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What Should I Do if I Hit a Pedestrian with My Car?

At one point or another, all drivers find themselves running over something that shouldn’t be in the roadway. Debris from tractor trailers, branches from trees, and even wildlife are sometimes subject to the wheels of oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, though, even pedestrians are not immune to the devastating impact a vehicle can have on something standing in its path. Car accidents involving pedestrians are often traumatic, leaving victim seriously injured or even killed. Those who strike pedestrians may face criminal and civil consequences.

Initial Steps: I Hit a Pedestrian with My Car

If you have hit a pedestrian with your vehicle, it’s critical to take several important steps to prevent a bad situation from getting even worse. First, always stop the car to assist the person who was hit. Regardless of who was at fault, drivers owe it to those hurt by their vehicle to offer assistance. Call 911 and provide any help you can to the victim, including putting on your emergency flashers and moving out of the way of traffic. You should also call police to report the accident.

Depending on the state of the hit pedestrian, it’s important to exchange information with the victim right away. If they are alert and conscious, ask for their name, address, and phone number. While you are collecting important details, snap a few photos with your cell phone. Take pictures of any damage to your car, any injuries and of the surrounding area. If there are witnesses who saw what happened, ask to take a short video of them explaining what happened. Be sure to get their contact information, too. Once first responders arrive at the scene, cooperate with police as they conduct their investigation and never attempt to lie or cover up what happened, even if you don’t believe you are at fault.

Regardless of whether or not you are to blame for the wreck, never admit fault at the scene of the crash. It may be tempting to apologize for your role in the accident or to explain yourself, but resisting can ensure your rights are protected. Saying things like “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you!” might feel right in the moment, but phrases like that can do more harm than good and can cost you dearly.

Instead, save your explanations for your lawyer. After heading home from the scene of the accident, report the accident to your insurance company and then contact an attorney. They can advise you on what steps to take next to best protect yourself from a legal perspective.

Potential Liability when Hitting a Pedestrian by Car

Pedestrians who are struck by cars have the right to sue the driver who hit them. Because the likelihood for severe, catastrophic injuries and death is so high in such accidents, awards may be significant. Victims may choose to pursue compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. Even non-economic damages, like the post-traumatic stress disorder that develops because of an auto accident, can be factored into a pedestrian hit by car settlement.

Drivers involved in pedestrian accidents can also face criminal charges. Anyone breaking the law at the time of the accident can be ticketed and/or charged. Those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving recklessly or fleeing the scene of an accident face serious, long-reaching consequences for their actions. Some are fined, others see their licenses suspended, while others face jail time.

Of course, not every pedestrian accident is the fault of the driver. Jaywalkers who disregard traffic laws put their safety and the safety of those around them at risk. Some are intoxicated and make bad choices. Even with those factors accounted for, it’s important for motorists to always drive vigilantly, constantly watching for pedestrians, other vehicles and unexpected changes in the road. Though pedestrians can be hard to see at times, motorists owe it to themselves and others with whom they share the road to drive with care.

Seeking Legal Guidance After Striking a Pedestrian with a Car

Anyone involved in a pedestrian car wreck should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The consequences for striking a pedestrian with a vehicle are potentially significant. Depending upon your accident, you may need assistance negotiating a car accident settlement with the insurance company or defending against criminal charges. An experienced, knowledgeable lawyer can be a powerful ally. Even if you are unsure if you need representation, most initial consultations are free and can offer you valuable insight into what may lie ahead. Lawyers can also make recommendations as to what steps you’ll need to take next.

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About Graham Bersche, JD
A graduate of Trinity Law School in Southern California, Graham Bersche has experience as a paralegal, negotiator, and legal writer. He lives in Los Angeles and is passionate about helping people who’ve been injured in car accidents to understand the laws governing their situations and learn how to maximize their car accident settlements.