Hit and Run | Man vs. Car:  Minnesota Vehicle Accidents Involving Pedestrians

If you, as a driver, are involved in an accident with a pedestrian, you might have questions on what your responsibilities are, not to mention where liability might fall.  Here’s a rundown of what Minnesota law provides for in such situations.

Stopping for Pedestrians

Under Minnesota law, at crosswalks or intersections with no crosswalks, where there are no traffic signals, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians.  The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has crossed the lane the driver is in.  However, the law prohibits pedestrians from suddenly leaving a curb and entering the path of the driver’s vehicle if so close that it would be impossible for the driver to yield.  This provides the driver with protection in a situation where the pedestrian fails to look for traffic and simply steps out into the road.  Pedestrians are also required to obey traffic signals!

Hit and Run Laws

Obviously a hit-and-run is illegal, but what constitutes a hit and run?  Minnesota law requires a driver who is involved in an accident resulting in “immediately demonstrable bodily injury” to the pedestrian to immediately stop at the scene of the accident.  If that’s not possible (due to, for example, road conditions), the driver has to stop as close as possible to the accident scene and then return to the scene.  Once back at the accident site, the driver must provide identifying information, including name, address, date of birth, and license plate number.  If someone else involved in the accident requests it, the driver also has to provide his or her driver’s license.

The law’s specification of “immediately demonstrable” injury does provide some protection to a driver.  In one Minnesota case, a driver struck a pedestrian.  The driver stopped and asked the pedestrian if she was okay, and the pedestrian replied that she had some pain in her head and elbow but that she thought she was okay.  The pedestrian didn’t ask for any information about the driver’s identity or driver’s license.  Later, as part of a lawsuit against her insurance company, the pedestrian claimed that the driver had committed a hit-and-run.  The court found that what the driver had done did not constitute a hit-and-run, because the pedestrian had no immediately apparent injuries and the driver hadn’t attempted to leave until after the pedestrian said she was okay.

Civil Claims

Regardless of any criminal prosecution, if you are involved in an accident with a pedestrian, that person might bring a civil lawsuit against you.  This type of lawsuit would be based on the driver’s alleged failure to exercise the appropriate duty of care when driving.  If this type of claim is brought against you, the case is likely going to involve a look at comparative fault, i.e. what percentage of fault is attributable to you and what percentage of fault is attributable to the pedestrian.

Post-Accident Legal Requirements

If you were the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident which resulted in bodily injury or death to a pedestrian (or to any other individual), you’re required to notify the appropriate branch of law enforcement about the accident.  This would be the local police department if the accident happens in a town or the state patrol or sheriff’s office if the accident happens on a highway.  Minnesota requires that you give notice by the quickest means of communication, so a letter is unlikely to be sufficient!  Your license can be suspended if you fail to comply with this reporting requirement.