Car accidents are startling and traumatic ordeals. Most often, a driver is caught off guard when another motorist crashes into their vehicle, causing damages and injuries. In the chaotic scene, the at-fault driver may decide to flee; however, this is illegal. The drivers involved in a car accident have an obligation to ensure that any injuries and meaningful property damage are reported to the police.
If the injuries are significant, many states have laws that define legal obligation on the part of the uninjured driver to alert emergency responders. Several states even require the uninjured driver to take steps to ensure the health and safety of an injured accident victim. In Delaware, drivers who are involved in a car accident that entails any possible injuries or serious property damage are required under law to remain at the scene. Serious accidents should also be reported to the police; this is legally necessary if severe injuries are obvious.
Drivers should take steps to report any accidents that happen on public roads that may endanger other unexpecting motorists. This obligation to report threats to public safety also applies if it is clear that the other driver is intoxicated or otherwise impaired when they flee the scene.
After a hit-and-run accident, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind that may help the victim.
Call for Medical Help
The most important step after a hit-and-run collision is to calmly call 9-1-1. Those who are injured should prioritize seeking medical help. Even if no injuries are apparent, police should be notified right away. The involvement of the police can help create an official record of the incident, but in a hit-and-run accident, the other driver is considered a public danger as well.
Do Not Pursue the Other Driver
One important safety tip is to not follow the other driver. There are many reasons why this is a poor decision. Most importantly, the other driver may be dangerous. Their decision to leave the scene should be enough evidence that they are not thinking rationally. Pursuing them could be dangerous.
There are legal reasons for staying on the scene as well. For the reasons discussed above, leaving the scene of an accident is against the law. Leaving the scene of the accident makes it harder for the victim of the hit-and-run collision to prove that they were not the perpetrator.
Gather Evidence at the Scene
As tempting as it may be to chase the other driver, it is important for the deserted motorist to remain at the scene to protect their rights. The victim should give their account to the responding police officer and talk to bystanders who may be able to serve as witnesses to the accident. It can be helpful to take pictures and videos of the accident scene as well.
Drivers should take a few minutes to write down anything they can remember about what happened, such as information that may help identify the other motorist. Information to consider includes:
- Physical appearance, clothing, and distinctive features about the driver.
- Details about the other driver’s behavior.
- License plate number of the other vehicle.
- Color, make, and model of the other vehicle.
- Details about the damage to the other vehicle.
- Which direction the other driver was travelling.
- Details of the crash, including the date, time, and location.
Does Insurance Cover Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Drivers who are involved in hit-and-run accidents should report the incident to their own insurance company. In many cases, they may be covered under their own uninsured motorist policy that may offer benefits for medical bills, property damage, among other possible reimbursements. Delaware mandates uninsured motorist insurance. This type of coverage may not be available in all states. Where it is available, it may not always cover hit-and-run collisions.
Sometimes, collision coverage will pay for property damage to the vehicle, but this is not a guarantee. Even then, there will likely be a deductible to pay.
Is a Hit-and-Run Accident a Civil or Criminal Matter?
A hit-and-run accident is both a civil matter and a crime. Law enforcement will attempt to track down the perpetrator to charge them with the criminal act of leaving the scene of the accident and other related offenses. Criminal penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony. The punishment may include jail time if someone was seriously hurt or killed.
The victim of a hit-and-run accident has a right to go after the delinquent driver for damages associated with their injuries and property damage. If the other driver is identified, a criminal conviction may bode well in the civil case. The seriousness of the crime may influence a jury to award substantial punitive damages in the civil case. A car accident lawyer can help the victim acquire the right amount of damages.
Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Protect Hit-and-Run Victims
If you were injured in a hit-and-run collision, you should be able to collect damages from the negligent driver if they were found. You may be able to recover compensation to pay for medical bills and lost wages. A Wilmington car accident lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow can protect your rights and help you secure damages. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at (302) 427-9500. We have offices located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, and we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.