Car accidents involving pedestrians can be a traumatic event, often resulting in death or serious injury. Roughly 5,000 pedestrians are killed annually in traffic crashes, and nearly 129,000 are treated in emergency rooms every year for car accident-related injuries. For drivers that have hit a pedestrian with their car, both criminal and civil liability may follow.
What is the Potential Liability for Hitting a Pedestrian?
Any pedestrian who has been struck by a driver’s car is entitled to sue the driver for damages. Considering the likelihood of serious injury or death, awards for this type of accident can be high. Damages that may be included in a civil lawsuit liability claim include:
Not only can a driver be sued for damages, but he or she may also be prosecuted for a criminal offense. If the driver was breaking any law when the accident occurred, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving, or hit and run, they may face fines, suspension of their driver’s license, and incarceration.
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What Should I Do If I Hit a Pedestrian?
If you have been involved in a car accident with a pedestrian, it is important to stay calm and take the following steps:
- Stop your vehicle: Do not panic and leave the scene of the accident. If you do so, you will face severe consequences. Pull over safely, and stop your vehicle.
- Call for emergency medical help, and render aid: Put your emergency lights on, call 911, and help the person in any way you can. Be sure that both of you are out of the way of traffic and in a safe area. If there are witnesses, be sure they stay for a statement.
- Exchange information: Again, do not leave the scene of the accident. If the pedestrian is conscious and able, exchange pertinent information (names, phone numbers, and insurance providers) and give your statement to police.
- Photograph the scene: Take pictures of any damages and the surrounding area, as well as injuries.
- Do not admit fault: Do not admit or imply fault to anyone. This includes apologizing and saying, things like, “I’m sorry!” or “I didn’t see you!”.
- Contact an attorney: It is a very good idea to speak with an experienced lawyer who can advise you further. Civil and/or criminal liability is possible, so having a lawyer by your side during this difficult time is important.
- Report the incident to your insurance company: You will need to let your insurance company know what happened, usually within 30 days. Your attorney can guide you through the process.
How Can I Minimize the Risks of Hitting a Pedestrian?
With the privilege of driving comes the inherent risk of seriously injuring or killing yourself and others. Practicing safe driving skills every time you get behind the wheel is necessary to lower your likelihood of being involved in an accident. At times, pedestrians can be hard to see for drivers, especially in blind spots. Always be on the lookout for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people in wheelchairs, especially when approaching pedestrian walkways and crossings.
It’s not unheard-of for pedestrians to be jaywalking, or even intoxicated at the time of an accident. Regardless of whether they are following the law, as a driver, you are responsible for driving with care and attentiveness. A vehicle can be a deadly weapon, especially when up against a pedestrian. Stay alert, and drive safely.
Should I Contact an Attorney?
If you have been in a car accident involving a pedestrian, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights, and represent your best interests in court if criminal charges are brought against you. If the victim files a civil lawsuit, contact an attorney for further guidance.