Car accidents involving a driver hitting a pedestrian often result in the death of the pedestrian, or very serious injury. A pedestrian is considered to be any person on foot. Some states even extend the definition of pedestrian to include people using skates, a skateboard, or a scooter. Drivers that have hit a pedestrian with their vehicle are typically subject to both criminal and civil liability.
Some statistics on pedestrian accidents in the United States include:
- Roughly 5,000 pedestrians are killed annually in traffic crashes;
- Nearly 129,000 pedestrians every year are treated in emergency rooms for car accident related injuries;
- Almost half of all crashes that result in the death of a pedestrian are caused by drivers who are impaired by alcohol;
- The elderly and children are the two most at risk demographics for pedestrian deaths caused by drivers. Those aged 65 or older account for 19% of passerby deaths, and 13% of passerby injuries; and
- One in five of children under the age of fifteen that were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
Many pedestrian accidents occur at night when there is reduced visibility, or other times when the driver is distracted. Some examples of distracted driving include changing the radio station, texting or talking on a cell phone, or putting on makeup.
Another example of pedestrian accidents is passerby dart out crashes. These happen when a passerby suddenly runs out into the street, typically from an unseen area such as a driveway. A very common example of this would be children exiting a school bus. Injuries resulting from this sort of accident are especially common if the bus fails to flash its stop sign in order to warn vehicles behind them that children are exiting the bus.
What Is the Potential Liability for Hitting a Pedestrian?
Drivers may be sued for damages through a civil lawsuit liability claim, brought by the injured pedestrian. Additionally, they may also be prosecuted for a criminal offense. If the driver was breaking any law when they struck the pedestrian with their vehicle, such as driving under the influence or driving recklessly, they may face additional fines, incarceration, and driver’s license suspension.
A “hit and run” is unfortunately common in cases involving pedestrian accidents. A hit and run is a specific crime in which a driver causes, or is involved in, a collision with another vehicle or pedestrian then fails to stop and provide required information. Committing a hit and run on top of hitting a pedestrian is a specific circumstance in which the driver would be prosecuted for a criminal offense in addition to facing a civil lawsuit.
Injured pedestrians will likely file a lawsuit based on the theory of negligence. In legal terms, negligence refers to failing to use reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the injury of another person. Negligence begins with a breach of duty of care. Duty of care is essentially the obligation all people have to protect another person from unreasonable risk of harm and injury. In regards to drivers, drivers have a specific duty of care to obey all traffic laws, drive with reasonable care, and actively avoid harming other drivers and pedestrians.
Damages awards for a pedestrian being hit by a driver typically include:
- Medical expenses, such as hospital bills, costs associated with physical therapy and rehab, and medication costs;
- Pain and suffering;
- Lost wages; and
- Emotional distress.
One of the foremost defenses against pedestrian accidents, especially ones that occur on the highway, is contributory negligence. This legal theory refers to a pedestrian’s own negligence which contributed to their own harm, and any resulting injuries. Pedestrians found to be contributorily negligent may have their damages award reduced, or may not receive a damages award at all.
What Should I Do If I Hit a Pedestrian? Do Pedestrians Have A Duty of Care?
It is absolutely imperative that you do not flee the scene if you have struck a pedestrian with your vehicle. This could lead to a hit and run charge in addition to hitting a pedestrian. Immediately stop your vehicle in a safe area and call 911. Render any aid you are capable of, and ask any witnesses to remain on the scene. If the pedestrian is conscious and able, exchange relevant information such as names, phone numbers, and insurance providers.
Once the police arrive, give your statement, but do not admit or imply fault to anyone. This includes apologizing and stating that you did not see the pedestrian. If you are allowed to, take photos of any damages, as well as the surrounding area and any injuries. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible, as they will be able to further advise you. Finally, report the incident to your insurance provider. You will generally have thirty days to do so, and your attorney can guide you through this process.
Unless stated in a state’s statutes, ordinances, or road signs, pedestrians may cross either directly or diagonally at any point in the road. If a pedestrian is found guilty of jaywalking, they could be found at least partially at fault for an accident involving a vehicle hitting them. Many laws have restricted pedestrian crossing to crosswalks, and only at right angles.
Should I Hire an Attorney for a Pedestrian Accident?
Hitting a pedestrian with your vehicle is a very serious matter. Therefore, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney will advise you of your rights, as well as any defenses available for your particular case. Finally, an attorney can represent you in any necessary court hearings.