If you’ve been injured in a hit-and-run accident, you should rightfully receive compensation for your pain, suffering and monetary expenses. But if the at-fault driver is not found, you may be forced to collect from your own insurance company.
What do you need to know after a hit-and-run accident?
State Law Spells out Drivers’ Duties
Every state has laws that cover hit-and-run accidents. In Texas, the law lays out duties for drivers involved in accidents that involve injuries or deaths as well as those involving property damage only.
In an injury that causes personal injury or death, a vehicle operator is expected to immediately stop at the scene of the accident or return to the scene of the accident, determine if other involved drivers need assistance, stay at the scene until police arrive and complete their investigation, and avoid obstructing traffic to the extent possible.
Leaving the scene is a second-degree felony for an accident that results in a death and a third-degree felony for an accident resulting in serious injury.
Drivers involved in accidents that involve only property damage also are required to stop at the scene or as near the scene as possible without blocking traffic more than necessary, and they’re also required to remain at the scene until police arrive. Leaving the scene in this case is a Class B or Class C misdemeanor, depending on the amount of property damage caused.
Criminal Charges for Hit and Run
A driver who leaves the scene of a Texas accident may be subject to criminal charges. Depending on the type and extent of damage done, charges can range from misdemeanors to serious felonies.
For felony counts — including leaving the scene of an accident in which someone was hurt or killed — penalties can include imprisonment through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for as long as five years or confinement to a county jail for up to a year, along with a fine up to $5,000, or both.
A criminal conviction of a hit-and-run driver can help you collect damages through civil court if you are a victim.
Typically, a civil case in a hit and run will be delayed until the criminal case completes. The criminal conviction can serve as strong evidence that the at-fault driver bears liability for the accident, and it can result in a quicker resolution to your civil case.
If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, it’s important to work with an experienced car accident lawyer to ensure that you receive just compensation for your injuries and associated expenses. You may be able to collect punitive damages, since the person who hit you recklessly or intentionally caused harm by leaving the scene of the accident.
As a victim, you’re entitled to damages to compensate you for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income and other monetary harm. Compensatory damages equal the harm caused, in the court’s opinion, and do not account for the behavior of the defendant.
However, punitive damages serve as punishment for an egregious offense. Courts determine punitive damages based on a variety of factors, including the seriousness of the defendant leaving the scene in your particular situation. Even if the crash was an accident, leaving the scene is almost always viewed by the courts as an intentional act.
Collecting From Your Insurance Company
Unfortunately, the hit-and-run investigation process may not locate the perpetrator who caused your accident. If there were no witnesses around at the time of the accident and no cameras to pick up the perpetrator’s license plate number and description, you may have no way to sue for damages.
Instead, it might be necessary to try to collect from your insurance company. Your attorney can assist you with making a claim for underinsured or uninsured drivers.
Work With Experienced Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyers
After a hit-and-run accident, it’s critical that you seek out qualified legal counsel to guide you in collecting the compensation you’re owed. The attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm, P.C., have significant experience pursuing claims against drivers who leave accident scenes. For a consultation, please contact us.