What to Do If You Are the Victim of a Hit and Run Accident?
Both the rates of hit and run accidents and fatalities from these accidents are increasing – a hit and run accident occurs every 43 seconds in the United States, and 20% of pedestrian fatalities are caused by hit and runs.
If you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you may not know where to turn and whom to hold responsible; however, your personal injury attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C, is the best place to start making sense of what to do next to get justice and recover your damages.
What is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run accident refers to an accident occurring where a car (or other vehicle) is involved in an accident, damaging another vehicle, person, animal, or fixed object, without stopping to identify yourself, exchange information, or help anyone that is injured. It is about fleeing the scene of the accident, and if not reported properly, is a crime that can have severe down-stream effects.
It may be as serious as striking a pedestrian crossing a road and killing them before speeding off or as minor as scratching a parked vehicle without the owner present and not leaving your details with a contact number. While it may be an instinct to flee when faced with adversity, it is dishonest and illegal.
Why are Hit and Runs a Problem?
Vehicle accidents create economic burdens, as well as social burdens and suffering, sometimes with life-long consequences. This is amplified in hit and run accidents as they often drastically increase the severity of the outcome.
For example, if a person was injured in a hit and run, speeding off and not summoning emergency assistance may be the difference between life and death or life-long disability. A delay in medical assistance or a complete absence of assistance may have catastrophic results for the victim(s).
In addition, victims or their families now have the additional burden of having to find the at-fault party and often very little support for restitution or remediation. As it is a criminal offense if the at-fault party is found it places additional burdens on law enforcement and the legal system.
How Often Does a Hit and Run Occur?
The Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that an analysis by the NHTSA in 2017 found that hit-and-run crashes and fatalities are increasing and that most fatalities are cyclists or pedestrians.
Accident statistics reveal:
- An estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes a year in the USA.
- 2,020 a day
- One every 43 seconds
- Hit and run crashes caused 2,050 fatalities in 2016.
- Six deaths every day.
- 65% of those killed were pedestrians or cyclists.
- Rates are increasing at 7% per annum since 2009 – a 60% increase in a decade.
- Highest per capita rates found in Florida, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
- Lowest per capita rates in Maine, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.
An estimated one million animals are killed on our roads per year, and it is still considered a hit and run in most states if you do not stop to provide information or report the incident. The only exception is small wild animals and birds.
What Must be Done Immediately?
If someone hits you or your vehicle and flees the scene:
- Stay calm.
- Check for injuries and call 911 for emergency assistance.
- Provide whatever assistance you are qualified to provide.
- Write down as much as you can remember immediately, or record it in a voice message, as it is very difficult a few minutes later to remember once shock sets in.
- Record the type of vehicle, the color, make or model, and license plate number if you saw it.
- Even if you cannot remember much of the license plate number, record what you can.
- Check for witnesses and record their information and statements, if possible.
- Photograph the accident scene in as much detail as possible – the surrounding area, the road and traffic lights or signs, possible security cameras, the vehicles involved, the actual damage inflicted.
- Carefully examine the damage for paint transferred from the other vehicle, or broken glass on the scene, and photograph that close up.
- Use video recording; it will capture more details to be examined later.
- Report the hit and run to the police as soon as possible, but definitely within 24 hours, as it is a crime.
- You may be asked to go to a collision reporting center.
- If the police refuse to take a report as the damage is too minimal, record the date, time, police officer’s name and badge number, and phone number.
- Keep the number of the best personal injury lawyer in your area programmed on your phone and call for advice, especially if someone was hurt. A case evaluation should be free, and they normally work on contingency.
- Call your insurance company or broker to notify them of the accident. However, do not sign anything or give too much information, let your lawyer deal with them.
If you don’t report it to the police, the incident might be considered an “at fault” loss by your insurer, meaning it could end up having an impact on your car insurance premium.
What Does the Law Say?
If a driver knowingly leaves the scene of an accident without providing their information, it is a hit and run and will be treated as such by the law. However, if there is no one around, but you leave your information and file a police report, it will not be considered a hit and run.
State laws vary considerably regarding hit and run accidents. Depending on the circumstances, they may be regarded as traffic infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies, and the hit and run driver may lose their license.
In Texas, for example, you may be confined in the county jail or be imprisoned for a third-degree felony if the crash caused a fatality, serious injury, or property damage. In New York leaving the scene is only a traffic infraction, and if anyone was injured, it is only a misdemeanor. Your personal injury law firm can assist you with the applicable state laws. In some courts, up to treble damages can be awarded in hit and run cases.
Hit and Run Accident Law in Michigan
Damage to Unattended Vehicle
- Imprisonment up to 90 days and or a fine up to $100
Damage to Vehicle Driven/Attended by Person
- Imprisonment up to 90 days and or a fine up to $100
- Imprisonment up to 1 year and or a fine up to $1,000
- Suspension of driver’s license
Serious bodily injury:
- Imprisonment up to 5 years and or a fine up to $5,000
- Imprisonment up to 15 years and or a fine up to $10,000
In addition, the no-fault laws will affect the compensation you can claim for damage to your vehicle or injuries.
Get Legal Assistance
Research top personal injury attorneys to have on hand in case of an emergency; they can assist you with advice, dealing with your insurance company as you may have issues there, and file a claim on your behalf if required. In Michigan, you can trust in the assistance of Eileen Kroll, a registered nurse and personal injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. You can reach her at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642- 4529) for a free consultation. Our firm never charges a fee unless we win your case.