It's probably one of the scariest scenarios imaginable: You are driving and you accidentally hit a pedestrian. While this is a terrifying occurrence for everyone involved, it's not uncommon: The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing reports that in one year alone, 70,000 pedestrians were injured and 4,700 killed by cars. As a driver, you expect never to hit a pedestrian, and you would likely be shocked if you did. Here are some steps to take if you find yourself in this traumatic situation.
Stop the Car
Hit-and-run refers to simply driving away after hitting a person; this is illegal in all states. If you hit a pedestrian, stop your car immediately (or as soon as possible if it's impossible to stop exactly where the impact took place, such as if you are in the middle of a busy intersection. Be aware that even if you are driving under the influence or have broken another driving law, adding hit-and-run to the list of crimes committed will result in even more penalties.
Assess the Victim for Injuries
If the person you hit is obviously seriously injured, you're going to need someone else to help stop traffic while one of your calls 911 and, if feasible, performs first aid. Use your best judgement if you are on a busy road or in a deserted location; try to keep yourself and the victim both safe. Follow the directions of the ambulance dispatcher if you called 911.
If your victim is mildly injured or says that they are not hurt at all, encourage them to sit down where it is safe and wait for help. Sometimes injuries are not apparent right away.
Call the Police
In an accident that is mild and hasn't resulted in injury, you can usually call the regular police line rather than 911. Contacting the police is imperative, as your insurance company will need to have a copy of the police report. If you were not at fault (for example, if the victim purposely jumped in front of your car), having a police report can help you settle with your insurance company later or protect you in case of a lawsuit.
If you've already called 911, then the police will be dispatched along with the ambulance or rescue workers.
While waiting for the police in a non-emergency case, exchange your identifying and insurance information with the person you hit. If there are any witnesses, try to get their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Ask them to stay on the scene until the police arrive (but don't be surprised if some either refuse to give you the information or refuse to stay). Give the contact information that you are able to collect to the police.
Other than exchanging information and communicating with the person that you hit to find out if they are okay or injured, refrain from commenting on what happened. This can protect you later. If the accident was not your fault and you apologize, for example, this may end up going on record. Similarly, if you begin hurling accusations or trying to explain your side of the story, this could impact what the witnesses remember later. Try to stay calm and don't discuss what happened until the police arrive.
Contact a Lawyer
Whether you receive a ticket, are arrested or are free to go with no citation at all, contact a car accident attorney promptly. Depending on your state, the pedestrian has a certain period of time to decide to press charges. Also, if he or she does end up needing medical treatment or suffers from pain as a result of the accident, you will need someone to represent you.
While hitting a pedestrian is a scary and overwhelming experience for you and the victim, staying calm, assessing injuries, gathering information and contacting the professionals who can help can all go a long way in allowing you to put the event behind you and continue being allowed to drive.
For more information, contact a car accident attorney like those at Wolter, Beeman & Lynch.