Hit and Run Claims
Hit and Run Accidents Can Cause Serious Injuries to Victims
Hundreds of thousands of people are driving around Arizona on any given day. Some of those drivers are traveling to work, some are running errands, some are picking up their kids from practice, and some driver as part of their job duties. The majority of these trips begin and end without incident and the drivers continue on with their day. However, some drivers are not that lucky and instead, they are involved in a motor vehicle accident that will ruin their day in numerous different ways. One of the most serious ways that an accident can go from bad to worse is when the driver doesn't stop and commits what is known as a "hit and run".
Accidents are relatively common in Arizona and across the US, with a large number of accidents resulting in only damage to the vehicles involved. However, when a more serious crash does occur, it often leaves those involved seriously injured or possibly even dead.
The experienced injury attorneys at Abels & Annes are here to help you in your time of need. If you have been involved in a hit and run accident that left you injured, contact us today for a free consultation.
You have a Duty to Stop at the Scene of an Arizona Motor Vehicle Accident
Arizona law requires all drivers involved in an accident to remain at the scene of the crash until they are cleared by police to leave. This law is known as the "Duty to Give Information and Assistance" law and it's intended to ensure that everyone is safe and negligent drivers are held responsible.
Though this law is clear that drivers must stay, too often drivers flee the scene of an accident, leaving behind victims and damaged property. This is true whether a driver is to blame for an accident or was not responsible for the crash and the exceptions that apply are narrow, generally only covering those who need immediate medical attention.
If a driver who was involved in an accident leaves the scene of the crash before being authorized to do so by local police, that driver may face criminal charges, especially if the crash left another person seriously injured or dead. Criminal charges may result in fines, loss of a driver’s license, or incarceration in jail or prison but that may be just the beginning of the legal troubles faced by a driver who leaves the scene.
In addition to any criminal charges, a driver may face traffic fines for any behavior that led to or caused the collision, like failing to stop at a stop sign. That same driver may face a civil claim by any accident victims who seek a rightful recovery for their damages and losses.
What does Arizona law say about a driver's duty to stop after an accident?
According to Arizona law, a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident must immediately stop at the scene of the accident and stay there until the driver has fulfilled certain requirements. Those requirements, outlined in section 28-663 of Arizona Law, states that a driver involved in an accident must:
- give their name, address and, registration information, and
- show their driver's license, if asked,
- and provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident
There are many different reasons that some drivers commit a hit and run after an accident. Many of these drivers are later apprehended and often express the same excuses for their behavior, none of which justify leaving an injured victim behind and without needed medical help.
The most common reasons given by apprehended drivers is fear of punishment, drunk driving, and driving without a license.
Reasons for Hit and Run: Fear of Punishment
Among the most common reasons drivers say they left an accident scene is because they feared punishment if the police knew of their involvement in the crash.
While this may seem like a reasonable motivator, the laws in Arizona punish a driver who leaves the scene of a crash much more severely than a driver who remains on scene and speaks with police. This means that a driver who flees and later is apprehended will face stricter penalties than one who stays at the scene, negating the claimed motivation behind this commonly used excuse.
Reasons for Hit and Run: Driving Under the Influence
Another common reason drivers leave an accident is because they are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the crash.
As Arizona has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the nation, many drivers who are under the influence fear the penalties of being drunk behind the wheel and believe that if they are not at the scene of the crash, police will not be able to prove they were drunk. This also is a misguided belief as police and prosecutors can calculate the believed level of intoxication at the time of a crash even if a suspect is apprehended some time after the impact.
In some cases, a driver who is drunk may not realize that he or she caused a collision and may flee a scene believing that the car hit a tree or other object.
Reasons for Hit and Run: No Driver's License
Another reason drivers flee the scene of an accident is that they lack the required documentation or insurance to legally operate a car in Arizona, adding another reason that the driver may flee the scene. These drivers may not have a valid driver’s license or may not have their car registered with the state. Often, a driver is not in compliance with Arizona laws requiring automobile insurance and therefore chooses to flee instead of facing the consequences.
Regardless of whether a person is scared of the consequences, was driving drunk, or doesn't have driving privileges, leaving someone in a dangerous and serious situation is not only amoral, it's illegal and Arizona takes it seriously.How to Obtain Recovery for Damages in a Hit-and-Run Crash
There are two broad types of hit-and-run accidents: those where the fleeing driver was later apprehended and those where no driver was ever found. In either case, a victim of a crash may be entitled to a financial recovery for any damages incurred in the accident.
When a fleeing driver is later apprehended, a victim can bring a civil claim for monetary damages against that driver’s insurance policy to provide payment for any expenses incurred, like medical bills or lost wages.
Using Underinsured or Uninsured Insurance to Seek Damages after a Hit and Run
If that driver does not have enough insurance to fully compensate a victim, it may be possible to go against the driver personally for additional compensation or to bring a claim against the victim’s insurance company for the remainder owed. This is known as an underinsured claim and it is a provision of most Arizona insurance policies.
An underinsured claim is often grouped with another type of insurance known as an uninsured claim, which is the type of insurance that may be available if a fleeing driver was never apprehended. In these situations, a victim’s own insurance company will come in and “step into the shoes” of the at-fault driver, providing a source of financial recovery to the victim and the victim’s family.
How Hit and Run Drivers are Caught
Many drivers who leave the scene of a crash are later identified and are brought to justice through the statements of eye witnesses or through evidence left at the scene.
More and more, accidents are being recorded on security cameras placed outside businesses or on police cameras near the streets. As an at-fault driver’s vehicle is usually damaged in a crash, family members and friends may realize that the car was in an accident and may report the damage to police.
Regardless of what evidence remains at the scene, police are identifying these offenders with reasonable frequency.
Few things may be more distressing than being involved in an accident but when the other driver flees the scene, it can make the damages even worse. If you or your family member has been the victim of an accident, call the Arizona car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. today for a free consultation about your case and your legal rights. At Abels & Annes, P.C., we want to help you when you need help the most so we have a lawyer standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.