The first impulse after hitting a pedestrian could be to flee the scene, especially if it feels like the pedestrian is at fault. Regardless of who is at fault, a hit-and-run is considered illegal. Running from the accident scene can lead to criminal charges. The hit-and-run driver’s license could also be revoked or suspended.
Criminal Penalties for a Hit-and-Run
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a hit-and-run driver can either be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. The criminal charges for a hit-and-run differ from state to state. A felony hit-and-run criminal charge is defined as leaving the accident scene after causing injury to a pedestrian.
The stakes are higher for any hit-and-run resulting in pedestrian injuries or death. The police tend to look deeper into these accidents, and their penalties can be severe. In some states, the penalties depend on the nature of the injuries sustained by the pedestrian. If the damages are minor, the hit-and-run driver could either be put on probation, go to jail for two and a half to five years, or face a 3-years license revocation.
Suppose the hit-and-run driver causes severe injuries to the pedestrian or death. In that case, the driver could spend between 3-12 years in prison or a 5-years license revocation for severe injuries and a 10-years license revocation for causing death. A misdemeanor hit-and-run accident does not involve severe injuries or fatalities.
This is not to say those misdemeanor offenses can’t have severe consequences; instead, they are less severe than when death or serious injuries occur. For a misdemeanor offense, the hit-and-run driver could end up going to jail for up to one year or paying a significant fine. In addition to the criminal charges, the driver also risks losing an automobile insurance policy since most insurance companies have a practice of canceling them if you are convicted of a hit-and-run.
Can A Pedestrian Sue a Hit-And-Run Driver?
An injured pedestrian has every right to file a lawsuit against a hit-and-run driver regardless of who was at fault during the accident. However, the process of finding a hit-and-run driver can be frustrating. If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is crucial as a pedestrian to note down simple facts such as the make and model of the car, any other features from the vehicle, and the license plate numbers.
If you see the hit-and-run driver, note down a short description of their physique, as it could help identify them. Ensure you speak to the witnesses present during the accident. Write the facts they share with you. Do not rely on your memory just because you were part of the accident. With time, these details might fade away.
Look around for any intersection cameras or surveillance footage from nearby businesses. These tools can help identify the hit-and-run driver quickly. Consider hiring a pedestrian accident lawyer to maximize your chances of recovering your losses. An efficient auto-pedestrian accident lawyer will;
- Protect your legal rights
Hit-and-run accidents involve complex insurance issues and legal procedures. Legal guidance ensures that your rights are protected while minimizing the risk of being taken advantage of by insurance companies. There are questionable tactics that insurance companies use to get information from you, which they could use against you. You might be asked to submit copies of your medical history.
You may assume that it is the legal procedure. The truth is the insurance company can blame your pre-existing medical condition for the injuries sustained during the hit-and-run accident. Hiring a lawyer minimizes your interaction with the insurance company since they handle the negotiations and any queries that might arise.
Legal guidance also advises against things that can affect your claim process with the insurance company. Insurance companies keep watching you until the process is over. Any wrong move during the claim process can significantly affect its outcome.
- Negotiate for the proper compensation
Only accept the first settlement offered by the insurance company with legal advice. It might look appealing, but are you sure that it is what your losses are worth? Insurance companies are in business. They aim to make more profit by ensuring that the premiums received are more significant than the claims made against the policy. Therefore, you should always treat a quick settlement as a reg flag.
The insurance company may threaten to walk away if you fail to accept their compensation offer. It should not scare you. One thing about insurance companies is they hate lawsuits. Your pedestrian accident lawyer can use this as a standpoint to negotiate for a significant settlement.
- Evaluate the worth of your claim
As a pedestrian who has gone through a hit-and-run accident, you may not know how to calculate the worth of your settlement. It is dangerous because you may end up accepting the first settlement offer by the insurance company. Never make the mistake of asking the insurance company what your claim is worth.
Chances are, they will only include some of your losses in their calculations. Instead, evaluate all your damages with your lawyer and present the total to the insurance company. Your lawyer will also help you to quantify your non-economic damages. Submitting the total value of your claim to the insurance company raises your chance of getting the compensation that is proportional to your losses.
- Provide legal representation
Legal representation in a hit-and-run accident is the best chance for pedestrians to recover losses. Auto-pedestrian accident lawyers are familiar with such lawsuits’ procedures and requirements.
They can prepare you for every step and advice you accordingly. Your lawyer’s experience is also helpful in identifying essential details from the evidence gathered from the accident scene to gain leverage during the trial.
Which Damages Can You Get Compensation For After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
The dangers of a driver hitting a pedestrian should never be discounted. Pedestrian accidents are more frequent than most of us may believe. According to a report by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Centre, about 6,205 pedestrian and motor vehicle accident deaths were reported in 2019. The number increased in 2020 with an estimate of 7,904 pedestrian fatalities, according to a report by The National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Just like hit-and-run vehicle incidents, pedestrian hit-and-run accidents can cause life-changing injuries and traumatic experiences. As a pedestrian, you can recover economic and non-economic damages after a hit-and-run. Examples of common economic damages that result in a settlement include;
- Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury is one of the most expensive injuries that a pedestrian can sustain after a hit-and-run. A bruised spinal cord can cause numbness, weakness, and paralysis. Fortunately, you can regain full functionality after a few rehabilitation sessions if it is just a bruise. However, if your spinal cord is damaged, you may face permanent paralysis.
- Brain Injuries
When a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, it is most likely they will suffer from head injuries due to the fall. The symptoms of a brain injury may not manifest immediately after the accident. That is why it is crucial to have a thorough medical check-up regardless of a minor hit-and-run accident.
Head acute damages can be life-threatening. Others can be life-changing by permanently altering the standard functionality of your brain. An early diagnosis may help to prevent these outcomes.
Fractures are the most common pedestrian injuries, as they can be expected from minor and major accidents. Victims can suffer from single or multiple fractures. Common fractures affect the hands, legs, wrists, arms, and torsos. In severe cases, the bones break through the skin.
The aftermath of this injury is emotional pain and traumatic distress. Its injuries are permanent, and it may take a victim years of therapy before accepting their current situation. It is frustrating because the victims are forced to adapt to the new norm. For example, losing both legs will cause a victim to learn how to use a wheelchair which might limit some activities they used to do before.
In addition to the physical pain from the economic damages, a victim is most likely to suffer from emotional trauma and anxiety. Unlike economic damages, non-economic injuries are the most challenging to quantify using a monetary value. However, this does not mean you cannot recover compensation for emotional challenges after a hit-and-run.
To claim emotional compensation, you must start by identifying the emotional distress arising from the hit-and-run. You have to prove that the emotional pain was non-existent before the accident. For such claims to be viable, the extent of physical injuries sustained must be severe. Compensation for emotional challenges might be more complicated if your bodily injuries are minor.
For your emotional suffering claim to be viable, you also have to prove that it significantly impacted your life after the hit-and-run accident. The common types of emotional distress that you can seek compensation for after a hit-and-run include;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.