- June 9, 2023
- Tucker Law
- Car Accident Lawsuits
A Hit-And-Run Lawyer Can Help if You Were Involved in an Accident Where the Driver Fled the Scene
In New York, a hit-and-run accident is viewed as leaving an accident scene in which you were involved without reporting it. There is a wide range of reasons this occurs, from a simple emotional reaction to trying to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Hit-and-run drivers come from all walks of life: working-class folks, the affluent, students, senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, doctors, bankers, and criminals. Almost six people are killed in hit-and-run accidents every day and many more are injured. In 2018, hit-and-run accidents resulting in injuries in NYC reached 5,137. More people are fleeing accident scenes than at any other time since authorities began keeping the statistic in 1975.
Hit-and-run cases are complicated, as they involve tracking down the driver who fled the scene or trying to collect money from insurance companies that are out for profit and will try to pay out as little as possible. Fortunately, if you or a loved one is a victim of a hit-and-run crash, a hit-and-run lawyer can help you get compensation for your losses. An attorney familiar with hit-and-run cases can investigate who the at-fault driver is and how to find them. This is often the only way to get full compensation for all your injuries.
Why Would Hit-and-Run Drivers Flee the Scene of an Accident?
In New York, there are serious consequences if you leave the scene of an accident without giving the other driver your information. New York’s Vehicle Traffic Law (VTL) section 600 requires anyone involved in an accident to stop their vehicle and trade information with the other driver. Failing to do that is counted as a hit-and-run even for minor accidents, and the driver faces getting a ticket, rising insurance costs, a possible lawsuit, and other unpleasant consequences. Below are some of the consequences that could result from fleeing an accident:
- If only property damage is involved, punishments include a fine of up to $250, up to 15 days in jail, and three points on your license.
- If someone was injured in the accident, it is a misdemeanor with a fine of $250 to $1,000 and 90 days to a year in jail, depending on whether it is a first-time offense.
- If there is serious injury, it is a class E felony punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and potential prison time.
- If the accident led to death, it is a class D felony with a $2,000 to $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.
There are many reasons why drivers flee the scene of an accident. Wanting to avoid the above punishments is a major motivator. Many drivers may consider the legal consequences as a “threat” to their safety — offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, texting while driving, not having liability insurance when they cause an accident, or even something as simple as having an expired driver’s license. When it comes to hit-and-run accidents, they think that if they leave the scene, they probably won’t get caught.
Some other reasons why hit-and-run drivers leave include the following:
- The driver is driving a vehicle without permission, or it’s stolen.
- The driver is driving an employer-owned vehicle and does not want their employer to know that they got into a crash.
- The driver has outstanding warrants for their arrest for unpaid tickets or other crimes.
- The driver is in this country illegally.
- The driver is transporting illegal goods or drugs.
As noted above, leaving the scene of an accident when there are injuries can result in a criminal conviction and a criminal record. Also, drivers with a commercial driver’s license who flee the scene can lose that license for a year.
You might be wondering, “What do I do if the driver leaves the scene?” The answer is to contact the authorities, collect as much evidence as you can, and wait for the authorities to arrive.
How Do People Justify Leaving the Scene of An Accident?
Psychologist Emanuel Robinson with the Westat Center for Transportation, Technology, and Safety Research says that any time we get into an accident, we get emotional. “Most people remain at the scene. Some of them are so filled with adrenaline that they argue over who is to blame, but … others just want to get out of there.” Robinson adds that they get scared and don’t know what to do — so they just leave. “People are also really good at rationalizing,” he continues. “They’ll say, ‘It’s nothing, just a little scrape, I don’t need to stay around.’”
Another reason why drivers flee the scene is that they’re uninsured and have no financial means to pay the compensation owed to injured victims. But just because they fled the scene doesn’t mean the negligent driver can evade his or her financial obligations. Concerned witnesses often remember things such as some or all of a license plate number or the appearance of the negligent driver’s damaged vehicle, or they may have even snapped a quick picture. Security cameras are everywhere now, so maybe one recorded good video or images that the police or an experienced attorney can use to find the driver and hold them accountable (both criminally and regarding compensation).
