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What are my rights as a hit-and-run victim?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2020 | Car Accidents

Indiana drivers are legally required to stop if they collide with another vehicle, a bicycle or a pedestrian, or cause almost any other kind of accident. If you are injured by a hit-and-run driver in northwest Indiana, arrange at once to meet with an Indiana personal injury attorney.

Unfortunately, some Indiana drivers fail to stop after an accident. What are your rights if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver? The injured victims of negligent drivers have the right to sue for compensation, but what if a negligent driver flees the scene of an accident and cannot be found?

Everyone in Indiana – passengers and pedestrians as well as drivers – should know what happens and what to do if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver. Keep reading, and you’ll find some answers.

How is “Hit-and-Run” Defined?

Anyone who is injured in Indiana by a negligent driver is entitled by law to compensation for accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and other damages. Every personal injury case is complicated, but hit-and-run cases can be extraordinarily difficult.

Hit-and-run accidents occur when one driver in an accident fails to stop and instead leaves the scene. The other driver or drivers are left with no insurance company information and none of the other details they will need to file an injury claim and receive compensation.

Why Hit-and-Run?

Hit-and-run accidents are often related to other crimes. A motorist may run from an accident scene when that motorist is:

1. uninsured 2. in a stolen vehicle 3. operating while intoxicated 4. in possession of illegal weapons or drugs 5. the subject of an arrest warrant

Hit-and-run is a possibility almost any time an accident happens. Get a vehicle description and a license plate number immediately, and until police officers are on the scene, remain alert to the possibility that the other motorist might try to take off.

How are Hit-and-Run Convictions Penalized?

The penalties for a hit-and-run conviction can be severe in this state, but the unfortunate reality is that sometimes, a driver flees from the scene of an accident and gets away with it.

A “simple” hit-and-run charge in Indiana is a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine along with a license suspension, probation, community service, and unannounced drug testing.

But if a hit-and-run driver leaves an accident that resulted in one or more victims being injured, the charge is a Class D Felony, and a conviction may be penalized with up to three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and other penalties similar to the penalties for a misdemeanor conviction.

Is There Hit-and-Run Insurance Coverage?

But what happens if a hit-and-run driver cannot be found, and there is no one to charge with a crime or to target with a lawsuit? First, be patient. It may take several weeks for the police to identify the driver who injured you. Give them a fair chance to do the job.

But if the driver cannot be found and is never identified, it is still possible for you as a hit-and-run victim – with the right attorney’s help – to obtain compensation for your injuries if you carry uninsured motorist coverage.

With the right coverage, your auto insurance company will pay your damages after a hit-and-run accident as if it were the negligent driver’s insurance company – at least, that’s the promise. But you will still need to be advised by a northwest Indiana personal injury lawyer.

Insurance companies are in business to make profits, not pay-outs, and some will go to great lengths to reduce the amounts they pay to settle claims. Your personal injury attorney will fight for the fair and complete compensation you are entitled to after a hit-and-run related injury.

If the Other Driver Runs, Take These Steps

Any traffic collision is going to be nerve-wracking and stressful, but if a negligent driver injures you and then flees the scene, you must try to stay calm and think clearly.

When an accident happens and the other driver runs, try to take the steps outlined below, both for your health and to increase your ability to obtain compensation for your medical bills and other damages:

1. Don’t leave the scene: Don’t chase a fleeing driver. It’s dangerous, and it’s possible that you could even be accused of hit-and-run yourself.

2. Summon medical attention and the police: Tell the 911 dispatcher if there are any injuries. Give the dispatcher your phone number and as much information as you can about the fleeing driver and his or her vehicle.

3. Locate witnesses and take pictures: Photos of the scene, of the vehicle damage, and of your injuries, along with eyewitness statements, can be powerful evidence. Take plenty of photos, and get the names and contact information for any witnesses you can find.

4. Have a medical exam: Accident victims can suffer latent and hard-to-detect injuries – including hard-to-detect traumatic brain injuries – so have a medical exam immediately. Without it, you may not be able to prove the accident is the reason why you’re injured.

When Should You Speak to an Attorney?

If you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, take the case to an Indiana accident attorney after you’ve been examined and treated by a medical professional. The sooner you act, the more likely it is that you’ll be compensated fully and fairly for your injury and lost wages.

If there’s evidence at the crash site – skid marks, for example – your attorney should examine that evidence while it’s fresh. If eyewitnesses saw the accident, your attorney should speak to them before their memories start to fade.

What Will Justice Cost a Hit-and-Run Victim?

What your lawyer receives will be a percentage of the gross recovery, but starting the personal injury process costs nothing. Your lawyer will provide a legal consultation at no cost and with no obligation. It’s a good opportunity to learn how the law will apply in your own case.

If you move forward with a personal injury claim, you’ll pay no attorney’s fee until and unless your attorney recovers for you.

If another driver injures you and then disappears, you still have legal rights, and you should exercise those rights at once. If you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, speak at once to an Indiana personal injury attorney. Having a good attorney’s help is your right.