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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

Can You Go to Jail for Hitting Someone with a Car? The Facts You Should Know!

Being hit by a vehicle represents a very real and very violent possibility for pedestrians, and it's often accompanied by serious injury. There's no denying that two people in a car accident may have life-threatening and sometimes fatal injuries too. However, being outside a vehicle offers no protection meaning that the hit is taken directly.

What happens to the at-fault driver in such a situation? That's what the information provided below covers. Whether it's a typical pedestrian accident, a hit and run, or even an intentional hit, everything is covered adequately below.

Potential Lawsuits

Potential Lawsuits

It's not uncommon to see an attorney advertising support for victims of pedestrian accidents. That's because automobile accident lawyers in Des Moines know that the at-fault party is typically responsible to cover the damages of the other.

The injured person, when represented by a lawyer, will usually try to settle out of court. However, if a consensus cannot be reached based on how the accident happened, then the matter will likely go to trial.

Technically speaking, whether criminal charges were applied or not after a driver's negligence in a pedestrian accident, the victim can sue the said driver in a civil case. Criminal charges often apply in cases such as a hit and run, but these are covered below.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

The lawsuit seeks to compensate victims of car accidents. Once there's a determination of fault, the wrong party will bear the responsibility for such compensation. The settlement will include different cost centers that may be rooted in economic or non-economic areas (to be covered later).

As indicated before, a personal injury claim aims to settle out of court. This is successful in most cases, as the driver's insurance company will cover the necessary expenses.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Deaths following pedestrian accidents in the United States make up just about 10% of all traffic offenses. Even if the situation is not a hit-and-run, whenever there are pedestrian deaths in these instances, the loved ones left behind are made to grieve heavily.

Additionally, the said surviving loved ones bear the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The idea is that an attempt is made to get the negligent driver to compensate the other party for whatever losses may have been incurred.

These are sometimes financial too since the dead family member may have been a major or the sole breadwinner.

There May Be Criminal Charges

It's never a good idea to do a hit-and-run if a pedestrian accident happens. The best course of action is to stop and follow the right protocol. While there are no guarantees, the observation of the responding police officer and the resulting report may lead to a more lenient sentence, which may mean not having certain kinds of data bring down a criminal record.

Hit and Run Accident

A personal injury lawsuit is typically what happens in pedestrian accidents where the driver stops and does what is required. If a hit-and-run accident should happen, on the other hand, criminal charges may be introduced, which may even result in the requirement to serve jail time, which is mandated by a criminal court.

This is because leaving a hurt person like this, especially one with a serious injury, demonstrates a lack of regard for life.

Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Criminal charges may also be introduced when car accidents involve a drunk driver and an injured pedestrian. That's because this combination represents a DUI with aggravating factors present.

In the case of a first-time DUI, what would normally be given a menial punishment at best becomes an escalated matter, which is treated akin to a case involving a multiple-time DUI offender.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Unfortunately, dome accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians tend to mean the death of the latter. If the driver is determined to be at fault in such a scenario, it will likely lead to criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter. This will only take place if there is no doubt that the implicated driver was being reckless and this is proven in court.

For example, a driver who may have been proven to be going twice the speed limit demonstrates reckless behavior that may even be considered to be beyond standard negligence. However, if it were a genuine accident that happened and there was no hit and run, then the likelihood of criminal charges is unlikely, even if the pedestrian died.

What if the Hit Was Intended?

Accidents are one thing and a standard case of negligence is another. However, there may also be a situation in which the at-fault driver demonstrated a severe level of negligence or even a measure of intent to hit the pedestrian. In such cases, the handling of the matter is a little different.

Punitive Damages

First, the victim will be awarded punitive damages. Note that this is an award that is independent of other damages, which means it will be awarded alongside them. However, for this award to be given, the personal injury lawyer representing the victim must give definitive proof that there was either intent or a level of negligence well beyond the norm.

Driver's License Suspension/Revocation

Even in a pedestrian accident where there is no intent and no criminal charges, the negligent driver could potentially face a driver's license suspension. When there is intent in the mix, this outcome is even more likely. In fact, there may even be a driver's license revocation too.

An insurance company will also likely not cover the damages of a driver who intentionally hit someone or one that either committed a hit-and-run or failed to give a notification about the accident's taking place.

What if the Pedestrian Is at Fault?

If the pedestrian was at fault in the accident, then the rules are a little different. Again, there would need to be proof of this. For example, the said pedestrian may have been jaywalking or may even have been under the influence of drugs, leading to a complete disregard for safety or self-preservation while crossing.

