Hit and Run Motor Vehicle Accidents: The Consequences
A hit and run accident is a very unfortunate occurrence for both victim and perpetrator. For the victims, there is often palpable anger and resentment at the defendant for not only causing the accident but for not taking responsibility for it. For the defendant, who may have either not realized the accident took place or panicked and fled the scene, there may be criminal ramifications, as well as civil liability.
About 1 in 5 hit and run accidents involve pedestrians. Nationally, the rate of hit and run accidents has been increasing despite the downward trend in car accidents generally.
In Massachusetts, if you are in an accident where there is property damage and/or injury to another person, you are obligated under law to provide your name, address, license and insurance information to the victim. In property damage only cases, your failure to do so is a misdemeanor under Massachusetts law. If a person was injured and you fled the scene, you risk felony prosecution.
Reasons Why People Flee the Scene
Why so many people do not perform their obligation to stop and either render assistance and/or give the required identifying information at an accident scene are varied, but the most common excuses include:
- Lacking insurance or valid driver’s license
- Being an undocumented alien
- Intoxication or other impairment
- Feeling that no or little damage or injury occurred
- Not realizing an accident had occurred
- Left scene to get assistance
- Driving a stolen vehicle
Statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of hit and run drivers lacked a valid driver’s license. Some states are allowing the undocumented to have driver’s licenses though it is unknown if this will lead such drivers to not flee the scene if involved in an accident of any type.
Fleeing the scene of a property damage accident can result in fines and even incarceration. Once admitted, or convicted, this is helpful to the civil, personal injury, case.
Most offenders will have to pay a fine, however, if the victim was injured, felony charges are possible and the perpetrator faces fines of $500 to $1,000 and jail or prison time of a mandatory minimum of 6 months and possibly up to 2 years.
If your family member was a victim of wrongful death, the penalty against the hit and run driver would likely be greatly increased, including charging with vehicular manslaughter. If intoxication was involved, the felony of motor vehicle homicide may be the charge.
A defendant who flees the scene of an accident, under certain circumstances might face multiple charges: hit and run, leaving the scene of an injury accident, driving on a suspended license or no license, DUI, vehicular homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, driving a stolen vehicle and other possible charges.
Again, any criminal charges against the defendant driver are likely to help prove civil liability in your injury case.
Injury Claims in a Hit and Run
If you were the victim of a hit and run accident, you do have to prove a collision took place before you can claim compensation from the responsible driver, if the driver can be tracked down or identified. If you or a witness were able to get a license number or description of the vehicle, you may be fortunate. Accidents that occur at intersections may have been recorded by video or surveillance cameras. Should the offender be identified, you can claim compensation under that person’s auto liability insurance carrier.
If the offender cannot be identified, or that person lacked auto insurance, you can make a claim under your own, or a household, uninsured motorist policy regardless if you were a motorist or pedestrian. You would have to demonstrate that a hit and run accident did occur, prove the fault of the uninsured driver with no or minimal fault on your own part, and provide evidence as to the nature and extent of your injuries and damages. If your claim does not settle, it is subject to binding arbitration rather than a court or jury trial. In arbitration, and for any other injury claim, retaining a Boston car accident lawyer is essential if you want to obtain the compensation your case deserves.
Damages in a Hit and Run Accident
Your damages in a hit and run injury accident are compensable under the defendant driver’s auto liability carrier or the uninsured provision of your own policy if the motorist cannot be found. These include:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If the accident resulted in a fatality, the administrator of the decedent’s estate may bring a claim on behalf of the decedent’s immediate family. Damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of financial support
- Medical expenses if any
- Loss of the decedent’s love, moral support, guidance and consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Punitive damages
There are numerous issues in a hit and run accident that only an experienced and knowledgeable Boston car accident lawyer like Attorney Neil Burns or Roshan Jain should handle if you want to recover reasonable compensation for your injuries. Call the Law Office of Burns & Jain today for a free in-depth assessment of your hit and run injury claim.