All drivers have a duty to drive in a careful, safe, and responsible manner. If they cause a traffic accident, they also have certain responsibilities. In many states, after a motor vehicle crash, a driver must alert the police and emergency services. These laws ensure that a police officer arrives on-scene as quickly as possible to secure the accident scene – and so drivers and passengers can obtain prompt medical treatment for any injuries they might have suffered in their accident.
Additionally, all of the drivers in the accident must exchange insurance information and contact information, beginning the process of recovering damages ( for both damaged property and personal injuries).
Sadly, however, things don’t always run so smoothly – most especially in a hit and run accident scenario.
A hit and run accident occurs when a negligent driver causes a collision, fails to stop or remain at the scene, or otherwise leaves the scene prematurely (such as before the police or EMTs arrive).
In those circumstances, you need a skilled St Louis car accident attorney as quickly as possible after your accident to begin the claims-filing process and pursue the total monetary compensation you need. Your lawyer can immediately start investigating your accident circumstances and can file a claim for financial compensation with the appropriate insurance company on your behalf.
Defining a Hit and Run Accident
Hit and run accidents are, unfortunately, all too common. In fact, pursuant to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal hit and run accidents have increased nationwide, with approximately 1,500 such crashes occurring throughout the United States on a yearly basis. In addition, pedestrians (especially those who are present at traffic intersections) face severe risks. Approximately 20 percent of pedestrian accident fatalities are connected with a hit and run driver.
In a hit and run accident, a driver may:
- Bring about a collision with a fixed object, another motor vehicle, a bicycle, a motorcycle, or a pedestrian
- Leave the scene of the crash without providing any assistance
- Fail to contact the police or emergency services
- Fail to provide their contact or insurance information to the other driver(s)
A hit and run accident is also not limited by fault. Therefore, even if a driver did not negligently cause the accident, but they still decide to leave the accident scene prematurely, they have committed a hit and run offense.
Hit and run accidents may occur anywhere.
Some of the most common locations for hit and run car accidents include:
- Traffic intersections
- Interstate highways
- Rural roads
- Parking lots
- Public roads
- Parking garages
What Are the Consequences of a Hit and Run Accident?
A local hit and run accident can lead to both criminal and civil consequences for at-fault drivers. For example, according to state statutes that are currently on the books, a state prosecutor can charge a hit and run driver with either a Class A misdemeanor – or with a Class E felony (in cases where the accident victim suffered a physical injury or where the claimed damages exceed $1,000).
In addition, an accident victim can file a claim or lawsuit that seeks monetary compensation for property damage, medical bills, or lost income – often resulting from delays connected with the at-fault driver leaving the accident scene prematurely.
Following a hit and run accident, it is often very difficult to determine exactly how the accident happened and who caused the accident since the at-fault driver fled the scene.
An accident reconstructionist can speak with eyewitnesses to the accident, review any available camera footage, collect evidence from the accident scene, and formulate an opinion about how the accident likely happened – and who was ultimately responsible for it. An accident reconstructionist can also draft a report that a car accident lawyer can submit to the insurance company.
Finally, an accident reconstructionist can testify as a witness during a discovery deposition or jury trial in support of the accident victim’s personal injury claim.
Common Types of Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents usually result from some driver error or negligence.
When a driver behaves negligently under the circumstances, they might cause:
- Sideswipe accidents, where a driver negligently causes their vehicle to drift off into another travel lane, usually because they are not watching the road attentively
- Broadside (T-bone) accidents, where a driver negligently disregards a stop sign, red traffic signal, or yield sign at a traffic intersection, causing the front of their vehicle to strike the side of another vehicle
- Rear-end (tailgate) accidents, where a driver negligently causes the front of their vehicle to hit the back of another car, usually because the at-fault driver is speeding or fails to leave enough stopping distance
- Head-on accidents, where the fronts of two vehicles that are traveling in opposite directions strike one another, frequently causing one or more permanent injuries and fatalities
In addition, hit and run accidents usually happen because of one or more types of driver negligence. One common cause of a hit and run accident is traffic law violations, including failing to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles, speeding, failing to use rear view and side view mirrors, and failing to use turn signals at the appropriate times.
Accidents can also happen when drivers fail to properly use technological devices on their vehicles, such as lane change warning devices and exterior cameras, including backup cameras.
