When you’re involved in any sort of motor vehicle crash, you have a basic legal duty to remain at the scene to exchange information and render assistance to anyone who might be injured. Unfortunately, not all drivers do this. Hit and run accidents are becoming more common on our nation’s roads, now numbering 11 out of every 100 traffic accidents. Hit and run deaths are on the rise (nearly 1,500 annually), with a 13.7% increase in the latest period studied. Leaving the scene of an accident is considered a serious crime, but it’s something that happens all too often.
Why People Flee the Scene
The reasons that people flee the scene of an accident vary. A motor vehicle accident is a stressful event that can trigger that “flight” instinct in some people, especially those who feel as if they’ve done something wrong. In some cases, a person might leave because they are already involved in some other illegal activity, might not have permission to use the vehicle they’re driving, or might not even have a driver’s license.
Some drivers may be impaired and realize that they will be charged with a DUI should they stop after an accident. Others might not have auto insurance and fear being held financially responsible for damages. In some cases, especially with pedestrians or bicyclists at night, the driver might not be aware that they’ve hit someone.
Injuries to Bicyclists and Pedestrians
A hit and run accident can involve nearly any type of car crash, but they tend to be the most common among bicyclist and pedestrian accidents. These can be tragic because a vehicle moving at even the slowest speed can cause severe injury or death to a pedestrian or cyclist. Common injuries suffered include brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, disfigurement, and loss of limbs.
What’s the Penalty for a Hit and Run?
The penalties for a hit and run vary by state, but this is a serious offense. Anyone who leaves the scene of an accident can expect both criminal and administrative penalties should they be caught. In many cases, witnesses, physical evidence, or technology brings these hit and run drivers to justice, so fleeing the scene isn’t a wise choice.
If there are injuries, most states classify these cases as a felony hit and run. In South Carolina, the criminal penalties are steep, with fines up to $10,000 and prison time from 1 to 10 years. Misdemeanor hit and run convictions can also carry some jail time and fines up to $5,000. Also, drivers can expect to lose their driving privileges, either temporarily or permanently. Some victims also sue hit and run drivers in civil court, specifically requesting awards for punitive damages to punish the driver’s bad behavior.
Advice for Hit and Run Victims
If you’re involved in a hit and run accident, it can be a very stressful event. Your best chance of catching the driver requires that you remain as calm as possible and gather some important information. Write down anything you remember about the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle. Look around for any possible witnesses and get their contact information. Take detailed notes and photographs of the accident scene to document damage and the circumstances of the incident. Finally, seek medical attention for yourself or anyone else injured and make sure to file a prompt police report. Finally, contact a reputable attorney for assistance.
Getting into a hit and run accident is often confusing because injured parties aren’t sure who to hold accountable. Accident victims might have medical bills, lost wages, or other damages and coverage for these items is in dispute. A personal injury lawyer can help fight for the rights of accident victims, including negotiating with insurance companies. While a hit and run accident is stressful, you shouldn’t have to continue suffering in a continuing struggle to receive compensation. Contact the Peake & Fowler Law Firm at (803) 788-4370 and one of our Injury Attorneys will help you with your hit & run issue.