Hit and Run Accidents

Nov 12, 2023 | Right Path Law Group
Hit and Run Accidents

A hit and run accident can turn an ordinary day into a whirlwind of stress and uncertainty. One second, you’re on the road minding your business, and the next, you’re dealing with the aftermath of a crash while the responsible party speeds away.

But even in these tough moments, a Fairfax car accident lawyer can present you with options.

Here’s what you should know about recovering from a hit and run.

What Is a Hit and Run Accident?

Hit and Run Accidents

A hit and run accident is one in which a driver fails to stop and provide necessary information or render aid as required by law.

In most states, anyone involved in a traffic collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or property damage must:

  • Stop the Vehicle: Immediately after a collision, a driver must stop their vehicle, ideally away from the flow of traffic, to ensure safety and prevent secondary accidents.
  • Check for Injuries: Once the driver is in a safe location, they should check themselves, their passengers, and anyone else present for injuries. If someone needs medical attention, they must help them access it as soon as possible.
  • Exchange Information: The driver should provide their name, contact details, driver’s license number, and insurance information to everyone the accident affects. If the driver damages someone else’s property and can’t locate them, they must leave their contact details behind.
  • Notify Law Enforcement: In many states, the driver must report accidents to their local police, especially if the crash results in injuries or significant damage. If a police officer comes to the scene and creates their own report, this step might not be necessary.

Failing to perform any of these steps can result in serious legal consequences. Leaving the scene without taking appropriate actions turns an ordinary accident into a hit and run, which can lead to hefty fines or even jail time.

A driver who flees the scene of an accident can find themselves in legal trouble even if they were not responsible for the collision itself.

Why Do Some Drivers Flee the Scene After an Accident?

Accidents are always unfortunate events, but fleeing the scene compounds the problem and raises questions about the driver’s motives. While every hit and run incident involves unique circumstances, several common reasons often emerge as the drivers’ rationale for not sticking around.

These include:

  • Lack of Insurance: Many drivers operate vehicles without valid insurance coverage or proof of self-insurance, as most states require. When these drivers get into accidents, their fear of financial responsibilities and legal repercussions can prompt them to drive away.
  • Driving Under the Influence: Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs might panic after an accident. Impaired judgment combined with the fear of DUI charges might inspire them to flee in hopes of avoiding arrest.
  • Driving with an Invalid or Suspended License: Some drivers hit the road with expired, revoked, or suspended licenses. After an accident, the dread of additional legal troubles might push them to run away.
  • Criminal Activity: A driver committing illegal activities or driving with contraband in the vehicle might prioritize evasion over responsibility. These individuals often flee to prevent the discovery of their illicit actions or items.
  • Fear of Repercussions: Sometimes, pure fear and anxiety take over, even if a driver hasn’t done anything wrong. The shock from the accident and fear of potential confrontations might lead them to make a hasty, ill-advised exit.

What Should I Do After a Hit and Run Accident?

Suffering injuries in a hit and run is a shocking and overwhelming experience. But there are steps you can take after the incident to protect your rights and improve your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Call 911 or local law enforcement while you’re still at the scene of the crash.
  • Document the scene thoroughly with photos and video footage.
  • Write down everything you recall about the other driver, such as their general appearance and their behavior leading up to the crash. Note the direction they left in.
  • Also, take note of any details you remember about the fleeing vehicle, such as the color, make, model, and license plate number. Write down the time and location of the accident.
  • Speak to eyewitnesses and try to get their contact information.
  • Document any damage to your vehicle or other personal belongings.
  • Look for security cameras in the area that might have captured the incident.
  • Report the accident to your insurance company.
  • Keep a record of any medical treatments or expenses.
  • Maintain a diary of any pain or symptoms you experience post-accident.
  • Inform local body shops about the wreck and the fleeing vehicle’s damage.
  • Stay vigilant for any news or social media posts regarding similar incidents.
  • Keep all repair bills and receipts you incur due to the incident.

But most importantly, speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon after the accident as possible. They can perform many of the above tasks on your behalf, offer you guidance on other steps, and pursue compensation through several avenues.

How Much Is My Hit and Run Accident Case Worth?

It depends. Every accident case is different, and those involving hit and runs tend to have unusual factors that can significantly affect their value.

If you file an injury case after a hit and run accident, you could seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical costs
  • Lost income
  • Lost future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost quality of life

Several factors come into play when it comes to assessing the value of a hit and run accident case.