Compensation for Hit-And-Run Victims (If the Negligent Driver Remains Unidentified)
Drivers or passengers injured in an accident by someone who is uninsured or who carries only the minimum insurance required may be limited in their ability to recover for their medical bills, lost income, or pain and suffering unless they have access to additional coverage through the uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) features on their own auto insurance policy.
When people make claims against their UM/UIM coverage for hit-and-run accidents, they need to provide their own insurance company with “proof of physical contact” and evidence that their injuries or property damage arose from the contact. Legitimately injured victims of a hit-and-run should not have any problem meeting this documented burden of proof.
Recovery under a New York UM/UIM policy varies, depending on the amount of coverage a driver has on their policy and the amount of insurance the at-fault driver has. The victim’s UM/UIM coverage begins to pay for damages only after the at-fault driver’s policy is exhausted — assuming one is found.
If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist protection (UIM) on your insurance policy, our car accident attorneys can help make sure you are fully compensated for damages. Insurance companies are more likely to take your claim seriously if they know you have an attorney on your side. We will aggressively negotiate with insurance adjusters and their lawyers for the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions about hit-and-run cases or UM/UIM insurance, please consider Tucker Lawyers PC at your service.
Hit-and-Run Attorneys Can Pursue a Claim for Damages
If the driver was found, our attorneys can help you pursue a personal injury claim for compensation for both your economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are for losses that can be quantified monetarily, such as:
- Medical and rehabilitation bills
- Lost income from being unable to work, both currently and estimated for the future
- Property damage.
Non-economic damages are for damages it is difficult to put a dollar value on, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality and enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement or a permanent loss of a limb.
While economic damages pay your bills, non-economic damages go directly to benefit you as compensation for the pain and suffering resulting from the accident, and they often are the largest part of a settlement.
Punitive damages are awarded in some rare cases when a defendant acted extremely egregiously and recklessly. These are intended to punish the defendant and to deter such actions in the future.
What Is the Difference Between Hit-and-run and Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
These are two different terms that describe the same thing—“hit-and-run” and “leaving the scene.” No matter what you call it, if you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries by a hit-and-run driver, let Tucker Law do the work of investigating your case, tracking down the at-fault driver, negotiating with insurance companies, and taking your case to court.
Should I Settle with the Insurance Company?
It is very common for an insurance company to offer you a settlement early on. It may seem tempting to go ahead and accept this settlement just so that this unpleasant experience can be over with. The problem with this is that the initial settlement offered by an insurance company is usually not a fair settlement.
You should keep in mind that the main goal of any insurance company is always to settle a claim cheaply and quickly. This leaves your best interests out of the equation. To get a truly fair settlement, you need someone on your side who will advocate for you. A hit-and-run attorney can be that advocate.
What Type of Evidence Will I Need?
You should keep good records of all the medical treatment that you had following your accident. You should also collect photos or videos of the accident. If there was a police report filed, you will need that as well. If you have had any communications with the insurance company, this can also be helpful for the lawyers to look at. This could include emails, recorded phone conversations, text messages, and postal mail. During your consultation, you will be advised of any other types of evidence you should submit.
How Can We Help?
We bring the tools, knowledge, resources, and time to your case that are required for success. Although individuals can pursue lawsuits without the help of a lawyer, it is very difficult for you to bring the same level of focus and resources that our team can. You are also trying to recover from your injuries, and you need to focus your attention on healing and rebuilding your life after the accident.
We will investigate the details of your accident to ensure that every bit of relevant evidence has been collected. We will also negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies. If negotiations do not work, we will file the necessary paperwork with the court system to start your case in court.
You will have our years of experience backing you up every step of the way.
At Tucker Law PC, our firm has access to investigators, medical experts, financial professionals, and others who can help you receive compensation for damages. We know how to negotiate with insurance companies for a fair settlement and are fully prepared to take your case to court if necessary. We offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss the facts of what happened and determine the best way to proceed with getting you justice and the compensation you deserve.
Call us today at (516) 399-2364 to get started working on your case while evidence is fresh and witnesses can be found.
Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.
John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]