Criminal Charges for Accidentally Hitting Someone with Your Car

| Updated on March 21, 2024

A car accident can be a devastating event. Not only can an accident have devastating physical consequences, but it can also affect a person emotionally and financially. Car wrecks are traumatizing whether you were the victim or you were the cause of the wreck. If you were at fault, you may also be facing legal consequences as well if you injured a pedestrian

Many people are under the impression that only the victim in a car accident needs to seek legal advice from an injury lawyer. The fact is, both parties should consult with a legal team following a car wreck. An injury lawyer, or a lawyer with experience dealing with car accidents, can be very helpful to you if you were the cause of a wreck. 

One of the worst types of accidents you can be involved in is when your car hits another person. A car-pedestrian accident can be particularly traumatizing. This type of accident can also have far-reaching effects both legal and financial. 

If you strike someone with your vehicle, it is vitally important that you have a legal team on your side. These professionals will be able to tell your side of the story accurately. This will be very important in protecting your rights. 

This guide will give you more information concerning what to do if you struck someone with your car, and what criminal charges if any, could result. 

Can I Be Charged For Hitting Someone With My Car?

Accidents that involve a pedestrian are particularly stressful and destructive. These types of accidents are often dealt with differently than accidents involving only vehicles. Hitting someone with your vehicle does not always result in criminal charges. That is the good news. However, hitting someone with your vehicle is a serious accident. There will be consequences and you do need to have legal help in your corner to make sure you are treated fairly. 

What Are The Possible Consequences of Hitting Someone?

Personal Injury Lawsuit- This is one of the most common types of consequences you may face. A personal injury lawsuit would result to ensure that the victim in the accident gets fair compensation for the accident. Compensation would be needed to pay for medical bills resulting from the accident. Compensation may also be sought for lost wages, loss of employment, pain, and suffering as well as other claims. The types of claims will depend on the extent of the person’s injuries. Criminal charges will likely not be a part of the personal injury lawsuit. 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit- A wrongful death lawsuit could result from an accident if the pedestrian dies. A wrongful death lawsuit is usually filed by the victim’s family following their passing. During a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family will attempt to prove that your negligence led to their loved one’s death. They will attempt to claim compensation for the losses that they incurred as a result of the accident and the passing of their loved one. 

Criminal Charges/Hit and Run- In some cases, criminal charges could result following your accident. Hit and run charges are common when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle. If you hit someone with your car, you are required to stop and follow proper accident protocol. If you follow proper accident protocol, you may still face a personal injury civil case, but if you flee the scene of the accident, you will face criminal charges of hit and run. This is a far more serious situation. Criminal charges could result in jail time and lifelong consequences. Fleeing the scene shows that you have no regard for the individual’s life or well-being. 

Criminal Charges/DUI- Another instance in which you might face criminal charges, would be if the accident takes place while you are driving under the influence of substances. In this type of situation, your accident could result in your arrest. Other consequences could include jail time, large fines, and, in some cases, your license could be suspended. 

Criminal Charges/Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter- If the victim of the accident passes away as a result of their injuries, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. You would only face this type of charge if it was proven undoubtedly that you struck the victim because you were driving recklessly or engaging in reckless behavior while driving. Vehicular manslaughter can result in jail time. This type of charge is rarely used, however, if it can be proven that the wreck was truly an accident. This is why it is vitally important to have legal help on your side if you struck a person with your car. 

What About Jaywalking?

Another common type of accident involving pedestrians is jaywalking accidents. Jaywalking is the practice of crossing streets or intersections outside of the proper crosswalks or crossing without following traffic signals. This is a very dangerous practice that often results in accidents, injuries, and even deaths. 

A well-trained lawyer will be able to help you establish to the court that an accident was the result of jaywalking. This could be a very important part of your argument. In most cases in which jaywalking can be proved, the driver is not held liable for compensation. The accident would be considered to be the fault of the pedestrian, not the driver. In fact, if the pedestrian was acting recklessly, they may actually be required to compensate you for injuries you may have received, and damage to your vehicle if there is any. This is another reason why you need a lawyer on your side. These are important details that could really make a difference in your case.

What Should I Do Following My Accident?

Directly following an accident, you should contact emergency services. You should not feel scared to call. Even if you were at fault, you will get in more trouble for not contacting the authorities, so always contact the authorities immediately following any type of accident. 

Directly following your accident, you will likely be shaken up and possibly dealing with your own injuries as well. If you were injured, you should seek out medical treatment as quickly as possible. Be sure to keep a good record of your injuries and all medical treatment as well as what you had to pay for medical treatment. These could be important later on in your case. 

It is important to remain calm and not engage in any type of behavior that would further complicate your case later on. For instance, interacting with the victim or their family could result in negative evidence against you. It is better to stay calm and quiet, and only interact with criminal law enforcement and your legal team.  

What If I Don’t Have Insurance?

If the accident took place while you were uninsured, you should be aware that this is a serious offense. It is illegal to operate a vehicle uninsured. Insurance is required because it shows that the driver is willing to prove financial responsibility for the privilege of driving a vehicle. Even a minor accident without insurance coverage will have steep consequences for you as the driver. If you injure or kill someone while uninsured you will face extensive legal and financial consequences. 

You should always keep insurance active on your vehicle. 

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a term used to describe a situation in which the driver is not solely at fault. The insinuation is that both the driver and the pedestrian were somehow at fault. A good example could be that the pedestrian was jaywalking while you were distracted by something in the car. In this type of situation, usually, both you and the pedestrian would cost-share the damages that result from the accident. 

