If you are involved in a car accident with a pedestrian, there are many things you need to keep in mind so as not to make matters worse. In addition, you may be exposed to both civil and criminal liability, even if there is no visible injury. This article will discuss what you should do if you hit a pedestrian.
Potential Liability for Hitting A Pedestrian
If you hit a pedestrian, you may face both civil and criminal liability.
Civil Liability. Civil liability refers to the right of another person to sue you personally for the damages or injuries they sustain as a result of the accident. Potential civil liability extends to any injuries suffered, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and most other negative effects of the accident.
Criminal Liability. Criminal liability refers to the right of the state to "prosecute" you for injuries that you cause to the state by breaking a law, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or hit and run. Criminal liability can result in hefty fines, probation, imprisonment, and loss of your driver's license.
What to Do (and Not Do) If You Hit a Pedestrian
- DO stop your car. If you hit someone, you must stop. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident where there is an injury.
- DO get out of your car and check for injuries. If you can do so safely, put your emergency blinkers on and investigate the accident.
- DO give the pedestrian aid. Check the pedestrian for injuries. If he or she needs CPR or any other kind of aid that you can give, do so. Call 911.
- DO call the police. You should contact the police so that they can take statements from all the parties involved, as well as speak to any witnesses. You should contact the police even if the pedestrian walks off or refuses to exchange information because you do not want to be later accused of engaging in a hit and run.
- DON'T leave the scene of the accident. You must wait at the scene until you have exchanged information with the other party or the police or other medical units allow you to leave.
- DON'T throw away or hide any evidence. Anything that may be relevant to the accident or injury must be preserved.
- DO cooperate with all law enforcement and emergency responders. Do not get in their way. Doing so can only make matters worse by either aggravating any injuries or by making you look bad.
- DO exchange information with everyone involved in the accident. Write down the name, phone number, and address of all people involved. If there is a witness, be sure to get his or her contact information as well in the event that he or she leaves before the police arrive, or the police officer does not include the information in his or her report.
- DO take photographs. Take pictures of any damage caused by the accident, as well as any injuries, if possible. Also be sure to take pictures of the surrounding 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 automobile insurance company as soon as you can. Most insurance policies require you to report any incidents within 30 days.
- DON'T discuss the accident with anyone. At the accident scene, be careful what you say. And after the accident, do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone, including the other party's attorney and any insurance company representative (including your own!). Do not apologize to the other party because this might be construed as evidence of fault. Before you speak with an insurance company representative, either yours or that of the other party, get your attorney's authorization. If you have an attorney, never speak to the other party's attorney. Inform the opposing attorney that you have retained counsel and provide his or her information.
- DO contact an attorney. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you can. An experienced attorney will help guide you through the process.
- DON'T agree to a settlement without having discussed the terms with your attorney. The complete assessment of liability and the scope of injuries will not be known to you immediately. Wait to discuss your case with an attorney who is experienced with personal injury cases.