Hit and Run Settlements
Being in a car accident can be overwhelming, especially for the person who caused the crash. It is so overwhelming at times that fear can overcome common sense and lead a person to leave the scene of the accident. This is known as hit and run, and it is a serious criminal offense in most states.
If you were the victim of a hit and run accident, you may be wondering about your legal rights and what hit and run compensation can look like. This article describes the critical legal factors to understand in these types of accidents, personal injury settlement information, as well as possible defenses.
Hit and Run Overview
Most states, such as California, mandate that drivers must stop right away after an accident to provide contact information, driver’s license, and insurance data to the other driver. This should happen regardless of who was at fault. When drivers fail to do so, they can face a felony or misdemeanor hit and run charge. Which type of offense depends upon the details of the crash.
What to do if you are the victim in a hit and run
If you find yourself the victim of a hit and run accident, it is very important that you follow these steps to protect yourself.
Call the Police
This first step is necessary for all car accidents, but it becomes especially important when a hit-and-run has occurred. Report the incident to police and ensure they come to the scene of the accident to fully document the crime. Be sure to share any details you have about the other driver, their vehicle, and what happened in the moments before, during, and after the crash.
Police will do their due diligence at the scene of a hit-and-run, but victims should also be proactive in collecting evidence to support their account. Snap photos and videos of the damage done by the hit-and-run driver, along with images of the road conditions, traffic levels, road signs and street lights. No detail is too small when it comes to documenting an accident scene.
If witnesses saw what happened, ask if they’re willing to go on record about the crash. Take video or audio recordings of their account, making sure to include their contact information and full name in your notes. Eyewitnesses are often the only difference between the police labeling your crash a hit-and-run or a single-vehicle wreck.
Seek Medical Attention
If you suffered injuries in the crash, it’s important to get examined by EMS and taken to the hospital for treatment. If your injuries do not warrant an ambulance, head to an urgent care center or see your own family doctor as soon as possible. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately after a crash. The longer you wait to get your injuries documented, the harder it will be to convince the insurance company that your ailments stem from the collision.
Even if you don’t think you’ve been hurt in the crash, get examined just in case. Many car accident injuries don’t show up right away, and a doctor can help you identify any areas for concern. It’s important to document even the smallest of injuries following a car crash, as they can develop or worsen over time. Without initial documentation connecting the injury to the accident, the insurance company will be reluctant to pay out your claim.
File an Uninsured Motorist Insurance Claim
After the accident, you can file an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company. Most states require this coverage for collisions involving hit-and-run motorists and uninsured or underinsured drivers. You’ll need evidence and documentation of the wreck and your damages, but as long as you prove the accident occurred, the insurance company will likely pay out the claim.
Unfortunately, not every driver has uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Without it, hit-and-run accident victims must shoulder the full financial weight of the accident on their own. If police find the person responsible for the accident, you can file a claim with their insurance company.
Find a Hit-and-Run Lawyer Now
No two accidents are exactly alike. This is especially true of hit-and-run accidents where any number of factors can contribute to the potential outcomes of the incident. Seeking justice is difficult when you don’t know who caused your accident. While it’s easy to feel helpless, there are options for hit-and-run crash victims.
Car accident lawyers can help you understand your rights and what next steps to take after a hit-and-run. No matter the circumstances that led to your crash, an experienced personal injury lawyer can guide you through the aftermath.
Common Hit and Run Defenses
Most drivers who run from the accident scene do so because they fear being arrested for another offense. That is why many suspects might deal with several charges, including DUI, driving under suspension, reckless driving, driving a stolen car or reckless driving. A person who flees the scene of an accident and faces other charges should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately. The less that person says to law enforcement without legal counsel, the better.
An experienced hit and run lawyer will work with the accused to craft the best defense for the alleged crime. Below are some defenses that can be effective. It is important to converse with a strong defense attorney as soon as you can after the arrest so they can begin to mount an aggressive defense.
- Not the person driving the car. Only the driver may be charged for the crime. If the criminal defense attorney can show that another person was driving, this is a strong defense.
- Did not leave the scene willingly. Perhaps you were knocked out during the crash and a passenger shoved you from the driver’s seat and hit the gas. The hit and run accident did happen when you were driving, but in this case, the failure to stop was not an intentional act on your part.
- Did not intentionally fail to provide information to the other driver. You have to give the other driver address, name and insurance information, as well as to any police who come to the scene. But if you could not exchange information, this could be an effective defense. For instance, if you are hurt in an accident and are unconscious, a passenger might take you to the hospital. If you were incapacitated while leaving the scene, failure to provide required information was not a willful act.
- Unaware of damage. Many hit and run accidents involve the critical element of ‘knowing’ or ‘reasonably should have known’ that the accident caused damage. For instance, if you rear end another vehicle and neither party notices any damage, you may drive away. But the police could subsequently charge you with hit and run after the other driver finds damage on the bumper. A strong criminal defense attorney could argue you did not know the other vehicle was damaged.
- Unaware of injuries. If you did not know that injury or death resulted from the accident, this could be a strong defense. Some injuries do not become readily apparent until hours or days after the accident. Your attorney may argue that it is unreasonable to expect that you would have known about another person’s injuries that did not show themselves until after the incident.
- Could not provide ‘reasonable assistance.’ If you were unable to offer assistance to the injured person, you cannot be convicted for a hit and run. For example, you might hit another car on a rural road. Several people are hurt, but you cannot exit your vehicle due to damage. Then you drive off to get help. Because you could not offer assistance, your criminal defense lawyer may argue that your best option was to leave the accident scene to get help.
Who is at fault in a hit and run accident?