What About Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a huge contributor to car accidents each year. With the evolution of smartphones, people are often tempted to drive while texting, talking, or otherwise interacting with their phones. However, there are also other ways you can be distracted while driving as well. 

Distracted driving can include interacting with passengers, eating, adjusting controls in the vehicle, grooming, and other activities. Anything that takes your attention off of the road, is considered distracted driving. Even looking out the window at passing scenery is distracted driving. 

Distracted driving can have a huge impact on your accident if it is determined to be the cause of the accident. Although distracted driving will not usually result in criminal charges, you should be aware that any charges you might face, or any consequences you might face because of hitting someone with your car, could be made worse if it is proven that you were distracted while driving. 

To avoid this, always stay focused on the road and never allow anything else to distract you. If you were distracted while driving, it is helpful to talk with an accident lawyer to better understand your rights. 

What About Roadway Defects?

Another contributor to accidents can be roadway defects. When there are defects in a roadway it can cause drivers to swerve, slam on brakes, or lose control of their vehicle. If there are pedestrians nearby, this could result in pedestrians being struck by a vehicle. 

If a roadway defect contributed to the cause of your accident, this is important information that the court needs to know. A car accident lawyer will be able to take this important information and present it to the court in the best possible way. Most people do not understand how to submit important evidence like this in court, which is why it is important to have a lawyer on your side. 

Roadway defects can include:

  • Lack of guardrails 
  • Poorly designed curves
  • Wrongly placed signs or signals
  • Structural issues such as seen on bridges or bumps in the road
  • Lack of road maintenance such as large potholes or uneven pavement
  • Badly marked construction areas
  • Unmaintained foliage that blocks visibility 
  • Faded lane markings
  • Debris such as oil, water, snow, ice, or other dangerous material on the road

If any of these roadway defects contributed to your accident, it is important that you have proper documentation of it for your case. Directly following your accident, if you can, and after you have notified authorities, take pictures of these types of defects. The city or state could be held liable for accidents resulting from roadway defects. 

If you believe a roadway defect played a part in your accident, it is crucial to have a lawyer on your side to prove this. This can get complicated as it would involve the local or state government. A good lawyer will know how to hold these officials responsible if they were at fault. 

What About Motor Vehicle Defects?

Another contributing factor to your accident could be a motor vehicle defect. Accidents can often be caused by a poorly operating vehicle. Motor vehicle defects are tricky, though, because if you previously knew about the defect, and continued to operate the vehicle, you could be held liable. 

There are cases, however, in which a vehicle is defective and the driver was not aware until the accident. For instance, if brakes failed to operate properly, or steering failed to operate properly. 

With more and more self driving vehicles on the roads today, there is greater chance of vehicle defects contributing to accidents at no fault of the driver. 

If both you and the pedestrian were injured because of vehicle defects, the manufacturer of the vehicle could be held liable for damage and injuries. 

If you want to include vehicle defects in your case, be sure to talk this over with a lawyer first. This professional will be able to help you determine the best way to present the information for your benefit. 

Vehicle Maintenance 

If an accident resulted because of poor vehicle maintenance, it could add to your personal liability in the case. An example of this may be if you were driving on bad tires and had a blowout that resulted in the vehicle striking a pedestrian. This could further complicate your case. To avoid this, it is important to remember that vehicle maintenance does not just affect you. When your vehicle is not properly maintained, you are endangering yourself and everyone else on the road as well. 

You need a lawyer to help you defend yourself if vehicle maintenance played a part in your accident. 

What About A Medical Emergency?

An accident can also result from a medical emergency taking place in your vehicle. If you or someone in your vehicle was experiencing a medical emergency that resulted in the vehicle striking a pedestrian, this is important information that should be considered. 

In most cases, this type of information would prove that you were not being negligent, engaging in reckless behavior, or engaging in criminal behavior. A medical emergency taking place in your vehicle helps to prove that your wreck was truly an accident. A good car accident lawyer can help you prove this information in court. 

What About Bad Weather Conditions?

Bad weather conditions often lead to serious accidents. Poor weather conditions are easy to prove as there will be an abundance of verifiable evidence concerning the weather conditions on the day of your accident and the location of your accident. A lawyer will be able to submit this information for you properly to the court to help prove that your wreck was an accident and nothing else. You may even be able to prove that the accident was unavoidable considering the weather conditions. 

What About Animals?

Although not a common cause of accidents, animals can play a part in a wreck. When an animal gets out into a roadway it can cause unsafe conditions. If you swerve to avoid hitting an animal and wind up hitting a person, you need to be sure there is documented evidence concerning the animal. A lawyer can help you establish this information for the court. This could play an important part in your case. 

Eyewitnesses can be helpful in this type of situation. You may want to talk to any witnesses immediately following the wreck after you have notified authorities. 

When Should I Contact A Lawyer?

It is best to contact a lawyer as soon as you can following a wreck. Your priority following a car wreck will be to notify authorities. You should then seek medical treatment for your injuries. Once you have recovered from your initial injuries, you should contact a car accident lawyer. 

Remember, not only does the pedestrian need a lawyer, but you will need a lawyer as well if you struck a pedestrian with your vehicle. The lawyer will be able to help you build your case, present evidence properly to the court, and take into consideration all of the many details that could have contributed to the accident. Even if you are to blame, certain details could minimize the types of consequences you might have to face. 

Do not be scared to contact the authorities or a lawyer if you strike someone with your vehicle. These professionals will help you figure out this devastating event and recover quickly.

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