Does auto insurance cover me if I am sued for hitting a pedestrian?
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UPDATED: Jun 5, 2019
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Your auto insurance may cover you if you are sued for hitting a pedestrian, but it depends on several factors. One is the specific details of the incident. Another is the type and amount of coverage your policy has.
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What to do if You’re Sued
If you are sued for hitting a pedestrian, the first thing you should do is notify your insurance company, according to the according to the State Bar of California. Even if you already told the company about the incident, you need to contact the company to let them know a lawsuit has now been filed.
Your insurance company can assign one of its company lawyers to your case to handle specific details.
Here’s where the amount of coverage you have becomes very important. If the lawsuit results in a payout from your insurance company, the company will generally only cover an amount that is less than or equal to the amount of coverage you have. Any amount that goes above and beyond your coverage limits may be up to you to handle.
The lawsuit determination may also depend upon who was at fault for the accident and where you live. Each state has its own set of auto insurance laws. If you were at fault, many states will allow the injured party to seek damages from your insurance company. This may fall under a claim on your car’s liability insurance.
If you were both at fault or the pedestrian was at fault, state laws vary greatly. Some states do not allow the pedestrian to seek damages from your insurance company if the pedestrian contributed to the accident in any way, according to the Nolo: Law for All website.
In addition to the insurance company’s lawyer, you may also want to seek out a personal lawyer. Having your own lawyer helps to ensure your rights are being retained and your personal interests are as protected as the insurance company’s are.
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When You Might be On Your Own
There may be exceptions to the rule, resulting in incidents that your insurance company either cannot or will not handle or cover. If you fail to stop after hitting the pedestrian, and are charged with a hit and run, your insurance company’s lawyer will not be able to help you with any criminal charges. Nor can the lawyer help fight any traffic tickets or related violations stemming from the incident.
Facing a lawsuit on your own can be confusing and scary. Hiring a criminal attorney can help you navigate through the court system and may even be able to settle the matter before it gets to court.
What Do if You Hit a Pedestrian
The first thing you usually need to do after hitting a pedestrian is offer help. The State Bar of California notes it is state law to offer help in California, and other states have similar regulations. Offering help can include providing assistance yourself and calling 911 if necessary.
Your second order of business is to report the incident to law enforcement and your insurance company. If the incident later turns into a lawsuit, the insurance company will already be aware of the incident and can process it accordingly.
Following proper procedures after an accident ensures you are following the laws of the state. It may also decrease the likelihood of a future lawsuit, although that part is never guaranteed.
A few other suggestions can keep the details fresh in your mind, such as drawing a diagram of what happened or taking notes. These small details may be able to help immensely in the event of a lawsuit and they can also help when you are filing your report. Keeping your information consistent is another key to successfully dealing with the situation.
What Not to Do if You Hit a Pedestrian
Although you want to exchange information with the pedestrian who was hit, the Nolo and State Bar of California websites both warn against sharing too much information. Exchange your names, phone numbers, addresses, and insurance information. That’s about it.
Admitting you were at fault or even saying you feel guilty about the incident may easily pave the way for a future lawsuit.
Even if you think you were at fault, do not share that information. Do not lie, either, by saying you were going slower than you were or saying the pedestrian ran out in front of you if he or she didn’t. Stick to the facts, but keep them very basic facts.
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