Here in Alberta, there are roughly 500 collisions between pedestrians and passenger vehicles every year. While these are traumatic, painful accidents for pedestrians they’re also terrifying for drivers too, few of whom wanted to hit the pedestrian, or meant to do so.
Many of our clients come to us not just afraid of their liability, but afraid that they might go to jail over the pedestrian accident. So we thought we’d put together a definitive guide on pedestrian and driver collisions that addressed driver concerns and questions.
What is the potential liability for hitting a pedestrian?
It depends on whether you were at fault for the accident or not. Believe it or not, the drivers of passenger vehicles are not always at fault for pedestrian accidents (see below).
If you are at fault for the accident then you will be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries, lost wages, long-term care needs, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering. If there’s good news here it’s that as long as you have liability insurance and the insurance companies typically pay these costs. Your insurance company also typically provides you with a pedestrian accident lawyer to help with your defense.
If you don’t have insurance you could be penalized for insurance under Alberta law, and the fines are hefty: $2,875 to $10,000 for a first offense. You can expect the fines to be on the high end if you hit a pedestrian. If you can’t come up with the money you can be put in jail for 45 days for 6 months. In addition, you can also be required to pay the pedestrian’s costs out of your own pocket. You will have a harder time finding a lawyer willing to defend you.
That’s your civil liability. If you hit a pedestrian because you were committing a crime at the time that you were driving then yes, you could have criminal liability too (see below).
Also Read: How Do Police Investigate a Car Accident?
Can you go to jail if you hit a pedestrian?
After a pedestrian accident, you are required to call the police, but they won’t necessarily arrest you. Hitting a pedestrian, in and of itself, is not a crime. It’s just an accident.
You can be arrested if you fail to inform the police or if you flee the scene: hit and runs are a criminal offense. You can also be arrested if you were committing a crime at the time of the accident. For example, if you were under the influence of alcohol and drugs then you would probably be arrested.
If the police determine that you were engaged in dangerous driving they might arrest you. Dangerous driving is defined as “operating a vehicle in a manner that was, or could be reasonably expected to be, dangerous to the public,” and that you drove in a manner different than a prudent driver.
If you were doing 30 km per hour over the speed limit in a school zone, for example, and then hit a crossing guard, then yes, you could be arrested.
If you were driving in a non-criminal fashion then you can end up with a civil case on your hands for negligence, but we would not typically see a criminal case emerge from that.
Can the pedestrian be at fault for a car accident?
Yes. Pedestrians are found at fault for car accidents all the time. Pedestrians are required to follow all traffic laws just like drivers are, which means they can be found at fault for:
- Leaving a place of safety and unexpectedly entering the roadway
- Walking in places where pedestrians are not legally allowed to walk, such as the highway
- Failing to look both ways before crossing the street
If a pedestrian unexpectedly runs out in front of your car then the pedestrian may very well be at fault for the accident.
The pedestrian is unlikely to damage you or your car so a personal injury case is unlikely. Nevertheless, it’s important to realize that you may not be the at-fault driver.
In addition, Alberta is a comparative negligence province. This means that each party in an accident gets assigned a percentage of fault.
Even if the accident is partially your fault it may also be partially the pedestrian’s fault. Whatever percentage of fault is assigned to the not-at-fault party gets removed from the award paid by the at-fault party’s insurance company. Thus if you are only 55% at fault for the accident then the pedestrian’s award would be reduced by 45%.
The insurance company may require you to participate in your defense as a requirement of your car insurance contract.
Read More: When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way
What are the consequences of hitting a pedestrian with no injuries?
You’ll both need to stop, call the cops, and file a police report whether you think injuries exist or not.
A collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle that results in no injuries at all would be a real rarity. Most likely the pedestrian has, at the least, soft tissue injuries which may show up a little later.
You want the entire incident documented just in case the matter does turn into a full-blown personal injury case.
Should I hire a lawyer for a pedestrian accident?
Usually the driver of a passenger vehicle doesn’t need a lawyer of their own: the insurance company provides one in these cases. In cases where the pedestrian was at-fault the driver isn’t usually injured enough to require the help of a personal injury lawyer.
If you are a pedestrian injured in a personal injury case and you do need the help, consider reaching out to our law office. Our team of personal injury lawyers has over two decades of experience helping with cases like yours.
Meeting with us is risk-free. We can tell you whether you have a strong case, can help you determine next steps, and can deal with insurance adjusters and other individuals on your behalf. We’ve helped many residents in Cochrane and throughout Alberta do just that.
Contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.
Call (403) 237-9777 to get started.