Hit & Run: Still an Unresolved Threat to the American Public

Hit & Run: Still an Unresolved Threat to the American Public

Oct 05

Under common definition, hit-and-run, or hit and skip, refers to a person’s act of leaving or fleeing from the scene of an accident in order to escape responsibility for injury. On a wider context though, hit-and-run can also be referred to the act of speeding away from a situation that damages properties, whether personal or public, or collides with an animal, injuring or killing it as a result (some states include this within the scope of hit-and-run accidents).

Based on the two definitions above, a hit-and-run accident, therefore, can involve not just a pedestrian or another vehicle (wherein its driver, usually the one who may be identified as the victim, is injured and rendered unconscious), but fixed objects and animals as well. While all state laws require that it occurs on public roads and highways, some states include collisions occurring in parking lots as well.

It is the legal obligation of drivers who are involved in accidents to stop, provide whatever kind of assistance may be needed by anyone who gets injured or loses consciousness, contact traffic enforcers and wait for them to arrive at the scene – this is regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Even if nothing more than damage to property is the issue, both drivers are still legally required to exchange information regarding their identification, insurance provider and contact details. In parking lots where the owner of a vehicle that is damaged is nowhere in sight, then the driver who is at fault should leave a written notice with his/her identification and contact details.

State laws differ when leaving the scene of an accident is the issue. While some states would charge the driver (who is guilty of hit-and-run) a misdemeanor offense, others consider the act a felony, a much more serious offense. Whatever the charge is, though, the following are certain: time behind bars; punitive and compensatory damages; cancellation of insurance policy (upon identification of the hit-and-run driver); and, revocation or suspension of driver’s license (some states are authorized to permanently cancel the offender’s driver’s license).

To mention specific charges and punishment imposed by some states:

  • In Texas, after September 1, 2013, the charge was raised from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. This means up to 20 years in prison, instead of just up to 10
  • In Florida, seriously injuring someone will mean a seven-year sentence, and 10 years if there are fatalities
  • In Arizona, once a hit-and-run driver is identified, he/she will have his/her license suspended for five years (if the case involves serious injuries); fatal accidents will mean 10 years automatic suspension of license. These do not include time in jail yet
  • In Colorado, a law was passed in 2012, which made hit-and-run accidents (with serious bodily injury) a Class 4 felony.

A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that majority of hit-and-run victims are pedestrians and, with regard to the cause of the accidents, the major factor is alcohol impairment.

In another study, it is said that drivers tend to run due to varying reasons, including: driving without a license; high blood-alcohol content; or, they’re very young to be charged with a major offense. As the number of drivers fleeing from the scene of an accident continuous to rise, so too does the difficulty of catching them since many have resorted to means that will help them avoid identification, like having their vehicle immediately repainted or have the part damaged by the impact quickly repaired.

Often, victims of hit-and-run have nowhere to turn to, especially for financial support. They will have to understand that they have the law as their ally and a personal injury lawyer, in whatever state they live, as their defender.

Lawyers can never guarantee that a personal injury case, or any case for that matter, will be decided in favor of the plaintiff or complainant; however, filing a civil lawsuit and arguing with the defendant in court without being represented by a truly skilled personal injury lawyer would be similar to getting severely injured the second time, only this time, he/she is face-to-face with the driver at fault.

There are also times, though, when a case is filed against an insurance provider that keeps denying a claim filed by a hit-and-run victim or which employs tactics that will allow it to pay a claimant lesser amount of benefit or make delayed payments.

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