What Happens If I Hit a Pedestrian?

If you hit a pedestrian with your car, don’t panic. Here are steps you can take to help the pedestrian and defend yourself against a potential lawsuit.

By | Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney

Pedestrian accidents are more common than you might think. In 2019, over 6,000 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 76,000 pedestrians were injured nationwide.

If you're a driver involved in a car accident with a pedestrian, you're probably worried about the pedestrian and yourself. You could be sued in civil court or even criminally prosecuted for your role in the accident. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself.

Potential Liability for Hitting A Pedestrian

You may or may not be at fault for the collision with the pedestrian. If you are at fault, you're legally responsible (liable) for the accident and you (or your auto insurer) will likely have to pay for the pedestrian's accident-related losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident or fled the scene of the accident, you could also face criminal charges and go to jail or prison if you're convicted.

What to Do (and Not Do) If You Hit a Pedestrian

  • DO stop your car. If you hit someone, you must stop. It's a crime to leave the scene of an accident without providing assistance and exchanging contact and insurance information with others involved in the accident. (Learn more about hit and run accidents.)
  • DO get out of your car and check for injuries. If you can do so safely, put on your hazard lights and check on the pedestrian.
  • DO give the pedestrian aid. Give the pedestrian whatever aid you can safely give and call 911.
  • DO call the police. You should also call the police so that an officer can write a report about the accident. Calling the police, even if the pedestrian walks off or refuses to exchange information with you, will also shield you from an accusation that you fled the scene.
  • DON'T leave the scene of the accident. You must wait at the scene until you've exchanged information with the pedestrian and the police tell you it's okay for you to leave.
  • DON'T throw away or hide any evidence. Don't alter, destroy, or conceal evidence related to the accident. It's a violation of federal and state law to tamper with evidence.
  • DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency responders. Don't get in the way of professionals who are trying to help an injured pedestrian or investigate the accident. Interfering with the authorities will only make you look bad and could make the pedestrian's injuries worse.
  • DO exchange information. Exchange contact and insurance information with everyone involved in the accident. Be sure to also get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who may have seen what happened or have access to video footage of the accident.
  • DO take photographs. If it's safe and appropriate, take pictures of all property damage and injuries caused by the accident. Also take pictures of the scene, including all crosswalks and traffic signs in the area. Take as many pictures as you can, from as many different angles as you can. Get tips on taking accident scene photos.
  • DO report the accident to your insurance company. Contact your car insurance company as soon as you can. Many insurance policies require you to report accidents within 30 days or so.
  • DON'T discuss the accident with anyone. At the accident scene, be careful what you say. Your words can be used against you later. Even an apology might be interpreted as an admission of fault or guilt.
  • DO contact an attorney. Contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as you can. An attorney will guide you through the legal process. Talk to a lawyer before you talk to any insurance adjusters, investigators, or the pedestrian's lawyer.
  • DON'T agree to a settlement without talking to a lawyer. A lawyer can help you figure out whether you're liable for an accident and what a fair settlement for the accident might be. Talk to a car accident lawyer before you admit fault or sign paperwork.

What Is the Average Payout for Pedestrians Hit by a Car?

No two pedestrian-car accidents are exactly alike, so it's impossible to say how much an average pedestrian-car accident claim is worth. But here are some of the factors that adjusters and lawyers use to figure out the value of a claim.

The Pedestrian's Injuries

Unsurprisingly, the nature and extent of the pedestrian's injuries play a huge role in the value of a pedestrian-car insurance settlement or court award. The more serious the pedestrian's injuries, the higher the value of the claim. "Seriousness" is typically measured by many factors, including:

  • the type of medical care the pedestrian requires
  • the length of treatment, and
  • the permanence of the pedestrian's injuries.

Adjusters also consider the body part affected by the accident. A pedestrian who experiences a brain or eye injury is likely to get more money than a pedestrian who injures a non-dominant arm, for example.

The Fault Picture

Most people assume that when a driver hits a pedestrian, the driver is automatically at fault for the accident, but that's not always the case. Pedestrians, like drivers, are required to obey traffic laws. Pedestrians who don't follow the rules of the road can be entirely or partially to blame for accidents too.

For example, let's say you're driving down a road in your neighborhood. You're following the speed limit and paying close attention to the road when a jaywalking pedestrian darts out in front of you. You don't have time to stop or swerve before you hit the pedestrian. In that situation, you might not owe the pedestrian anything. If the pedestrian is 100% responsible for the accident, the pedestrian might end up owing you if you're injured or your car is damaged in the accident.

A more common scenario goes something like this: You're driving down a road in your neighborhood. You're going over the speed limit when a jaywalking pedestrian darts out in front of you and you collide. You and the pedestrian are both to blame for the accident. The higher the pedestrian's share of the fault in causing the accident, the smaller the pedestrian's settlement or court award is likely to be.

Insurance Coverage

Nearly all states require drivers and car owners to have liability insurance to pay for injuries and property damage they cause on the road. But car insurance policies only pay up to the policy limits.

Pedestrians who are hit by cars can be seriously injured, disabled, or even killed. If a pedestrian's accident-related losses (called damages) exceed your policy limits, the pedestrian can file a civil lawsuit against you and come after your cash and assets.

Will the Pedestrian Sue Me?

The majority of personal injury claims, including car accident claims, are settled through the insurance claim process. If you don't have enough insurance coverage or your insurer refuses to make a fair settlement offer, the pedestrian might file a car accident lawsuit against you.

Even after a lawsuit is filed, the case can (and likely will) settle before trial. Trials are time-consuming, expensive, and risky for both parties. If you do end up in court, here's what you can expect when a car accident case goes to trial.

Talk to a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

If you hit a pedestrian with your car, you're probably feeling overwhelmed with worry about the pedestrian and your own legal predicament. Before you make any decisions or talk to anyone about the accident, talk to a lawyer.

Pedestrian-car accidents are more likely to involve serious injuries than typical car accidents. A lawyer can take some of the stress out of the insurance claim process and defend you in court if necessary.

Learn more about how a car accident lawyer can help you. You can get some tips on hiring a lawyer or connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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