a lawyer who is involved from the beginning can ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted on your claim.

Regardless of how you choose to move about the city, it behooves all of us to pay more attention to what we’re doing, stay calm, allow plenty of time for travelling and skip the distractions.

If you have any questions about how claims work or what your next steps should be, don’t hesitate to get in touch with my office.

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