Understanding Hit and Run Accidents

Understanding Hit and Run Accidents
Calendar icon June 7, 2024

When a driver flees the scene of an accident without identifying themselves or offering aid to those who may need it, they’re committing a hit and run. 

Unfortunately, hit and run accidents are not uncommon on America’s roads. For anyone involved in a hit and run, whether you’re a victim, a witness, or the one who fled, it’s important to understand the legal implications of these accidents. 

What Constitutes a Hit and Run Accident?

A hit and run accident includes any situation in which a vehicle hits a person, another vehicle, or a fixed object, and the driver purposely leaves the scene without providing contact information or assistance. This can occur in parking lots, at stop signs or traffic lights, on highways, or any roadway. A driver can be charged with hit and run even if they were not at fault for the incident.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that drivers stay at the scene of the accident if there are injuries or property damage. Failure to stay at the scene of the accident can result in criminal penalties.

What Are The Consequences of Committing A Hit and Run?

The legal consequences of committing a hit and run can be severe. Depending on factors like the seriousness of the accident, a person caught after fleeing the scene can face a simple traffic violation, a misdemeanor, or a felony charge. 

  • Traffic Violation: A fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail. 
  • Class B Misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail. 
  • Class A Misdemeanor: A fine of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in jail. 
  • Class E Felony: A fine of up to $2,500 and up to 4 years in jail. 
  • Class D Felony: A fine of up to $5,000 and up to 7 years in jail. 

Traffic violations can include failing to share your ID and insurance information with the other parties involved, or leaving the scene that only caused property damage. 

Leaving the scene becomes a misdemeanor offense when someone suffers injuries due to the collision and information is not exchanged and when you flee the scene before authorities arrive. 

A hit and run becomes a felony offense when you leave the scene after a fatality occurs. 

Other actions that can be taken against a hit and run driver include:

  • Administrative Penalties: Drivers convicted of hit and run may also face administrative penalties from the state’s department of motor vehicles. This could include points on their driving record or the suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.
  • Civil Penalties: Victims of hit and run accidents have the right to sue the at-fault driver. If the driver is identified and found liable, they could be ordered to pay compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

What To Do After A Hit and Run Accident

Immediately after a hit and run accident occurs, you should take the following steps:

  • Get A Police Report: Get to safety and call 911 to request a police officer and medical attention, even if you do not feel it is necessary at first. 
  • Do Not Chase: Do not attempt to chase the driver of the fleeing vehicle. Stay at the scene and wait for the police to arrive. 
  • Collect Evidence: Try to get any pertinent details about the vehicle that fled the scene. Make/model of the vehicle, license plate, color, and direction they were heading are all helpful pieces of information. 
  • Take Photo and Video: Take photos and videos of the accident scene. 

In the days following the accident:

  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if you decline medical attention at the scene of the accident, it’s still in your best interest to see a doctor for a medical evaluation. A medical professional may be able to diagnose any “hidden” injuries, like whiplash, that may not be immediately identifiable but can worsen over time. 
  • Call Your Insurance Company: It’s important to notify your insurance company as soon as possible about your accident in order to claim no-fault benefits. Failure to report the accident within a reasonable timeframe could result in you losing your right to claim benefits for your injury expenses. 
  • Talk To An Attorney: After an accident, consulting with a trusted personal injury attorney can help you to better understand your necessary course of action to receive adequate compensation and ensure your rights are protected. 

The Importance of Collecting Evidence in Hit and Run Cases

Evidence plays an important role in hit and run accidents, as plaintiffs in civil cases carry what is called the “burden of proof”. This means that if you feel as though another party’s negligence caused your injuries, you, as the plaintiff, must prove this.  

Gathering as much information as possible from the scene can aid in locating the at-fault driver and proving your case in order to receive just compensation. Helpful evidence includes:

  • Photos of the scene and damages
  • Police report from the accident
  • Medical records detailing injuries and treatments
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Traffic or surveillance camera footage
  • Paint transfers and any physical evidence from the offending vehicle

Filing An Insurance Claim After A Hit and Run Accident

After a hit and run accident, you are likely dealing with damage to your vehicle and potential injuries to yourself or your passengers. In the event that you’re left with damages after the other driver flees the scene, you’re still left with options to file a claim under your own insurance policy. In New York, all drivers are required to carry the following coverages on their insurance policy:

No Fault Coverage

Under your own no fault coverage, you are eligible to receive benefits to help cover the costs of medical expenses, equipment, and lost wages up to $50,000, regardless of what health insurance you carry. In the event of a fatality, no fault coverage provides a $2,000 death benefit to the estate of the victim involved in the collision.

Even in the event that you are a passenger, a pedestrian or a bicyclist, you can still claim no fault benefits if you were struck by a motor vehicle. You will need to file for no fault benefits with your own insurance company within 30 days of the accident to receive coverage. 

However, it’s important to note that severe injury expenses will likely exceed the coverage from your no fault. 

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured (or, underinsured) motorist coverage is an extra layer of protection available to help compensate for damages not covered by the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy. 

By law, every insurance carrier in New York State must offer uninsured motorist coverage at a minimum of $25,000 per person for bodily injuries and $10,000 for property damage. It’s important to note that your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed the bodily injury coverage on your own liability policy. 

Recovering Compensation When Insurance Coverage Isn’t Available

In the event that you do not have insurance coverage to pay for your expenses after a hit and run, you can turn to the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (“MVAIC”). The MVAIC acts as a last-resort option to provide benefits for victims of a hit and run accident. In order to file a claim with MVAIC, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You were involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York.
  • You were a resident of New York when the accident occurred (with a few exceptions).
  • You have no other automobile insurance available to you (meaning neither you—nor a relative you live with—owns an insured motor vehicle).
  • You were not the owner or spouse of the uninsured  or hit and run vehicle that was involved in the accident.

In most scenarios, MVAIC coverage applies to pedestrians or bicyclists that do not have coverage, but can also apply to passengers in a vehicle that do not own or operate a vehicle. 

Why Hire A Personal Injury Attorney After A Hit and Run

Given the complexities associated with hit and run cases, consulting with an experienced attorney is advisable. A skilled hit and run accident lawyer will help you to navigate the process of filing a claim, even if with your own insurance company:

  • Open An Investigation: A well-established personal injury law firm will have access to experts who can help to corroborate your claims, work to obtain crucial evidence, and may even have access to private investigators who may be able to track the hit and run driver. 
  • Help Navigate Insurance Laws: Your attorney will understand the laws associated with your case and work with you to ensure that all paperwork and notices are filed in the appropriate time frame. 
  • Negotiations With The Insurance Company: Whether you’re filing a claim with your own insurance or with the hit and run driver (if found), your attorney will act as your representative to ensure that you receive a fair amount of compensation for your accident. 
  • Advocacy If Your Case Goes To Trial: In the event that a fair settlement agreement cannot be made with the insurance company, your attorney may recommend taking your case to trial in order to attempt a more just settlement in front of a judge and jury. Your attorney will work you through all of the phases of trial, and your case may even settle before reaching the courtroom. 

In New York, most personal injury attorneys work on what is called a contingency basis, meaning you do not pay unless they win your case for you. 

Contact Cellino Law

In the wake of a hit and run accident, the road to recovery—both physical and legal—can be a long journey. However, you don’t have to navigate it alone. At Cellino Law, our team of dedicated attorneys are committed to providing our clients with top-notch legal representation. With decades of litigation experience in motor vehicle accidents, you can rest assured that your case is in capable hands.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a hit and run accident, contact Cellino Law for a free case consultation at 888-888-8888.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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