Question: Can an insurance company go after a pedestrian (or the family if the pedestrian died) who was hit by a car for damage done to the vehicle if the person walking was determined to be at fault?

Answer: Yes, if a pedestrian is negligent and causes an accident, laws typically allow the driver’s insurance company to try to recover any money it pays out for repairs.

Legally, the situation is no different than any other insurance claim where the fault lies with another person. The insurance company pays to repair a car, then turns to the at-fault party to get its money back. This happens many times every day. The other party may be another driver, a bicyclist — or a pedestrian.

Everyone who uses a road is responsible for using due care. Someone in a car must respect traffic laws, but so must someone walking or riding a bicycle.

Crosswalks are built for the safety of both pedestrians and motorists. Drivers know to be on the lookout for pedestrians at crosswalks, so they should proceed with caution around areas where someone could be in the roadway. They are exercising due care. A jaywalker is violating the law, though they are responsible for taking due care just as a driver is. A person who steps into the roadway in front of a car (especially at night if the person is in dark clothing) can be difficult or even impossible for a driver to avoid.

Recently an insurer did indeed send out a demand letter to the family of a pedestrian who died after being hit by a car, requesting payment of over $6,000 for the vehicle’s damages.  When questioned about the situation, the insurance company apologized, withdrew the demand and stated that it’s not its policy to pursue recovery of damages in cases such as this.

What if you hit someone?

Accidents between pedestrians and cars are regrettable and inevitable. Here is how the insurance side works:

If a person hits a pedestrian and has collision coverage, the driver can use that coverage to pay for the damages done to his vehicle (minus their deductible).  The insurance company will investigate and determine fault.  If another driver is at fault, then normally the insurer would subrogate with the at-fault party’s insurance company (or that person personally if not insured) to recover what it paid out on the claim.

Even though a pedestrian can be found liable, not all auto insurers will pursue the injured individual, or their estate if the pedestrian dies, to recover the money the company paid out. While an insurance company may have the right to go after a pedestrian, it’s not usually in their best interest to do so. They likely will spend a lot of time and money pursuing a person that cannot pay for damages and there may be bad publicity to follow.

If as a driver you hit a pedestrian and are at fault, your bodily injury liability insurance typically would pay for that person’s injuries or death (up to your limits). If the pedestrian is at fault and your insurance company chooses not to pursue him financially, then you would be unable to recover the deductible you paid.

If you are an insured driver but are hit by a car while a pedestrian, you may be able to look to your personal injury protection (PIP), medical payments coverage or even uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage of your car insurance policy if the driver’s insurance doesn’t cover your injuries.

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Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst/Insurance Expert

Penny has been working in the car insurance business for more than 10 years and has become an expert on procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has seen it all, and working with from its inception, she researches the routine and the bizarre with equal enthusiasm. She has three very active children and a husband with a zeal for quirky cars.