A hit and run accident can present unique challenges to injured victims and to their accident lawyer. In many cases, the responsible motorist who fled the scene is never identified and cannot be held accountable. If the injured party has uninsured motorist coverage, then perhaps adequate compensation can be obtained.
The Duty of a Motorist
Any driver involved in an injury or property damage accident is obligated to stop and exchange identifying information including driver’s license, registration and insurance information. If you fail to do so, you can be charged with a misdemeanor if only property damage was involved. This carries a penalty in Massachusetts of up to a few weeks in jail and/or a fine up to $200 or more. If you fled the scene of a personal injury accident, you face a felony charge and up to 2 ½ to 10 years in jail. There also may be insurance consequences.
In some cases, the fleeing driver can be identified and apprehended. The victim or a witness may have gotten the license plate number or someone may have noticed damage to the defendant’s vehicle after learning of the accident and alerted authorities. In other cases the driver may have been arrested for a subsequent violation and linked to the earlier accident. If the defendant is identified, he or she can be held civilly responsible for your injuries.
Most drivers who flee the scene of an accident do so for a variety of reasons:
- Driving on a suspended or revoked license
- Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Driving a stolen vehicle
- Fleeing the scene of an earlier accident
- Driver had outstanding warrants
- Vehicle contained illegal drugs or other contraband
Regardless of the reason, leaving the scene of an accident without providing identification or offering assistance to obviously injured parties can result in serious criminal consequences.
Uninsured Motorist Claims after Hit and Run Accidents
If you were involved in a hit and run accident, report the accident to police immediately to preserve your right to pursue an uninsured motorist (UM) claim if the perpetrator cannot be found or is found and is uninsured. Of course, you will need to have UM coverage to collect compensation. The minimum coverage in Massachusetts is $20,000/$40,000, meaning the most you could collect if you possess a minimum coverage policy is $20,000. For this reason, you should seriously consider getting significant additional UM coverage.
In a UM claim, you file a claim with your own insurer, who may challenge your account of the accident, contend you were responsible for the accident, deny that you were involved in a hit and run accident, or assert that your injuries are not as serious as you maintain. Although these claims are not brought before a jury and are arbitrated if not settled, you still need the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer to represent your interests.
Damages in a Hit and Run Accident
A hit and run accident can have serious consequences for all involved parties– from criminal penalties imposed on the liable party if caught to serious injuries for the victim who may incur substantial medical expenses, lost time from work, possible permanent physical impairment and disruption of his or her routine daily activities.
Whether the injury claim is against the hit and run driver or is brought under the claimant’s UM policy, an injured claimant must prove his or her damages before being entitled to compensation. Damages include:
• Medical expenses, past and future
• Lost earning capacity
• Emotional trauma
• Pain and suffering
• Loss of consortium claim brought by a spouse
If a fatality occurred, Massachusetts law requires that the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate bring the wrongful death action on behalf of the immediate family members only. The beneficiaries in such a suit are entitled to loss of the love, comfort, guidance and advice the deceased would have provided to them along with funeral and burial expenses. Beneficiaries may also collect the income the decedent would have earned over his or her working lifetime. If the decedent was conscious for a time before succumbing to the injuries, the estate can recover for pain and suffering.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured or killed on Interstate 93 or in any other kind of vehicle accident, contact car accident lawyer Tim Houten who can assess your accident claim and properly advise you on your legal options.