Recently in Gwinnett County, a motorist was arrested and accused of leaving the scene of a fatal collision with an 85-year-old man walking in a crosswalk at an intersection. The driver allegedly ran a stop sign in her Ford pickup truck before striking the pedestrian, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported. The pedestrian later died from his injuries.
Leaving the scene of an accident, or hit and run, is a serious offense. Drivers convicted of hit and run can face heavy fines, mandatory loss of license and jail time in some cases.
Even knowing they face such stiff punishment, drivers involved in accidents may flee for a variety of reasons: a bad driving record, driving drunk, outstanding arrest warrant, no liability insurance, fear of the consequences and just plain panic.
USA Today reported in November that hit-and-run crashes are on the rise across the nation. In Los Angeles in 2009, nearly half of all collisions in the city were hit and run.
The newspaper reported that crash data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed fatal hit-and-run crashes rose from 1,274 in 2009 to 1,449 in 2011, a 14 percent increase.
An analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that one in five pedestrian fatalities are hit-and-runs and that 60 percent of hit-and-run fatalities involve pedestrians.
After a Hit-and-Run Crash
There may come a time when you are on the receiving end of a hit-and-run collision. As you watch the other driver speed away, you may feel helpless. You may panic or feel angry.
You may feel like chasing down the driver, but that is likely the worst action you could take. The threat of road rage could put your life in danger. You may be so shaken up from your collision that you cause another accident.
If you are a victim of a hit and run accident:
Call for help. You have a duty to remain at the scene. Even if you are the victim, you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident if you drive away to try to track down the person who struck your car.
Record as much information as possible. Take down a description of the vehicle that hit you. Get the make, model and color. Get the license plate number if at all possible. If you can describe the driver, be sure to pass that along to the police. If you are injured and unable to write down these details, try to at least remember your location, the time of the wreck and as many details as possible.
Seek out witnesses. Collect their names and contact information and ask them to make a statement to the police. Your insurance company will use witness statements to help determine which driver was at fault.
File an insurance claim. If you have enough information to identify the guilty driver, you can get the driver’s insurance information. If the driver who hit you has no liability coverage or cannot be located, you can file a claim with your own insurer if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Contact a lawyer, especially if you were injured or if a loved one was killed as a result of a hit-and-run accident.
Not only do convicted hit-and-run drivers face criminal charges, large fines, and jail time but they can also be held liable for civil damages. A court may award compensation for medical bills, loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering and other damages. Punitive damages, or compensation exceeding a victim’s actual monetary losses, may also be awarded to punish a hit-and-run offender for callous behavior, especially when the failure to stop contributed to a victim’s injuries or death.
If you are injured or if a loved one is killed in a hit-and-run collision, you also may be entitled to money through the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. The program helps victims and their families deal with the emotional and physical issues associated with a crime and eases the monetary impact by providing financial benefits.
Your Georgia car accident attorney can help you navigate through the aftermath if you have been injured in a hit-and-run collision. Your attorney can deal with insurance companies and help you explore your legal options if the hit-and-run driver cannot be found.