The law requires every driver to stop and remain at the scene of an accident that involves injury or property damage. Drivers should exchange identifying information and contact the police. The officer who arrives at the scene will prepare an accident report and might decide to write citations for traffic law violations. Unfortunately, some drivers try to avoid the consequences of their careless driving by leaving the scene. Pedestrians and bicyclists are the victims of more than half of all hit-and-run accidents in Georgia.
Drivers commit a serious crime when they knowingly leave the scene of an accident without stopping and discharging the duties imposed by law. Fortunately, a car accident lawyer can often help accident victims recover compensation even if the driver flees from the scene of the accident.
Penalties for Hit and Run
The crime of hit-and-run offense is committed when a driver strikes an occupied vehicle, causes injury or property damage, and knowingly fails to stop at the accident scene. The crime can also be committed by stopping and then leaving without providing identifying information.
When an accident victim has been injured, the responsible driver also has a duty to render assistance. That can usually be accomplished by calling 911 and asking for an ambulance. Leaving without rendering assistance is a form of hit and run.
When a collision causes death or serious injury, the crime of hit and run is a felony. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a minimum prison sentence of one year. Serious injuries are typically disabling injuries and injuries that cause disfigurement.
When a collision causes any other bodily injury, the crime is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail. In addition to or instead of a jail sentence, the court is required to impose a fine of:
- Between $300 and $1,000 for a first offense
- Between $600 and $1,000 for a second offense within five years
- $1,000 for a third offense within five years.
The crime also carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
Recovery of Compensation for a Hit-and-Run Accident
A hit-and-run driver is liable for injuries caused by the driver’s negligence. Collecting compensation from the driver can be challenging. The driver must be identified before a claim can be brought against the driver’s insurance company.
Whenever possible, accident victims should try to read the license plate of the fleeing vehicle. It is also important to report the accident to the police immediately. Witnesses who saw the accident should be asked to stay at the scene until they can talk to the police.
If you are struck by a vehicle that leaves the scene, give the 911 dispatcher the best description you can of the vehicle. With luck, a nearby police officer will spot the car and arrest the driver. The police or a private investigator might also canvass body shops to search for a vehicle that needed repairs and that matches the description of the hit-and-run vehicle. The police are more likely to do that when injuries are serious.
If the driver cannot be located, an injury victim can make a claim against the victim’s own auto insurance. That claim can only be made if the victim purchased uninsured motorist coverage. Since hit-and-run accidents are common, car owners should always purchase as much uninsured motorist coverage as they can afford.
Pedestrians and bicyclists who are insured under an auto insurance policy can usually make a claim against their uninsured motorist coverage even if the insured car was not involved in the accident. A personal injury attorney can help hit-and-run accident victims take necessary steps to protect their right to receive compensation.