Accidents may also happen when drivers become distracted while at the wheel. Distracted driving may result from cellular phone or tablet use, rowdy vehicle passengers, or loud music playing in their vehicle.
A driver might also become distracted by programming a GPS navigation system, applying makeup, or combing their hair while driving. All of these activities have the potential to distract a driver, causing them to take their eyes off the road and lose focus. As a result, they may negligently cause an accident with another vehicle.
Road rage, or aggressive driving, can also lead to a severe accident. Road rage occurs when one driver becomes frustrated or angry with another driver.
The enraged driver might resort to aggressive driving maneuvers such as:
- Horn honking
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Failure to use turn signals at the proper times
- Tailgating other vehicles
All of these aggressive driving maneuvers may cause serious accidents, leading to multiple injuries.
Finally, another driver may cause an accident if they drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, and as such, it frequently slows down a driver’s brain functioning, preventing them from operating their vehicle carefully and safely.
Intoxicated drivers can also experience other physical and mental symptoms that prevent them from operating their car or truck in a safe way, including:
- Confusion and lack of concentration
- Delayed reflexes
- Delayed reaction time
- Inability to judge distances between vehicles
If you suffered injuries in a hit and run accident that a negligent driver caused, you need to talk with a qualified auto accident lawyer in your area right away. Your attorney can aggressively fight for your legal rights and file a personal injury claim or lawsuit that seeks the monetary recovery you need for your injuries.
Hit and Run Accident Injuries
Hit and run accidents frequently occur at high speeds – and with a significant amount of force. The force of a car crash may cause an accident victim’s body to move about violently inside their vehicle, leading to serious injuries.
Some of the most common injuries that a hit and run accident victim might suffer include:
- Jaw, mouth, or teeth injuries
- Soft tissue contusions
- Rib fractures
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Eye injuries
Following a hit and run accident, it is important for accident victims to complete all of their recommended medical care and treatment. Failing to complete a medical treatment regimen can adversely affect the accident victim’s health and prevent them from achieving a full recovery.
It may also cause the insurance company to view their personal injury claim in a negative light. For example, the insurance company adjuster might believe that they did not make their medical treatment a top priority after their accident – or that they are exaggerating the nature and extent of their claimed injuries.
By continuously treating your injuries and waiting for a medical provider to formally discharge you from care, you show the insurance companies not only that your injuries are serious but that you deserve to recover appropriate monetary compensation for them.
While you complete all of your accident-related medical care, your attorney can begin gathering the necessary documents to file a personal injury claim on your behalf and pursue the full monetary damages you need.
Filing an Insurance Claim after a Hit and Run Accident
After suffering injuries in a hit and run accident, reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer as quickly as possible. Your lawyer can file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company for monetary damages.
However, even when you deal with your own insurance company, it is important to realize that the insurance company and its adjusters are not on your side and they are not acting in your best interests.
Rather than compensating you fairly and fully for your car accident injuries, your insurance company is mostly just interested in enriching itself. The insurance company will offer you as little money as possible to settle your case.
Your car accident attorney will know how to combat the insurance company’s tactics and can aggressively negotiate on your behalf for fair settlement compensation.
For example, your car accident lawyer can:
- Point to favorable medical treatment records that emphasize the serious nature and extent of your injuries
- Retain an expert who can testify at a deposition in support of your case
- Threaten the insurance company with litigation in the state court system if they will not make you a reasonable monetary offer to settle
If your case must proceed to litigation, your car accident lawyer can represent you at all legal proceedings, including a civil jury trial, in your case.
At trial, your lawyer can introduce evidence on your behalf, call witnesses (including expert witnesses) to testify on the witness stand, and make a closing argument in support of your version of events. The jury will then decide the outcome of all disputed issues.
Instead of taking your case to a jury trial, your lawyer can pursue alternative dispute resolution (ADR) on your behalf, such as a mediation hearing or binding arbitration hearing. Your attorney can help you select the option that best suits your individual needs and the needs of your car accident case.
Call an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Right Away to Discuss Your Case Today
Victims of hit and runs and other car accidents only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, pursuant to the state statute of limitations. Therefore, it is in your best interest to contact a skilled car accident attorney about your legal matter as soon as possible.
Your attorney can file a claim or lawsuit and pursue the maximum amount of monetary compensation you deserve to recover for your injuries and losses following a hit and run accident.