Usually, the driver who flees the scene is considered at fault for the accident. This is not always the case but it can be hard to prove who caused the accident if one of the involved drivers flees the scene. Generally speaking, if you hit another vehicle or person’s property and the other involved party leaves the scene, this is not considered a hit and run. To complicate things further, you can find yourself the victim of what is called a “Phantom Driver”.
A phantom driver is someone who causes a car accident without actually making contact with the other vehicle. They are referred to as phantoms because of the brief amount of time spent in the vicinity of the accident. At times, these drivers may not even realize that they have been a part of an accident. So how do these accidents happen?
One instance of a phantom driver is when that driver drifts into a lane adjacent to the one they are driving in. The vehicle already occupying that space may swerve to avoid the phantom driver and in doing so hit yet another vehicle or run off of the road.
A phantom driver could also pull out in front of another driver that they don’t see, causing an accident. This may mean that the phantom driver pulled out of a driveway or parking lot, ran a red light or stop sign, or didn’t properly yield.
Typically, a phantom driver is a distracted driver and at times are oblivious to the circumstances that resulted from their inattention. It can be very hard to win a settlement in the case of a phantom driver because it is usually impossible to prove that the guilty party even existed in the first place.
If you are a victim of an accident involving a phantom driver, it is important to call the police to report the accident. Be sure to tell the police and details that you may remember from the phantom driver such as the color, make, and model of the car, license plate information, description of the driver, etc.
Hit and Run Lawsuit Settlements
The above information concerns the defendant who fled the scene of the accident and the potential criminal charges involved. But remember that a hit and run accident can involve both a criminal and civil case. Regardless of how the criminal case is resolved, the driver can face a personal injury claim for the damages and injuries that the victim suffered. Below is information about personal injury settlements that often follow hit and run accidents.
Hit and run compensation for civil lawsuits often will include the following:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
If and when the at-fault driver is caught, that person or their insurance company may be sued. But there are many cases where the at-fault driver lacks insurance; this is one of the common reasons they leave the scene of the crash.
If the driver is not found, the burden is on the victim to recover damages from the accident. This means that you need to file a claim on your own insurance policy. But for that claim to be successful, you have to have uninsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy.
It is important to inform your lawyer if you have uninsured motorist coverage. Otherwise, you could pay a lot of money out of pocket for damages that the hit and run driver caused. How much you can recover on an uninsured motorist claim depends upon the limits of your policy.
One of the problems with a uninsured motorist claim in a hit and run case is that your own insurance company may try to delay, underpay or deny such claims. Your own insurer may make a low ball offer for your injuries. If that is the case, you should strongly consider hiring a personal injury attorney to negotiate on your behalf.
Factors that affect your settlement amount
There are two sorts of damages that you can win in these personal injury claims: compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are intended to compensate you for the various expenses from the crash, such as medical expenses and property damage. These damages are not given to you as a judgment of the recklessness of the defendant.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the other driver for their bad behavior. In a hit and run, the only way that punitive damages can be obtained is if the other driver is found. A jury may give the plaintiff punitive damages if the actions of the defendant led to harm and such actions were intentional and reckless. When a driver leaves the scene, punitive damages can come into play. But some states do limit the amount of punitive damages that you can receive.
A hit and run accident can involve different types of vehicles, different types of crashes (rear end, t-bone, etc) and can result in different kinds of injuries. The degree of injury that you suffer will likely impact the compensation that you receive from your insurance company. If you require extensive medical care after the accident, this may affect how long it takes to receive your payout. Insurance companies may choose to wait until all treatments have been completed to know the total amount of medical expenses they are expected to cover.
Pain and suffering
A major factor in the amount of the settlement is what your pain and suffering is worth. There are two categories to consider:
- Current pain and suffering that covers what you have suffered until now
- Future pain and suffering is what you will deal with in the future as you recover from your injuries
Pain and suffering has to be in one of these areas. Proving pain and suffering in the past can be easier, as you can show medical bills and medical reports about previous appointments. To prove future pain and suffering, it is important to have a statement from a medical professional about what you face in the future as the recovery progresses.
Average Hit and Run Settlement Info
Victims of a hit and run accident with serious personal injuries might speculate what an average hit and run settlement will look like. This will vary depending upon the type and severity of the crash.
Here are some real-life hit and run accident settlements to provide you with a ballpark idea:
$200,000: A man in a crosswalk was struck by a vehicle that did not stop. The driver was never caught but the victim, who suffered serious injuries, was awarded compensation through their insurance company.
$185,000: A woman in Washington state was severely injured after a drunk driver slammed into her car head on. The driver took off and was eventually caught by other drivers.
$150,000: An insurance company paid out $150,000 to a driver who was struck by another driver who failed to properly yield and attempted to flee the scene. A police officer nearby was able to stop the at-fault driver.
$105,000: A man in California was hit as he was walking across the street. The driver was not found, but the man was able to make an uninsured motorist claim on his own auto insurance policy.
$100,000: An uninsured motorist claim was made for a man in Illinois who had serious shoulder injuries when a tractor trailer hit his car and left the scene.
$50,000: A driver collided with a guard rail and claimed that another driver cut them off, causing the accident. The driver was able to collect $50,000 from their insurance company through their uninsured motorist coverage.
$10,000: An Ohio driver was struck by another driver who then fled the scene. Though the damages to the vehicle were not severe, the victim suffered from a back sprain and received a payout from their insurance company.
Hit and Run Settlement Calculator:
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Have Questions? Talk to a Hit and Run Lawyer or Personal Injury Lawyer
Whether you are the driver who fled the accident scene, or have been injured by a hit and run driver yourself, you need to speak to an attorney about your case. A defendant in a hit and run case faces serious criminal charges that could land them in jail for a long time. And the victim of a hit and run could have serious, expensive injuries that they cannot afford to pay for without a personal injury settlement. In both cases, good legal representation is necessary.