Accidents happen. And when accidents happen between automobiles and pedestrians, they can be especially dangerous and even deadly. Thousands of pedestrians are killed every year by cars and many more severely injured.
So, what are the legal ramifications of pedestrian-vehicle accidents? Here are some common questions and short answers.
Any car accident can be a stressful time, so it’s helpful to know beforehand what steps you might take if you are involved in a car accident:
If you hit a pedestrian with your car, you may also want to be careful what you say when you speak to police officers, witnesses, or victims. It’s best to be honest and straightforward when speaking to the police, but any admissions of fault or guilt could come back to haunt you later. Even if you think the accident was the pedestrian’s fault, it may be best to leave that argument to your insurance company or an experienced car accident attorney.
Every state has statute of limitations — laws that place strict time limits on how long after an accident injured parties may pursue civil remedies. Victims in Kentucky and Louisiana have only one year to bring legal actions connected with pedestrian accidents while those in North Dakota can wait for as long as six years.
In most states, a two- or three-year statute of limitations is the norm. This period generally begins on the date of the accident, but some state laws grant extensions when plaintiffs were not immediately aware of the full scope of their injuries.
Civil jury trials, especially those involving personal injury, are expensive and unpredictable, and attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants may seek to avoid these costs and risks by reaching an out-of-court settlement before trial. Personal injury lawyers could discuss these matters with the auto insurance company involved as well as the defendant.
In addition to specifying the amount of damages, civil settlement agreements sometimes contain non-disclosure provisions that prevent the parties involved from publicly discussing the amount of compensation or other details of the personal injury claim.
Depositions are part of the pre-trial discovery process designed to allow the attorneys on both sides to gather the information they will need to advocate effectively on behalf of their clients. Depositions generally occur at a lawyer’s office, and a neutral reporter is usually present to provide a record of what everyone says.
Both civil plaintiffs and defendants can expect to face difficult and even accusatory questions during a deposition. But you have a right to have your own attorney present and these questions provide lawyers and insurance companies valuable insight into what happened and their likely litigation strategy. Also, both attorneys may ask questions in depositions that would not be allowed in a courtroom, and your lawyer will advise you on the best way to answer.
Jury trials are a search for the truth, with strict rules on the kind of evidence the parties may present and how. Most importantly, all the evidence presented must be relevant and verifiable. Police reports and witness statements can establish the sequence of events, and doctors may testify to explain the nature of the injuries suffered.
While prior bad acts are normally inadmissible in civil lawsuits as they are in criminal trials, they could come in if they are relevant to the facts at hand. For example, while courts usually consider details of a defendant’s drug or alcohol use unfairly prejudicial, they may allow this kind of evidence if the police discovered that the driver was impaired at the time of a pedestrian-vehicle accident.
Pedestrians injured by negligent drivers may seek compensatory damages when they prevail in court. Compensatory damages help accident victims to cope with financial setbacks like health care expenses and lost wages, but they can also include pain and suffering and emotional distress in certain cases. Damages can also cover future expenses, and pedestrian accident victims may also seek compensation for their long-term medical care and the lingering effects of their injuries.
Many state statutes prohibit punitive damages — those aimed at punishing the party at fault — in car accident personal injury claims.
While personal injury attorneys may use paychecks and medical bills to determine compensatory damages claims, putting a dollar value on pain or anguish can be a far more subjective process. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you with your claim, and most offer a free consultation to discuss your case.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.