Every state defines a hit and run accident a little differently. However, it is any type of accident involving at least one vehicle that leaves the scene without stopping to identify themselves or render aid. Hit and run accidents can involve pedestrians, parked cars, property, another motorist, or in some states, even animals. Even if another car was completely at fault, if you flee the scene, it will still be considered a hit and run.
If you are involved in a wreck and do not stop, you may face several different penalties, including criminal, civil, and administrative. If you have been injured in a hit and run accident, an experienced car accident lawyer may be able help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Collisions with Parked Cars or Stationary Property
If your property was struck by a driver who left the scene, they can still be held liable. In most states, drivers who collide with stationary property, such as a mailbox or fence, must still make a reasonable effort to identify the owner of the property and tell them what happened. This can be done by leaving a written note with the driver’s contact information at the scene.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
Drivers who are involved in any type of accident are legally required to stop their vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. Once their vehicle is safely stopped, state laws typically require that they:
- Check on the well-being of anyone else involved in the accident. This may require the provision of first aid, or contacting emergency medical services.
- Call the police.
- Exchange contact information and proof of insurance.
- Locate any witnesses who observed the wreck and obtain their contact information.
- Contact your insurance company and, if applicable, the other driver’s insurance carrier.
Consequences of Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident
One of the most serious consequences a person faces after leaving the scene of an accident is criminal charges. Although the severity of the penalty depends on what state you are in, it can range from a felony to a misdemeanor. Usually it will be a felony crime if any person is injured in the accident. This can result in fines up to $20,000 and possible incarceration up to 25 years.
Administrative penalties are also imposed in almost every state, usually through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. A person’s driver’s license is automatically suspended for a period of six months, or even revoked for a lifetime, depending on the nature and circumstances of the accident. Insurance companies typically cancel the policy of any driver involved in a hit and run.
What Legal Recourse Does a Victim Have?
The victim of a hit and run can sue the offender in court to recoup damages for any lost wages, pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and property damage. Depending on what state you are in, some courts will impose punitive damages on hit and run offenders. This means that the victim of a hit and run may be entitled to receive a very high award, designed to be punitive in nature, rather than compensatory. Sometimes these are referred to as treble damages because they are three times as high as the compensatory damage amount. Punitive damages are rarely covered by a person’s insurance policy, and often the hit and run driver will have to pay out of pocket.
South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Victims of Hit and Run Accidents
Our experienced team of car accident lawyers in South Carolina at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is committed to helping clients locate offenders and hold them accountable. Although no legal settlement or judgment can change what has happened to you, it can help you get back on your feet and focus on moving forward with your recovery. To learn more about how we can help, call us today at 803-929-3600 or contact us online. With six office locations throughout South Carolina, we represent injured victims throughout the state.