Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 24, 2020

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It is not uncommon for people to leave the scene of the accident after hitting a pedestrian with their car. But in most cases, even when they assume there were no witnessess or think they are getting away without dealing with the consequences, a criminal warrant for hit-and-run is later issued.

It’s Always Best to Stay at the Scene

Stopping and staying at the scene is always the best course of action, for yourself and those involved. In many cases, the police merely cite the driver for a traffic violation such as failure to yield the right of way. Depending on the facts of the case, the police may not for a violation at all. For example, if the pedestrian stepped directly in front of the vehicle and the driver was unable to stop, the police report will likely not cite the driver as they will not be at fault in the accident. Any police reports, whether involving a violation or not, can be used in the driver’s defense in any future lawsuits brought by the pedestrian. 

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Civil Liability

The next concern is civil liability for any injuries to the pedestrian. When the pedestrian completes medical treatment and is released by the doctor or reaches a point of being declared permanent and stationary, which means that no further improvement in the pedestrian’s medical condition is anticipated, this is the point when the pedestrian will likely file a lawsuit.

Negligence

An injury lawsuit is based on negligence on the concept of due care, which is that degree of care that the reasonable person (here the reasonable driver) would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent the injury to the pedestrian. The pedestrian (plaintiff) would have to prove that the driver failed to exercise due care and that breached a duty to the pedestrian that caused them injury.

Damages

The pedestrian’s claim for monetary damages would be based on the total medical bills, any wage loss due to the injuries, and compensation for pain and suffering. Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount beyond the medical bills. The more serious the injury, the more compensation for pain and suffering they could seek.

For example, fracture, scars, burns, etc. would be more serious injuries than just a sprain and would warrant more compensation. Another factor is whether or not future treatment will be necessary and the estimated cost of that treatment. The medical reports will document the nature and extent of the injuries and will be a factor in determining compensation for pain and suffering.

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Comparative Negligence

Liability may be limited by the state’s personal injury laws. If a state follows comparative negligence, the driver may not be liable for 100% of the pedestrian’s damages (the amount of monetary compensation the lawsuit is seeking). Comparative negligence assesses a percentage of the fault to each party. For example, if a court determines that the pedestrian was 20% liable for his or her injuries, then you, the driver, would only be 80% liable. Thus, if the pedestrian is awarded $10,000, then you would only be responsible for $8,000.00.

The bottom line is that no one likes to get into trouble. Sometimes a bad thing happens and people get scared. Avoiding the scene by committing the offense of hit-and-run only makes personal and financial situations worse. The best approach is to contact an attorney that specializes in personal injury defense to learn how best to resolve liability issues.