Steven A. Bagen | April 14, 2023 | Car Accidents
Car accidents are never positive experiences, and they can be much worse when you are in a hit-and-run. These accidents are more common than most people imagine, so victims are not alone. Others have navigated this path, and the best thing you can do is seek help from a car accident attorney.
Many states have established hit-and-run laws, and insurance companies have also taken action to deal with these incidents. Dealing with a hit-and-run can be challenging, but knowing what steps to take can alleviate that stress. Never wait to seek guidance from an experienced car accident lawyer.
What Is a Hit and Run?
All motorists must stop and exchange insurance information when a collision occurs. Typically, you must exchange information like names, addresses, license numbers, and vehicle registration numbers. Drivers should also provide appropriate aid to injured people if applicable to the circumstances. Failure to meet these requirements and, instead, leaving the scene is a hit-and-run.
Why Do Drivers Leave the Scene?
It is appalling to think that drivers might leave an accident scene, but it happens more often than you think. When a driver leaves the scene, they usually have a reason. Usually, they fear consequences they believe will be greater if they stop and speak with law enforcement.
Some of the reasons drivers hit and run are:
- They don’t have a license or car insurance
- The vehicle is unregistered, stolen, or they do not have permission to drive it
- They have a suspended driver’s license
- They have an outstanding warrant
- They were committing a crime before the crash
- They fear deportation or other criminal actions
- They are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- They simply panic and fail to follow the law
Most drivers fail to realize that the consequences they face will only increase if the police catch them after leaving the scene. However, the damage is already done, and now you must navigate the hit-and-run accident claim process.
Seeking legal recourse is challenging, and you should discuss your options with a car accident lawyer. The right car accident lawyers will review your situation, build a strong case, and seek compensation for your losses, despite the driver fleeing the scene.
Reporting a Hit and Run
The best action you can take after a hit-and-run collision is to report it immediately. When the police arrive at an accident scene, they will file a crash report, even when all drivers do not remain at the scene. You must file a report with the local highway safety division when authorities do not come to the scene.
You must also inform your insurance company that you were in a hit-and-run accident shortly afterward. However, having a car accident lawyer handle this communication is best. You cannot always trust your insurance company to do the right thing, so you want a professional handling these calls so you never risk saying the wrong thing.
Injuries that can Result from a Hit and Run Accident
As with all car accidents, a hit-and-run can lead to severe injuries and death. The at-fault driver has fled the scene, and while some accident victims can call for help, others cannot. Injuries can worsen as you wait for help to arrive. Sometimes, your condition is more severe because the other driver did not stop to help you.
Among the most traumatic injuries that car accident lawyers see are:
- Broken bones
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic brain injuries
Getting immediate medical treatment and following doctors’ orders after a hit-and-run accident is of the utmost importance. Even if you feel better, you should continue care until your doctor clears you. This can improve your overall prognosis in some situations and indicates you are taking your injuries seriously.
Complete medical records are critical to show the driver’s actions injured you. You already have enough hurdles in your hit-and-run claim; you want to make everything else as straightforward as possible. You can help yourself by seeing medical professionals and then consulting with a legal professional about what to do next.
Potential Compensation After a Hit and Run
Hit-and-run accident victims are not completely out of luck, as they can often seek compensation after a collision. However, a hit-and-run crash can make recovering compensation challenging.
The first hurdle is determining what you should seek compensation for. Medical expenses and property damage are obvious expenses, but there are usually others. Economic losses can also include physical therapy costs, lost income, car repair bills, and future expenses.
You will also have intangible expenses to contend with, like pain and suffering. Intangible losses are more challenging to calculate but crucial to your recovery claim. You require the assistance of a car accident attorney to calculate all of your losses and prove what you deserve to the relevant insurance companies.
Sources of Compensation
Depending on your situation, you can have different avenues to seek compensation for your hit-and-run losses. Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage can cover medical expenses from a hit-and-run accident, but this coverage is often quite limited. Your car accident lawyer can help you determine other sources of compensation when necessary.
Uninsured motorist coverage is the primary resource available for hit-and-run victims above and beyond PIP coverage. Some states require this provision in all insurance policies. Others make it optional.
Your uninsured motorist policy approaches a hit-and-run as if you were in a crash with an uninsured driver. This policy should cover your medical bills and other losses if you never locate the driver who fled the scene.
There is always the chance that law enforcement officers will find the driver who fled the scene. If this happens, officers can arrest the driver, who might face criminal charges. Your attorney can also determine whether the driver has insurance coverage and file an at-fault accident claim whenever possible.
