Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver hits someone and fails to stop; the driver leaves the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in all 50 states. Leaving the scene of the accident can result in a driver incurring criminal charges. That is in addition to any claims they may face if they cause the accident.
Hit-and-run accidents are on the rise across the nation. One national study conducted by AAA showed the following statistics:
- 68% of hit-and-run victims were bicyclists or pedestrians
- hit-and-run accidents are on the rise with an average increase of 7.2% per year
- more than 5% of traffic deaths are caused by hit-and-runs
- about half of hit-and-run drivers are found
If you were the victim of a hit-and-run, there are a number of steps that you should take right away in order to make sure that you are compensated for your injuries.
In any accident, gathering and documenting evidence is extremely important. There are a few steps that you should take to make sure that you gather the necessary evidence and that you do so timely.
- If you were seriously injured, the first step in any accident is to seek medical attention. Make sure that the accident is documented by medical personnel. There are some injuries that may not show up for a few days or weeks, like neck and back injuries, so having a written record of the accident could be extremely important down the road.
- Take pictures of the scene of the hit-and-run. Assuming that you are not seriously injured, or are able to do so before being taken to the hospital, you should take pictures of the scene of the accident. Take as many pictures as possible from all different angles and make sure that you include pictures of things like the weather conditions, broken glass, skid marks, paint on your car or bicycle, and damaged property.
- Details. If you can remember anything about the car (make, color, model, anything unique about the car, or any license plate digits) make sure you write that down. If you remember anything about the driver (sex, hair color, hair type, or any other distinguishing features), writer that down too.
- Take pictures of any visible injuries you sustained. Bruises fade and broken bones heal so taking pictures at the time they are visible is extremely important.
- Call the police. You need to document the accident, and they will make other observations at the scene that you may have missed. They will document everything in a report, including that it was a hit-and run accident. You should obtain a copy of the policy report for the insurance company and/or your lawyer.
- See if there are any witnesses. If there are any, ask them to document for you what they saw. They can also tell the police what they witnessed. Ask them for their name and phone number in case you, or your attorney, needs to contact them later.
- See if there are any cameras nearby. In our increasingly digital age, there is a good chance that there was a camera nearby that captured the accident. This of course depends on where the accident occurred. If you were in a large city, like Charlotte, North Carolina, then there are more likely to be cameras then if you were on a rural road outside of Charlotte.
- Save and keep copies of everything. Every medical or prescription bill, the police report, any hospital or doctor's notes or discharge papers, and any receipts for repairs to your car or bicycle. You should even keep the clothing you wore.
- Report the hit-and-run to your insurance company.
- Speak with a lawyer. See below for more detailed information.
North Carolina Law
North Carolina, like many states, requires that all drivers have uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is intended to cover accidents where the other driver is either uninsured or does not have enough insurance to cover the accident (underinsured). Hit-and-run accidents are treated the same as if you got into an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, and if the driver cannot be found, your insurance should pay for your damages.
In this case, the evidence you obtained is still important. It is your responsibility to show the insurance company: what happened, that you were not at fault, your damages, and that the other driver left the scene. This is necessary to avoid insurance fraud. Otherwise the insurance company has no way of knowing that you did not cause the crash and lie about it.
If the hit-and-run driver is identified, they could face criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident. This is not a claim that you personally have, as private individuals cannot charge others with a crime. However, a criminal conviction could be helpful in your personal injury claim.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney if I Was the Victim of a Hit and Run?
The police will try to find the hit-and-run driver. However, their resources and time are limited. Some attorneys work closely with private investigators who are devoted to finding the hit-and-run driver. If the hit-and-run driver can be located, an attorney will help you file a claim against the driver. This could include a personal injury claim against the driver and/or a claim against the driver’s insurance company.
If the hit-and-run driver cannot be located, then you will need to file a claim with your insurance company. Insurance companies are in the business of paying out the least amount possible. Therefore an attorney can help you navigate the insurance process and work to get you the maximum recovery available.
Why Do I Need a Charlotte Law Firm?
Hit-and-run accidents happen more often than people realize. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced hit-and-run attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.