Depending on the circumstances, the following factors could either increase or decrease the compensation available for your case:

  • Severity of Injuries: Major crash injuries typically demand higher compensation due to increased medical costs and life disruption. A broken arm, for instance, calls for more compensation than a minor bruise.
  • Recovery Timeline: A prolonged recovery period often means more medical bills, income losses, and future treatment needs, all of which can increase the ultimate value of your case.
  • Driver Identification: If investigators never locate the other driver, you will likely have to rely on your own insurance for compensation. But if investigators identify the other driver, you could have more options for recovering the full compensation you deserve.
  • Amount of Available Insurance: The insurance policy limits of the at-fault driver, if you locate them, or your uninsured motorist coverage can set a ceiling on the potential compensation available.
  • Economic Losses: Easily calculable losses like lost income, medical bills, and property damage repair costs can directly affect your case’s overall value.
  • Non-Economic Losses: Pain, suffering, and emotional distress are subjective losses, but they can significantly increase your compensation payout, especially if you have proper documentation.
  • Extent of Property Damage: Significant vehicle damage or the loss of valuable items in the accident could boost your claim’s worth, reflecting repair or replacement costs.
  • Witness Testimonies: Reliable and credible witnesses that corroborate your account could strengthen your case, potentially increasing its worth.
  • Legal Representation: A skilled attorney can negotiate effectively and present your case compellingly on your behalf. Hiring a lawyer you can trust is the best way to maximize the value of your hit and run accident case.
  • Future Implications: If the accident results in permanent disabilities or long-term treatment needs, your potential compensation should increase to account for future care costs and lost earning potential.

Can I File a Claim with My Own Insurance After a Hit and Run?

Can I File a Claim with My Own Insurance After a Hit and Run

Yes, you can likely file a claim with your own insurance after a hit and run, especially if no one identifies or locates the at-fault party. However, the coverage available depends on your insurance policy.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of first-party insurance benefits that might be available to you:

  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI): This coverage steps in when you or your passengers suffer harm in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance or flees the scene of the crash. It pays for your medical bills, income losses, and pain and suffering when the other driver’s bodily injury liability insurance isn’t available.
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD): This coverage is similar to UMBI but focuses on property damage rather than injuries. If your vehicle incurs damage in a hit and run, UMPD can cover the repair or replacement.
  • Medical Payments (MedPay) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP): These policies pay for medical expenses and related losses for you and your passengers, regardless of fault.
  • Collision Coverage: This type of insurance pays for damage to your vehicle resulting from a collision, no matter who’s at fault. If your car sustained damage in a hit and run, this coverage would foot the repair bill.

Always review your policy details and speak with your lawyer after a hit and run accident. They can guide you through the claims process and maximize the payout you receive for your losses.

Will My Insurance Rates Increase if I File a Hit and Run Claim?

If a hit and run driver injured you, you might worry that filing an insurance claim will raise the premiums you must pay on your policy. Whether you see rate increases will depend on your insurance company’s policies and your specific situation.

If you were not at fault for the hit and run accident, your rates might not necessarily increase. Many insurance companies differentiate between at-fault and not-at-fault accidents when determining rate adjustments. Some even offer accident forgiveness, which prevents rate increases after a collision.

However, if you file multiple claims over a short period, your insurer might view you as a high-risk driver and increase your premiums accordingly. Additionally, you might see an increase if you make a claim against your uninsured motorist or collision policy, as these claims affect your personal insurance directly.

Remember to communicate openly with your attorney about the hit and run. They can provide guidance on how filing a claim might affect your rates and help you weigh the benefits of filing the claim against any potential increase in premiums.

Can I Sue the Hit and Run Driver if Investigators Locate Them?

Absolutely. If investigators succeed in locating the hit and run driver, you have the right to file a lawsuit against them. Doing so allows you to demand compensation for the injuries you sustained and any other related losses you incurred.

These losses might include medical bills, income losses, vehicle repair costs, and pain and suffering.

Additionally, some jurisdictions allow you to seek punitive damages, which punish the driver’s especially reckless or malicious behavior.

Taking legal action is a daunting prospect for anyone. But it ensures the hit and run driver faces accountability and allows you to demand the money you deserve for the trauma and losses you endured.

Always consult an experienced injury attorney if you’re considering legal action after a hit and run. They can evaluate the potential worth of your case, guide you through the injury claim system, and establish a strong legal argument on your behalf.

Do I File My Own Lawsuit if the Hit and Run Driver Is Already Facing Criminal Charges?

Pierre Prialé, Car Accident Attorney
Car Accident Lawyer, Pierre Prialé

Yes. After locating the hit and run driver, you would file your own civil lawsuit even if they are already facing criminal charges. Criminal and civil cases operate independently, and a civil lawsuit doesn’t depend on the outcome of a criminal case. While criminal charges aim to penalize the driver for breaking the law, a civil lawsuit seeks financial compensation for the harm they inflicted on you.

The existence or outcome of a criminal case doesn’t dictate whether you can or should file a personal injury lawsuit. Even if the court finds the driver guilty of a crime, that won’t automatically grant you compensation. Conversely, even if the court finds them not guilty, you could still win your civil case.

Filing a civil lawsuit is your personal choice and responsibility. While the state or prosecution handles criminal charges, you must initiate a civil lawsuit if you wish to sue. But you do not have to do so yourself. Instead, you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle every aspect of this process while you focus on your recovery.