Responding to Hit-and-Run Accidents

More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads. Have you been the victim of a hit and run? If so, you may have experienced the helplessness that other victims have felt. Not only do they suffer serious injuries, but they also face enormous financial challenges, including high medical, hospital and car repair costs, not to mention having to deal with lost work time and higher auto insurance premiums, even though the accident wasn’t their fault.  

Most states define a hit-and-run accident as an event when a driver is involved in a collision with another person, vehicle or property and fails to stop and provide key information, including:

  •  Name;
  • Driver’s License Number;
  • Insurance Provider’s Name and Your Policy Number; and
  • Your License Plate Number.

What’s the penalty for hit-and-run accidents? While state laws vary, many allow prosecutors to file criminal charges against the offending party, either as a felony or a misdemeanor. For example, a collision that causes a death or serious injury is likely to result in felony hit-and-run charges. Both felonies and misdemeanors can carry jail sentences and penalty fines. By contrast, a hit-and-run violation against property (like hitting a parked car) typically is a misdemeanor and carries a fine. Civil suits that allow victims to pursue compensation for their expenses are often allowed, as well.

What should you do if you’re the victim of a hit and run?

  • If seriously injured, call 911 and seek medical help. Keep in mind that many accident injuries, including soft tissue injuries, do not make themselves known for 24-48 hours.
  • Call the police, report the accident and ask for a police report.
  • If witnesses are nearby, collect their contact information and ask them to stay until the police arrive.
  • If able, take photos of the accident, including damage to your vehicle, broken glass, skid marks and anything else that can help document the crime.

Should you contact an attorney? In most cases, the answer is a resounding Yes. Unless the police can locate the guilty party quickly, you and/or your insurance company will likely be required to shoulder many of the costs. If the guilty party is located, you will need to prove his/her negligence. Many experienced attorneys can help advise you on whether you are eligible for financial compensation. Once retained, they can collect evidence, interview witnesses, negotiate with the guilty party’s insurance company and protect your legal rights.

There are many options to consider, as an experienced attorney, like a hit-and-run accident lawyer, from a firm such as Wiseman Bray, PLLC, can explain.