A hit-and-run accident is one way to make a bad situation much worse. Not only does a victim deal with the ensuing injuries, frustration and confusion that typically accompany a car collision, but the person may have the added burden of not knowing who to hold responsible.
If you or a loved one is dealing with the aftermath of a hit and run, learn what you can do and how a hit-and-run lawyer at Cellino Law can help.
What Is a Hit and Run, and Why Does It Happen?
A “hit and run” refers to an accident where the at-fault party strikes another vehicle, pedestrian or piece of property and leaves the scene without staying until the police clear the situation. Even if the driver briefly stops and checks on other parties, fleeing the scene before exchanging contact information and alerting the proper authorities is a hit and run.
Such drivers often escape the area out of fear over the consequences of the accident or worry about the police arresting them for some other infraction. Hit-and-run drivers may abscond for the following reasons:
- Driving while under the influence
- Not having insurance
- Driving with a suspended license or without a license
- Driving a stolen or borrowed vehicle
- Possessing narcotics or stolen property
No matter the reason, fleeing an accident is illegal and can bring criminal charges and civil action.
How Common Are Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Any number of hit-and-run accidents is too many, but unfortunately, the number of these incidents is increasing in New York City. Recent statistics find that the number of hit-and-run incidents has jumped 129%.
In 2022, 125 people (more than two every week) died in hit-and-run collisions in New York City. 20 of those incidents occurred in Manhattan.
The Vision Zero project sets the noble goal of eliminating these and other road accidents. However, the reality is that there will always be unsafe drivers who pose a risk to unsuspecting travelers.
What Should You Do After a Hit and Run?
After someone hits you and flees the location, you can take practical steps to facilitate the process of recovery.
Get to a Safe Spot and Do Not Chase the Other Driver
Your first instinct after a hit and run may be to chase the other driver to pursue justice on your own terms. However, doing this can become dangerous. You don’t know the mental and emotional state of the other driver, and the person might become violent upon confrontation.
In fact, chasing another driver can undermine an insurance claim. The police can charge you with reckless driving, and you might cause another accident doing so. In such cases, the insurer could have grounds to deny your claim.
Contact Emergency Services To Report the Incident
Once you can position yourself and your vehicle in a safe spot, you should report the hit-and-run collision to the police or emergency services. First responders initially need to know the extent of your and others’ injuries and what medical attention you think you or your fellow passengers require.
Anything beyond a minor scrape often requires a medical exam at the minimum. The shock and adrenaline can cause you not to realize the full extent of your injuries, so a professional evaluation is helpful.
As you report the accident, provide as much detail as necessary, but avoid saying anything that would assign you any proportion of the fault. Keep to the essential facts of the incident.
Record Details About the Incident
As you wait for first responders to arrive, you can improve the odds of the authorities apprehending the hit-and-run driver by recording everything you can about the vehicle. Start with details about the car, such as the make, model, color and license plate number.
Note any distinctive features of the vehicle or the type of damage it sustained. If you know something about where it was coming from or heading to, those details could provide clues to the individual’s identity.
If you write your notes down on physical paper, make sure they are legible so you can understand them later. Carefully store them where you won’t lose them.
You may be better off making notes in an app on your phone and saving them in personal cloud storage for easy recovery. You might audio record your notes if that is easier for you.
You should also use your phone to take photographs of the scene. Record the damage to your vehicle and other property at the scene.
Determine if anyone nearby saw the hit-and-run accident and can provide additional details. You can take a brief statement there, but be sure to get contact details so you can follow up later.
What Steps Should You Take if You Can’t Identify the At-Fault Driver?
All New York drivers should have personal injury protection insurance. This coverage will offer you a payout for specific losses from any accident, regardless of who is at fault.
The payout will go as high as your limit minus any deductible. The money is to cover economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages and property damage. Your health insurance could also help, depending on your policy.
The current minimum the state requires for PIP is $50,000 of coverage. However, there are some limitations on what these policies cover, and the insurance will not pay for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Do what you can to identify the at-fault parties and bring a case for additional losses. If your damages exceed the amount of your PIP or you have expenses that PIP doesn’t cover, the negligent parties’ insurance should cover the excess. Otherwise, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit.
Who Else Could Have Liability in a Hit and Run Besides the Driver?
While your attention is most likely on the driver, other parties could have liability in a hit-and-run accident. For example, the driver might not own the vehicle. If someone else loaned the car to the person, that person might bear some responsibility.
Also, manufacturing or parts defects for components in your own vehicle might contribute to your injuries. If your vehicle malfunctions and does not protect you as it should or makes the situation worse, you may have a case against the manufacturer.
What Will a Hit and Run Lawyer Do To Help Your Case?
After an accident, you have a mountain of new challenges and responsibilities to deal with, including recovering from bodily injury, repairing your vehicle, assisting any fellow passengers, handling paperwork and going through the legal process.
A hit-and-run lawyer can offer practical assistance by:
- Helping you determine which parties have liability in your case
- Communicating with insurance companies and protecting you from any bad faith practices
- Filing a case against the at-fault driver as soon as possible
- Investigating the collision and collecting evidence against the defendant
- Building a strong case to pursue the maximum award or settlement
Your hit-and-run lawyer allows you to focus on recovery and avoid undue concern over your case.
How Do You Contact Cellino Law for Help With a Hit-and-Run Case?
A hit and run is an unfortunate event. However, you can get through it and make practical decisions with reliable help.
Cellino Law in Manhattan has decades of experience handling hit-and-run accidents and is ready to assist you. Contact our team online or call (716) 451-1493 to set up a free personal injury consultation.
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