Who is at Fault in a Hit and Run Auto Accident?

Because of the size and speed of most vehicles on the road, any sort of collision has serious potential consequences. If you have been hit by another vehicle and you are confident that the other driver or another party altogether was at fault then you should consider filing a personal injury claim.

A successful claim depends on sufficient evidence being available and skillful negotiation. It is normally advisable to hire a personal injury attorney to pursue the claim on your behalf.

Hit and Run Auto Accidents

A hit and run accident is in many ways the worst case auto accident scenario. Unless you are insured for this eventuality, it may be hard recovering any damages from the person who hit you. The term “hit and run” is not a legal description of this sort of accident, but the colloquial term commonly used.

It refers to an accident in which you have been hit by a person in a vehicle who has not stopped to help or to find out if you were injured.

Unless the driver genuinely failed to notice that he or she had hit you, that person is almost automatically to blame. In every state in the country it is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident without stopping.

Even if it is just an unoccupied vehicle that has been hit, the driver who has done the damage must stop and leave a message and contact the police.

Who’s at Fault in a Hit and Run Auto Accident?

There would be rare circumstances in which a person who hit someone else, whether it was a pedestrian, a cyclist, a motorcyclist, or someone in a vehicle of their own, would not be at fault.

The law in every state is quite clear about the legal obligations on someone who has hit another vehicle, unoccupied or occupied, or someone outside a vehicle.

Auto Accident Scenario Tips -  Who's at Fault in a Hit-and-Run?

There are a number of reasons why someone might do this. It is possible that they genuinely didn’t notice the accident. It is more likely that they were trying to evade responsibility.

The hit and run driver might have been illegally driving, unlicensed, uninsured or may have been intoxicated or driving a stolen vehicle.

The hit and run case will become a police investigation and a personal injury claim against the hit and run driver will be impossible unless the driver is apprehended.

If that happens, the driver may face both a criminal charge for failing to stop after an accident has occurred as well as a private civil claim for damages.

Damages That May Occur

If you have been injured and your car damaged by a hit and run driver, the full cost of the accident will depend on how severe it was and what was damaged or injured. You will need to identify the damages in the event that the hit and run driver is found or you have to file a claim with your own insurance company.

Generally, if in a no-fault state, you cannot claim for damage to your car or compensation for pain and suffering or punitive damages, but at least you will get something back to pay for medical costs even if the hit and run driver is never found. If you are in an at-fault state, you may be able to file a personal injury claim if the driver is located and you have proof that the driver was at fault.

In a no fault state you can claim for:

  • medical expenses;
  • future medical costs if necessary;
  • loss of earnings;
  • future loss of earnings.

In an at-fault state, you can claim (as long as the hit and run driver is found and he/she has insurance):

  • medical expenses;
  • future medical costs if necessary;
  • loss of earnings;
  • future loss of earnings.
  • cost of repairing the vehicle;
  • pain and suffering;
  • punitive damages (because of the seriousness of the accident and that the driver drove away without stopping indicating extreme negligence, probably a crime)

Evidence to Have

The documentation and evidence you need depends on the state where the accident happened.

In a no-fault state, you file your claim for personal injury with your own insurer. As noted above, this is only for medical treatment and lost earnings. You may still need to have evidence of the circumstances of the accident.

Report the accident to the police and obtain confirmation from them of your report or if they attend the scene of the accident and compile a police accident report. This, together with photos showing damage, should be submitted with your claim. Also, include:

  • proof of medical costs, such as doctor’s bills, cost of hospital treatment, medication etc.
  • proof of lost earnings, such as wage stubs, employer’s confirmatory note, etc.

If you are in an at-fault state, you will have to wait until the hit and run driver is located by police and find out if he / she was insured. Then, even if the police have charged the driver with an offense, you can still go ahead with a personal injury claim against the driver.

If there is anything you can do to help police find the driver, then do what you can. Examples might include providing:

  • eye witness statements;
  • your own observations if you saw the driver and vehicle taking off;
  • photos taken of the damage;
  • footage from surveillance or security cameras nearby;
  • police report of the accident.

Filing a Claim

If the driver is found, you will need to find out if s/he was insured and if so who their insurer was. Then you can go ahead with filing a claim against the driver. The fact that the driver was a hit and run driver may help your case, as the police may decide to lay a charge against the driver for failing to stop at an accident scene, which is against the law in every single state in the U.S. Typical information you will need before filing a claim will be:

  • driver’s name and contact details;
  • insurance company;
  • report of the accident including all the evidence listed above.

Maintain Documentation

Whatever the state you are in, you should endeavor to obtain as much evidence as possible to submit with your claim. If you are in a no-fault state, the amount of evidence needed is less, but the compensation will also be restricted.

In an at-fault state, the chances of obtaining compensation rest heavily on finding the driver and that the driver was insured. The burden of proof and the amount of documentation is greater, but the amount of compensation is potentially much larger, too.

If you were injured, even if it was slight, see a doctor and get an assessment. Obtain a report from the doctor and his recommendations. If you need hospital treatment of any type, or tests, x-rays and scans, get copies of rest results. Keep all invoices and receipts for:

  • doctor’s fees;
  • all tests;
  • medication;
  • specialized treatment;
  • hospital stays and surgery;
  • proof of lost earnings;
  • damage repair bill to car;
  • repair or replacement cost for any other damaged property.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Hit and run auto accidents can be difficult to deal with and there may seem to be few opportunities to recover damages. Hopefully, the person will be found by the police, but in the meantime it is still very worthwhile talking to a personal injury attorney about the accident and discussing your legal options.

At the very least, the attorney will help you to check your insurance policy thoroughly as this may be your only way of recovering compensation for injuries you may have suffered.