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Can You Go to Jail for Accidentally Hitting Someone With Your Car?

Many motorists in the US are involved in motor vehicle accidents every year. While most are vehicle to vehicle accidents, the number of those involved in car-pedestrian accidents is troubling. Driving is a huge responsibility that should be done carefully to avoid causing injury or death to pedestrians. If you hit someone, the consequences can be anything from paying a fine, facing criminal charges, to even losing your license. Below are some possible legal consequences you should expect if you hit a pedestrian.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

Emergency responders helping pedestrian who someone accidentally hit with their car.
Image via Flickr by Jasper Nance

If you accidentally hit a pedestrian with your car, and it is determined that you were at fault, you might need to compensate the injured party. Compensation, in this case, will be made in regard to medical bills incurred by the pedestrian, loss of employment or wages due to the accident, and pain and suffering, both physical and emotional, among other claims. Most personal injury claims are settled out of court and payments resolved by the driver’s insurance company. If you were not committing a criminal offense at the time of the accident, then you might not be jailed.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

It’s estimated that pedestrian deaths in the US account for 10% of all traffic offenses. Losing a loved one through a car accident can be a traumatic experience. If you are at fault for causing death to a pedestrian by a traffic accident, a civil lawsuit can be filed against you by the surviving members of the person who died as a result of the accident. This claim attempts to establish your negligence as the driver of the ill-fated vehicle and seeks to compensate the surviving relatives for losses incurred due to the accident and eventual death of the pedestrian.

Criminal Charges of Hit and Run

If you happen to hit a pedestrian by mistake, stop, and follow the required protocol, you might get a lenient sentence. In most cases, you would just face a personal injury lawsuit. On the other hand, should you choose to flee the scene, you might end up serving a jail term if the accident was caused by negligence on your part. Leaving an injured person after an accident shows a total disregard for life and such actions are treated harshly.

Criminal Charges of Driving Under Influence

Hitting and injuring a pedestrian while the driver is drunk or under the influence of other drugs is regarded as an aggravating circumstance and can lead to arrest and conviction. If you knock down and injure a pedestrian, you can expect heavy fines or a jail term, and your license may be suspended for a longer time.

Criminal Charges of Involuntary/Vehicular Manslaughter

Some auto-pedestrian accidents lead to the death of the pedestrian. Should it be determined that you were at fault, you might face criminal charges. However, it must be proven beyond any doubt that you were driving recklessly. For instance, if you ran over a stop sign or were driving while intoxicated, this could be considered reckless behavior that is beyond negligence. Therefore, you might be charged with vehicular manslaughter and possibly serve a jail term. If it is proven that the death was indeed a result of a genuine accident, it is highly unlikely that you will face criminal charges.

Jaywalking Accidents

Sometimes pedestrians decide to cross the road at non-designated spots, hence throwing you off balance, and you might end up hitting them. If the pedestrian was at fault, then you will not be liable to compensate the injured party for damages. Nevertheless, if the pedestrian was reckless, and caused you to veer off the road, they would have to compensate you for the injuries you sustain and damage to your vehicle. The pedestrian would need to prove the driver’s negligence to apply for a personal injury claim.

What to Do After the Accident

Striking a pedestrian is a scary experience that can confuse you and cause you to do things that might result in jail time. It’s important to remain as calm as possible after the accident to ensure the best outcome for you and the injured person. To that effect, there are essential steps to take after the accident, which include calling for medical help and calling the police. For example, if you fail to call for medical assistance or move an unconscious person you’ve just hit and the person dies, you might face grave criminal charges.

Car Accidents Without Insurance

Driving while uninsured is illegal in most US states. Often, it is a requirement for drivers to show their financial responsibility if they were to cause an accident. The consequences are even direr if you hit and injure a person or kill them, yet you don’t have insurance coverage. Depending on the state, you could be fined, have your license revoked, or serve a jail term. Additionally, if you were to hit someone and fail to pay the fine imposed by the state, you will end up in jail.

Comparative Negligence

At times, the driver may not solely be at fault when an accident occurs. This situation implies that the pedestrian was, at the time of the accident, acting unsafely. As the driver, you also may have been reckless when the accident happened. For instance, if the pedestrian jumped from the sidewalk into the street while paperwritings.com you were adjusting your radio, you will both be held liable, and you will cost-share the damages according to each one’s degree of fault. You might, therefore, not end up in jail.

Final Word on Pedestrian Accidents

Driving can be a challenging experience that can be stressful if you are not careful. It is important to remember that while on the road, you have the obligation of ensuring safety for everyone on the road. Actions have consequences, and if you cause an accident, the repercussions can cost you your precious time, money, and even your freedom. It is important to know your rights and that of the pedestrian. If you ever hit a pedestrian and require help, don’t fail to contact us. Our team of experts will offer instant help.
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