Hit and Run: Victims’ Rights After the Accident

Manufacturers improve car safety every year, and safer cars should mean fewer fatalities. But the Foundation for Auto Safety points out an alarming countertrend: hit-and-run deaths.

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Hit and Run: Victims’ Rights After the Accident

Manufacturers improve car safety every year, and safer cars should mean fewer fatalities. But the Foundation for Auto Safety points out an alarming countertrend: hit-and-run deaths. Since 2009, hit-and-run deaths have increased significantly with each passing year. Thankfully, few hit and runs result in death, and even though most cases begin as accidental hit and runs, victims suffer, nonetheless.

What is considered a hit-and-run?

A hit-and-run crime means that a person in a vehicle has struck a person, object, or another vehicle and left the scene without giving his or her information. A hit-and-run can occur on private property or in a parking lot just as easily as on a public road.

What is the legal requirement if you hit someone?

Accidents happen. Drivers look away from the road for a moment, and when they look back, someone could be stepping out in front of them. Or a driver might miss a stop sign because of construction just as a kid is riding through the intersection on their bike. Regardless of the cause or fault of the accident, anyone who is in an accident is required by law to stay on the scene. If they hurt someone, legal obligation requires them to offer help until professionals arrive.

What happens in a hit-and-run?

Drivers flee the scene of an accident for a myriad of reasons: They may be intoxicated, driving without a license, uninsured, driving a rental or someone else's car, or already in legal trouble – the list goes on. An accident becomes a hit-and-run when the driver who caused it leaves the scene.

What should I do if I'm the victim of a hit-and-run?

If you're the victim of a hit-and-run, don't panic. Keeping your wits can make all the difference. Take a moment to write down exactly what happened with as much detail as possible. If no one else has called the police, make the call yourself, and while you’re waiting, gather any witnesses and get their information. Take photographs of the scene: skid marks, damage to the road, your vehicle, and anything else you think might be useful. You may also want to contact an attorney who specializes in hit-and-run cases. You'll want to look for one who has a history of successful settlements, a positive reputation, and strong testimonials.

How likely is it that authorities will find my hit-and-run driver?

Accidents always leave victims behind, but a hit-and-run magnifies the damage because the culprit's gone missing. Getting away with a hit-and-run proves much harder than most people realize. Cell phone cameras, the prevalence of security cameras in businesses and outside private homes, and the willingness of witnesses to come forward mean that more hit-and-run cases reach resolution today than ever before.

What are my rights if I'm a victim of a hit-and-run?

Once the hit-and-run driver is identified, he or she will face criminal charges. You also have the right to pursue civil charges. Victims may ask for compensation for damaged property, lost wages, and medical bills. Additionally, in most states, courts can also award treble damages to the plaintiff, which amounts to money the hit-and-run driver must pay which is triple whatever damages the court originally deemed appropriate.

What can I do to make a strong case against the hit-and-run driver?

Advice from an attorney will help you prepare for your day in court. Remember that the moment the hit-and-run driver leaves the scene, you become your own advocate. Keep copies of every document related to the accident; gather and maintain all identifiable information on any party involved; be consistent in communicating with the police department and other officials regarding identification and prosecution.

A hit and run accident ranks among one of the most stressful experiences you can face, but by keeping your wits, hiring the right attorney, and maintaining diligence throughout the process, you can ensure that justice prevails.  

Reach out to Jeff Martin Law today and we can connect you with an attorney no matter what side you’re on.

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