Hit-and-Run Accidents: Penalties to At-fault Driver and Possible Sources of Compensation for Victims
In road accidents wherein people sustain injuries or get killed, state traffic laws require the involved drivers, especially the one who is unhurt and conscious, to stop and provide all necessary assistance to the injured; it is also obligatory for the able driver to contact traffic enforcers (and wait for them to arrive at the scene) if someone gets killed in the accident. If both drivers are conscious and without serious injuries, however, then they should exchange information regarding their identification, contact details and insurance provider.
Though state laws may differ with regard to the severity of the crime and punishment to be imposed on drivers who speed away from the scene of an accident, the following are basic legal consequences:
Suspension or revocation of driver’s license (in some states, permanent cancellation of license is imposed);
Imprisonment and costly fines; and,
Cancellation of the liable driver’s insurance policy.
Since 2005, the yearly number of hit-and-run victims has increased steadily, causing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be alarmed. The Administration’s records in fact show that, from 2009 to 2011, reported hit-and-run cases have risen from 1,274 to 1,449.
According to the site of Pohl & Berk, LLP, Hit-and-run, which is also called hit and skip, leaving the scene or skipping and fleeing an accident scene, means speeding away from the scene of an accident to avoid responsibility over an injured victim. This act, however, only makes matters worse both for the victim and the liable driver. On the part of the driver, leaving the scene can result to either a misdemeanor or a felony. This means time behind bars besides the punitive damages and compensatory damages he or she will have to pay.
For the victim, seeking compensation will be quite difficult, more so if there are no clues that will help identify who the liable driver is. Under this circumstance, the hit-and-run victim will have to collect from his or her own insurance policy. In states where no-fault auto liability insurance coverage is required, the victim can apply for a no-fault claim, otherwise, an underinsured or uninsured claim is the alternative option.
Whether to look for clues that will lead to the hit-and-run driver and file a suit against him or her if found or file a claim with the insurance provider, the victim will surely need the help of a highly-qualified lawyer.