Many of us have been involved in a car accident, whether it be a “fender-bender” or something more serious. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is a jarring experience. Because it happens so suddenly, it takes some time to realize what actually happened. Your brain is processing not just how the accident happened, but also trying to evaluate whether you’re injured. Our mind rattles off a million questions – “Am I OK?,” “Is the other person OK?,” “How bad is this?,” “What happened?,” “Whose fault was it?”
After those few seconds pass, the normal thing to do is to make sure everyone is OK. Then, the parties exchange contact and insurance information and call the police (even if no one is seriously injured, the police will file an accident report that is often needed by your insurance company). What few people expect is for the other vehicle to leave the scene. In Massachusetts, it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident if someone was injured or property was damaged over a certain amount. If you are the victim of one of these “hit-and-run accidents,” you may also be entitled to compensation.
What exactly is a hit-and-run accident?
A hit-and-run accident is any accident in which a vehicle hits a person, object, or another vehicle, AND the driver knowingly leaves the accident without providing contact and insurance information. Examples range from something relatively minor – like a driver hitting a parked car in a parking lot, causes damage (e.g., scratching the paint or causing a dent), and then driving off before anyone notices – to something very serious, like a driver hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist and fleeing the scene to avoid being identified.
There are many reasons why a driver leaves the scene of a collision, including:
- The driver panicked or made a spur-of-the-moment decision;
- Intoxication/drunk driving/operating under the influence;
- Unlicensed operator, i.e., if the other driver doesn’t have a license;
- Outstanding warrant or stolen vehicle (i.e., he/she would be arrested if police were called to the scene).
What Should I do if the Other Driver Leaves the Scene?
Most importantly, DO NOT chase after the other car. This only puts yourself and others in danger through the chase itself or eventually confronting the driver. When you realize another driver is attempting to leave the scene, there are a few things you can do. First, try to identify the vehicle in question. If you can, take a picture of the other vehicle, ideally the license plate, but a photo of other identifying information, e.g., color, make, or model, is also helpful to the police. If there are witnesses, you can also ask them to provide any information they may have.
Second, call the police. Give them all the information you have, including any photos or observations of the other car. Even if you only got a partial view of the license plate, that could be helpful.
Will My Insurance Cover Me?
There are two types of insurance that cover these situations:
Uninsured Motorist Coverage will pay the compensation for your injuries. This is required coverage, meaning everyone in Massachusetts has it, although the amount of the insurance varies depending on what you paid for. So in many situations, you won’t be any worse off because the other car fled the scene.
Collision Coverage will pay for any damage to your car. This is an optional coverage, meaning you may not have it.
Am I entitled to additional damages?
Yes, depending on the facts of the case. For example, if the paint of your car was scratched, as a general proposition, a court will not find injuries necessitating compensation. However, if you were to suffer physical and or emotional harm due to being in a car accident, you may be able to pursue a claim against the driver. Furthermore, as leaving the scene is a crime in Massachusetts, a judge in the criminal case could order the driver to pay damages. Even if this were to happen, you can still pursue a civil lawsuit seeking additional compensation for your injuries.
If you’ve been injured in a hit and run accident, call the Car Accident Lawyers at Marcotte Law Firm for a free, no obligation consultation.