Jaywalking is an example of a disregard for safety that would implicate a pedestrian. Typically, a driver in this kind of situation will likely be exempt from having to face any form of disciplinary consequences.

Iowa Is a Comparative Negligence State

Iowa is a comparative fault state and this rule applies to just about any accident. For example, if there is even an illegally parked car that was hit, while the driver of the moving vehicle will likely bear some responsibility, the owner/driver of the parked vehicle would bear some of the blame in that scenario, meaning the level of compensation would be reduced.

In Iowa, the parties in an accident are only responsible for compensation up to their established percentage levels of fault. If the driver in a pedestrian accident is 60% responsible, for example, the maximum compensation the pedestrian can seek is 60% of the total applicable damages from the accident.

What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident

The steps taken after a pedestrian accident are crucial. Sometimes, these make or break a personal injury case. For example, if a pedestrian should be injured, the negligent driver's insurance company may reach out to the person.

What may seem like a call rooted in genuine care is anything but that. These companies are more concerned with reducing the amount they have to pay to even nothing if possible. Therefore, they may ask simple questions such as "do you feel OK?" If the pedestrian should give an affirmative response on the spot, this could be enough ammunition for the insurance firm to use to deny a settlement.

Seek Medical Attention

Seeking medical care is always a top priority in these kinds of cases. There are two reasons for this. First and more important, it's the best way to ensure that all is well and to be treated by a professional where necessary. Beyond that, the process generates documentation about the injuries suffered, the treatment administered, and the associated costs.

All this information can be used by a personal injury attorney in seeking compensation for a client's injuries.

Gather Evidence

Whatever evidence is on the scene should be gathered where possible. Sometimes, a pedestrian accident may leave people unable to move or in some other compromised state. Therefore, this may not always be a possible step.

Wherever it is possible though, it should always be done. Suitable evidence includes relevant pictures and video evidence (bodily injury, vehicular damage, skid marks, vehicle placement, etc.). Speaking to witnesses is a good idea and getting contact information of those who may be of assistance.

Even if the driver commits a hit and run and it's not possible to get the person's full information, recording what details are available is highly recommended.

Report the Matter to the Police

A police report is a very important thing. Many cases are made or broken because of the presence or absence of one and what it means for civil liability. In Iowa, reporting an accident to the authorities is mandatory when someone sustained injuries, there was property damage of over $1,500, or both.

Even if it were not possible to speak to the police when the accident occurred, doing it should be a matter of priority as soon as it becomes possible to do so.

Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney

Finally, never forget to speak to a personal injury lawyer. This is especially beneficial in abnormal circumstances such as that of a hit-and-run. In fact, even if a victim hasn't reached out to a lawyer, if contacted by an insurance company, one should always indicate an unwillingness to speak without an attorney present.

Typical Elements of a Personal Injury Claim After a Car Accident

Typical Elements of a Personal Injury Claim After a Car Accident

An attorney-client relationship is a very powerful thing in these kinds of legal matters. Be sure to share every detail with the legal professional as honestly as possible. This includes details about possibly being at fault. While the legal professional cannot grant immunity, the person will formulate a strategy for the best possible outcome in the matter. This includes seeking damages for:

Medical Bills

The negligent party in the matter bears responsibility for the coverage of any medical expenses incurred by the victim. These include expenses that have gone, those currently being dealt with, and any to come in the future, so long as they were a direct result of the accident.

Lost Wages

Lost wages, like medical bills, represent an economic damage. The accident may have caused the pedestrian to be unable to work and that may be the case for some specified or unspecified time. The responsible party's insurance firm will be required to compensate the victim in a way that accounts for whatever wages are already lost and will be lost.

Property Damage

Property damage can be suffered by pedestrians too depending on what they may have been carrying or what they may have had on their person. If someone walking with an expensive vase, for example, is hit by a negligent driver, the said driver will be responsible for covering the cost of replacing the vase.

Pain and Suffering

This is a non-economic damage and represents the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by the victim. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney knows how to assign a value here for monetary compensation.

Loss of Companionship/Consortium

Spouses typically file this kind of claim as injured pedestrians may have been rendered unable to fulfill certain marital obligations.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Attorney in Iowa!

A pedestrian accident is very inconvenient and can flip life upside down in a matter of moments. If a negligent driver hits a person on purpose or commits a hit-and-run, the matter can become even more difficult to deal with, but there's no reason why it needs to be done alone.

Tom Fowler law has helped numerous clients in Iowa to recover financial compensation for the suffering brought on by these accidents. If you are a pedestrian in Iowa who has been hit by a negligent driver, schedule a free consultation with a seasoned attorney at Tom Fowler Law by calling (515) 203-8434.

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