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What Happens if You Hit a Pedestrian in Canada?

What Happens if You Hit a Pedestrian in Canada Featured Image

Accidents between drivers and pedestrians are deadly serious. They’re also quite common in Alberta, with the highest number of accidents occurring during the month of November

What happens if you’re the driver of a car that hits one? Many drivers fear that hitting a pedestrian will result in jail time, but this isn’t usually the case. Here’s everything you need to know about being the driver who hits a pedestrian in Alberta. 

What should you do if you hit a pedestrian?

Immediately call 911 to get the police on the scene, as well to get medical attention for the injured pedestrian. If you can manage to do so safely, move out of the road and collect information from everyone at the scene. If you can’t do that without moving the pedestrian and hurting them then you should use flares, emergency lights, and other safety devices to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Be careful what you say, as anything you say can be used against you. Your first concern should be to keep the pedestrian alive and as uninjured as possible.

Whatever you do, don’t panic and don’t flee the scene. Fleeing the scene of a car accident of any type is a serious crime, and the crime gets even more serious in the event that you hit a pedestrian

What is a typical settlement for a hit pedestrian?

If the driver was at fault then the typical settlement for a pedestrian is the same as a settlement for any other auto accident. 

The driver’s insurance company typically pays the claim and will usually furnish the lawyer for the defense.

The pedestrian could be entitled to:

  • Compensation for all medical expenses. 
  • Compensation for wages lost while in recovery.
  • Compensation for other expenses associated with the accident, such as housekeeping expenses.
  • Compensation for future medical care.
  • If the pedestrian is unable to work in the future, the pedestrian may be entitled to some estimation of what they would have earned in the future had the accident never happened.
  • A pain and suffering award.

These would be paid up to the limits of your insurance policy. Cases like these are a reason why every Albertan is required to carry adequate car liability car insurance. 

Alberta is a contributory negligence province. This does mean that if it’s found that the pedestrian contributed to the accident in some way that their award will be reduced. Fault for an accident is expressed as a percentage amount. If the driver is found to be 80% at-fault and the pedestrian 20% at fault then the eventual award will be reduced by 20%. 

These percentages are negotiated during the settlement conference, or are set by the courts if a case goes to trial.

Who pays when a pedestrian is hit by a car?

Believe it or not, the driver is not always held at-fault for striking a pedestrian.

Pedestrians are bound to the same traffic laws as anyone else. If a pedestrian crosses against the light, for example, or steps off the curb into active, dangerous traffic without looking both ways, then the pedestrian may be held at-fault for the accident. Wearing dark clothing at night while crossing a highway might be another example of a case where the pedestrian would be held at-fault, as they created conditions that kept a reasonable driver from being able to see them. 

“Pedestrians have the right of way” is a myth, not absolute fact in every case. In fact, it’s extremely dangerous for pedestrians to make this assumption. 

Courts can and do find pedestrians responsible or partially responsible for their own accidents.

However, the Alberta Traffic Safety Act does place a “reverse onus” on the driver of a passenger vehicle to prove they were not liable. That is, the driver is assumed to be responsible for an accident with a pedestrian unless they can provide a strong case for why no reasonable driver could have avoided hitting that pedestrian given the circumstances of the accident. 

Drivers are found to be at fault in the vast majority of cases. Here is a breakdown of Alberta’s statistics on the causes of accidents between drivers and pedestrians.

  • The driver was driving properly 33% of the time.
  • The driver failed to yield the right-of-way appropriately 47.1% of the time.
  • The driver backed out of a driveway unsafely in 8.2% of cases.
  • The driver made an improper turn in 2.2% of cases.
  • The driver ran off the road in 2.1% of cases.
  • The driver made a left turn across a path in 1% of cases.
  • Drivers hit pedestrians by disobeying traffic signals in 1% of cases.
  • Other traffic violations made up the rest of the cases. 

Do you go to jail if you hit a pedestrian in Canada?

There are a few examples where you could go to jail for hitting pedestrian.

One example is a case where you hit a pedestrian and did not have the proper liability insurance in place. Driving without insurance is a crime. The pedestrian will be able to seek compensation from the MVAC fund, but the MVAC fund will be able to come after you to get that money paid back.

MVAC has a variety of remedies they can use to get their money from you, including suspending your license, placing liens on your property, or levying your bank accounts. They do work out payment plans with drivers, but there’s no avoiding paying for a pedestrian accident out of pocket if you weren’t insured. This is after you’ve done up to 6 months in jail and paid fines of up to $10,000 for failure to insure your vehicle. 

If you were committing a crime when you hit the pedestrian, such as driving drunk or driving distracted, then you could be charged with that crime. If the pedestrian dies additional charges may be added. This is also true if you were speeding significantly enough to be deemed criminally negligent.

A criminal negligence charge can be levied when the Crown can prove that you drove “with reckless disregard for the lives and safety of other users on a roadway or public place. It must be established that you drove in a way that was less prudent than a reasonable or sound individual would drive in the same circumstances.” 

Criminal negligence charges don’t depend on you striking and killing a pedestrian with your vehicle but these circumstances can contribute greatly to whether or not you are charged. Sentences can range from 3 years to life, depending on the facts of your case. 

If you think you are likely to be charged with criminal negligence we urge you to retain an outstanding defense lawyer.  

Need help from a Alberta personal injury lawyer?

If you’re a driver who has struck a pedestrian you will most likely get a lawyer from your insurance company if there is any case at all.

If you’re a pedestrian you’re going to need help recovering compensation from the driver’s insurance company.

Each of our lawyers has over two decades of experience handling pedestrian accident cases in Calgary, Alberta. Our team of personal injury lawyer is known for our courtroom litigation skills as well as our sharp negotiation skills. We know car accident cases inside and out, and we know how to handle insurance companies while protecting your rights. 

We’re known for being kind, responsive, and easy to deal with. We keep you in the loop, answer all of your questions and concerns, and do everything we can to make the process run as smoothly as possible. We’ll even handle the insurance companies on your behalf! 

Don’t try to handle your slip and fall case alone. Your call is risk-free. Call (403) 219-0184 to set up a consultation today.

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