Lawsuits Against the At-Fault Motorist
After a collision, you can file a lawsuit against negligent parties as long as you know who they are. You must find the at-fault driver, and once an investigator finds them, you can file a lawsuit against them. The fleeing driver, when found, can be liable in court, but you must follow all necessary legal procedures to seek compensation.
Some crashes involve multiple vehicles with multiple drivers sharing fault. You can take legal action against one driver even when another leaves the scene. Complex liability and insurance issues might arise in this situation, so you always need a car accident lawyer to navigate the process for you.
Hit and Runs Can Take Longer to Resolve
These claims often take longer to resolve because the police are looking for the fleeing driver. Finding the driver can take time, but you might want to wait to see if they find the driver before moving forward with a legal course of action. Unfortunately, the local statute of limitations does not falter, and you must take action within the allotted time.
Sometimes, officers can find the vehicle but not the driver. The motorist might have borrowed the car and not told the owner there was an accident. With the license plate, police can locate the vehicle’s owner. If the owner is a different person than the driver, their insurance coverage might still apply to the accident. In many situations, insurance follows the car, so even finding the vehicle can help your case in many circumstances.
Proving Liability for a Hit and Run
When you find the driver, you must prove they caused your collision to recover compensation. Even if you never locate the driver, your uninsured motorist provider will expect you to prove what happened to provide coverage for a hit-and-run.
You must have evidence to prove:
- The defendant drove the vehicle
- There was a crash
- There was property damage, an injury, or death
- The driver did not stop or provide their personal information
Your legal team will collect evidence of liability for your crash during their investigation. They can present this evidence showing the driver was responsible for the accident, which can lead to insurance coverage by the driver’s provider (if found) or your uninsured motorist provider.
The police can conduct an investigation at the accident scene, but their accident report might be incomplete if one driver did not stay at the scene. Witnesses can provide unbiased accounts of what occurred, which can be critical evidence of liability.
Your attorney might also use evidence like:
- Surveillance videos
- Vehicle damage
- Accident reconstruction efforts
Your lawyer can use vehicle damage to show where the impact occurred and paint a picture of what happened. Surveillance videos are becoming increasingly common in public places, and these can be extremely helpful because they show the accident occurring in real time. It is difficult to argue with a video of an accident happening and a driver fleeing.
What you need to prove and the evidence you can access will vary from case to case. You should work with a local car accident lawyer to build your strongest case.
Hit and Run Crashes can be Fatal
In a recent year, hit-and-run crashes in the U.S. resulted in 236,433 injuries and 2,564 fatalities. Young drivers between 15 and 20 caused seven percent of deaths, and sixty-two percent of fatalities happened among pedestrians. Speeding was a significant contributing factor that led to 26,611 injuries and 485 deaths. Weekends saw the highest hit-and-runs, with Friday having the most. Florida, Louisiana, and New Mexico had the highest number of hit-and-run collisions.
Unfortunately, death happens in hit-and-run accidents, and the surviving family is left to take legal action. It is a grueling situation because, for some time, families might not know the culprit of the tragic death.
Eligible parties can file wrongful death claims after a hit-and-run accident to seek compensation for:
- The deceased’s pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of inheritance or future income
- The victim’s medical expenses
Financial rewards do not change the fact that your loved one is gone, but money can help provide financial support and a sense of justice for the loss.
Are Hit and Runs Civil or Criminal?
Hit and runs are civil cases but can happen simultaneously with criminal charges. The state can decide to bring criminal charges against the fleeing driver if police find them. In criminal cases, the state attorney is in charge, and they will decide whether to bring charges and when to offer a plea deal. They also present evidence at trial and show the driver was at fault beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your civil case will be a separate matter. In civil lawsuits, you must prove all elements of the negligence of the driver, not criminal culpability. However, your attorney might use a criminal conviction as strong evidence of liability in a civil case. You must work with your lawyer to develop a legal strategy to prove your civil matter.
What Not to Do After a Hit and Run?
While you should do many things after a hit-and-run, such as get medical and legal help, you should NOT do others:
- Do not speak with insurance companies without legal representation.
- Do not post on social media about the collision or your medical treatment.
- Do not worry about your legal options or try to determine them alone.
Call an attorney to help you. When you have legal representation, you have a clearer path to often greater financial recovery after this stressful incident.
Call a Trusted Car Accident Lawyer Today
After a hit-and-run crash, you should contact a local car accident attorney who can help you. Hit and runs require extensive investigation to find the driver or vehicle owner. The insurance company and law enforcement will not always make reliable efforts to find the negligent driver. Sometimes, the driver disappears forever, and you need to find other ways to pursue compensation.
Injured motorists should not try to follow or find the driver alone. They should also never navigate the complex insurance process alone. Instead, always consult a Gainesville personal injury lawyer who will know the best way to proceed.