Every car accident is a stressful event, but getting hurt in a hit and run is particularly devastating. Not only do you have the trauma of the actual event, but you have the anguish of not knowing whether the driver will ever be caught.
Hit and Runs in Georgia
After a typical car accident case in Georgia, injury victims have the opportunity to pursue compensation from all at-fault parties. A hit and run case, however, closes off this avenue of justice until the driver is located.
Instead of being able to file under the at-fault driver’s third-party liability insurance — which is required by law in Georgia — the injury victim has to look for other resources. You may have to file under your MedPay policy, your private medical insurance, an uninsured motorist policy, or pay out of your own pocketbook.
Police investigators and hit and run car accident lawyers can help in these situations. By opening an investigation and starting the process of filing a claim, hit and run collision victims can take steps to locate the person who hit them and pursue justice.
If you have been hurt in a hit and run car accident in Duluth or Gwinnett County, you can speak with an experienced Duluth car accident lawyer at Andersen, Tate & Carr, P.C. to discuss your case. Call (770) 822-0900 today or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation case review and learn the best next steps to take.
How Common Are Hit and Run Car Accidents in Georgia?
Hit and run car accidents are far too common in Georgia and across the country. According to a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the volume of fatalities from hit and run accidents increased from 1,819 in 2015 to 2,049 in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available.
The study also notes that Georgia sits in the top five states with the highest number of fatal hit-and-run accidents for 2016. While California, Florida, and Texas had much higher numbers, Georgia came in fourth place with 72.
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Hit and Run?
First, remain calm. Do not pursue the driver that fled, since this can lead to a secondary accident. It also muddies the clarity of evidence at the accident scene; police may even accuse you of fleeing and/or being at fault.
Second, contact the police immediately. If your accident occurred earlier and you have not contacted the police yet, do so now. Ideally, notes for the report will be written at the accident scene where the responding officer can observe any available physical evidence.
If you are hit by a driver who fled, remain where you are and dial 911 immediately. Check to see if anyone at the scene is hurt, including yourself, and request an ambulance for anyone with serious injuries.
While waiting for police to arrive, see if you can find eyewitnesses who are willing to make statements. Observations made by those at the scene provide crucial evidence, and eyewitness testimony is often the thing that helps close hit and run cases.
Ask anyone who witnessed the accident if they are willing to remain at the scene and give a statement to the police. You can also capture a recorded statement on your phone. In these cases, be sure to get the contact information of the witness so that they can be questioned or provide testimony later.
Take a photo of your injuries, any damage to your vehicle, and the scene of the accident. Try to include landmarks, such as road signs or prominent trees, as a point of reference. Since you are required by law to move vehicles after an accident if it can be done safely, capture at least some photos of the wreckage before moving your vehicle to a safe place.
If you are hurt, don’t move any more than is necessary. You may have to forego taking certain photos since they require you to move around; you can request that someone else do it for you if available.
Receive medical attention as soon as possible. Do not delay going to the emergency room. Getting a diagnosis immediately after your accident is crucial to establishing cause-and-effect. Otherwise, someone may argue that certain injuries occurred after the accident, or that your condition was only so poor because you did not do your part in seeking medical attention.
How Police Investigate Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents are notoriously difficult to solve. While Duluth does not provide statistics on hit and run accidents, other areas do. For instance, the Los Angeles police report solving just 8 percent of the area’s hit and run cases.
The cases that do get solved have several common factors. Leads and tips are the biggest by far. While it may seem obvious that someone could identify a vehicle based on debris from the accident, police cannot automatically claim that a vehicle that matches the description was involved in an accident.
People at the scene have to be able to identify specific characteristics, such as the license plate or a unique set of decals. More importantly, at least one eyewitness has to be able to describe the driver. Without a description, the owner of the vehicle cannot be assumed to be the perpetrator of the crime.
To obtain leads, police begin by questioning witnesses and sweeping the area for physical evidence. People in the vicinity might be questioned if it is suspected that the vehicle fled along a certain route.
Police will request CCTV footage from any cameras that may have captured the fleeing driver. Paint chips, debris, pieces of plastic, tire marks, and other physical evidence may also be used to help confirm eyewitness reports or the make and model of the vehicle.
Social media can often provide important clues by word of mouth. A case in Ames, Iowa was recently solved thanks to tips provided by Facebook users.
Auto garages may also report suspicious vehicles or drivers who come to them and match eyewitness descriptions.
All of this evidence works like pieces of a puzzle to confirm the identity of a hit and run driver and connect them to the event itself.
Your Legal Options After Getting Hurt in a Hit and Run Accident
After your hit and run, talk to the police. Talk to a doctor. Talk to your insurance company, which can open an investigation of their own. You should also talk to a lawyer, who can help you file a claim even before the perpetrator is identified.
Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime in Georgia (G.C. § 40-6-270). Police want to find the perpetrator, not only to help you potentially receive compensation, but to enforce the law.
After an accident, you have the legal right to pursue compensation from all at-fault parties. Absent a clear perpetrator, a Duluth car accident lawyer might be able to help you identify any other at-fault parties, such as other drivers involved, the manufacturer of vehicle safety systems, and other third parties.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), you may have the right to file a claim for all of your damages if the at-fault driver cannot be identified, although this option varies from insurer to insurer.
Every case is different, so if you have questions or need help, do not hesitate to talk to our experienced car accident attorneys in Duluth. You can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation when you call (770) 822-0900 or contact us online now.