Every year, tens of thousands of pedestrians suffer serious injuries due to a collision with a car. In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 4,432 pedestrians died in these accidents. If you hit a pedestrian with your car, you won't just have to deal with the stress of the immediate aftermath. You may also need to cope with a complex and time-consuming legal case. Learn more about the issues that drivers face in these accidents, and understand what may happen if your car injures a pedestrian.
Some pedestrians are more likely to cause road accidents than others. Older adults are particularly vulnerable, and people over the age of 65 account for 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths and 9 percent of all injuries. Research shows most of these older pedestrians suffer injuries when they fall over, particularly at the curb.
Children are also at risk when on or around roads. Around 20 percent of children killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians at the time of the incident. Alcohol involvement is also a common factor. Nearly half of all crashes involving pedestrian fatalities show the driver or the pedestrian were under the influence of alcohol.
Who the pedestrian can make an insurance claim against
When a car hits a pedestrian, the law generally says the driver is at fault. Traffic laws mean drivers must stay vigilant to their surroundings and should anticipate potential hazards, including pedestrians. As such, if your car hits a pedestrian, the law says you were not vigilant enough.
On this basis, if you live in a no-fault state, injured pedestrians will normally make a claim against your insurance company to cover the cost of medical expenses. If the accident occurred in a state where you don't have no-fault laws, the pedestrian's health insurer will generally pay for any medical expenses. If he or she doesn't have health insurance, the pedestrian will need to pay these costs him/herself.
In some cases, a pedestrian may make a claim against the local authority or municipality. This might occur if traffic lights failed or because the layout of the road was not safe. If he or she can prove that the road planning is poor, the pedestrian can show that the municipality created a safety hazard.
When the pedestrian is at fault
While the law generally favors pedestrians in these accidents, scenarios do exist where the driver is not at fault. For example, if a pedestrian runs out in front of you, or runs between two parked cars into your path, a court may rule that the pedestrian was negligent.
This is particularly important for a personal injury lawsuit. If your car accident attorney can prove the pedestrian was negligent, a court may decide that he or she is liable for any damage to your car. The pedestrian will also need to pay for any injuries that you or your passengers suffered because of the accident.
Some states work to a contributory negligence rule. If a court decides the plaintiff's actions contributed to the accident in any way, he or she is unable to recover anything from the defendant. Most states work according to comparative negligence rules, where liability matches the percentage of fault. An auto accident attorney in your state can help you understand how the law works where you live.
Other types of lawsuit
According to the nature of the accident, a car-pedestrian accident may result in more serious, criminal charges.
If you flee the scene of an accident with a pedestrian, you may face criminal charges, which could lead to a felony arrest and a prison sentence. The authorities may also take away your driving license, and the cost of car insurance in the future will increase significantly.
Drivers who were over the alcohol limit at the time of an accident will also face DUI charges. If the accident injures a pedestrian, the court will probably level the harshest penalties, including jail time and higher fines.
In some cases, drivers who hit and kill a pedestrian may face vehicular manslaughter charges. The prosecutor will need to show that you were more than ordinarily negligent. For example, if you significantly exceeded the speed limit and killed a pedestrian, the police may charge you with manslaughter. The family of the victim may also then file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the court can establish your negligence, you could face the cost of supporting the deceased's family.
Accidents involving pedestrians are distressingly common in the United States, and thousands of drivers face this unpleasant situation every year. If you have been involved in a car-pedestrian accident, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.