One recent survey found that the number of hit and run accident fatalities has sharply increased in the past decade. While the overall number of car accident fatalities has also risen, fatal hit and run accidents have increased dramatically. Hit and run accidents make us a higher percentage of car accident fatalities than they did a decade ago.
A decline in respect for traffic laws might be a reason for the increase in hit and runs. Motorists are far more reckless than they have been in the past. This trend was in place before the pandemic, which worsened things. Poor driving habits and more selfish behavior in society have made things far worse for drivers.
One factor that can increase hit and run crashes is inflation. Drivers are already paying more for insurance, knowing their rates will skyrocket even further when their insurance company has to pay higher medical bills and repair costs. They know their insurance may only cover part of your damages, and you can obtain a judgment that may take all of their assets.
Drivers make a split-second decision not to stop at the accident scene. They may not think rationally at the time of the accident. Even if they are not in shock, they can make decisions out of fear and panic.
While nothing whatsoever excuses a hit and run accident, some drivers do not think rationally after a sudden accident. They may think only of their immediate pressing fears, and it causes them to do something completely irrational.
If you suffered injuries from an accident involving a hit and run driver, you need an experienced car accident attorney in Denver for legal guidance with filing a claim and protecting your rights.
Why Drivers Do Not Stop at the Accident Scene
Drivers may not stop after an accident because:
- The driver did not have insurance, and they are afraid of being personally liable for the crash
- The motorist was already breaking the law, such as driving on a suspended license or operating a stolen vehicle
- There is already a warrant for the driver’s arrest, and they do not want to interact with police
- The driver may simply panic and not know what to do
- The motorist may not have realized that they hit you
Either drivers can go to prison when they leave the scene of a severe crash. However, many think they can escape and no one will ever catch them. For many of them, it is true – and the prospect is why many drivers keep going after they injure you in a crash.
You First File a Claim Against Your Own Insurance Policy
Hopefully, your policy includes UM coverage, or you elected to purchase the coverage. If you have UM coverage, hopefully, it equals the amount of regular coverage that you have. You never know when you will need that coverage because you can’t control the actions of other drivers. Purchase as much coverage as you can afford.
When filing a claim for an accident involving a hit and run driver, your auto insurance company becomes part of the picture. Do not make the mistake of assuming that your insurance provider has any loyalty to you.
Customer loyalty is a one-way street with car insurance companies. They expect you to remain loyal to them, but then they throw their loyalty out the window when you need benefits from them. Then, the company claiming they protect you in your time of need becomes your adversary. Their adjusters will do everything that they can to protect their employer.
Proving Fault Is a Prerequisite for Financial Compensation
Before receiving a settlement offer, you must still prove fault in a hit and run accident. The mere fact that the driver did not stop at the crash scene does not make them automatically responsible for the crash.
In practice, most drivers do not stop at the accident scene because they believe they caused the crash. However, you still need evidence that shows the driver’s responsibility.
You may have difficulty finding sufficient evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault when you cannot find them.
Your lawyer might use the following to prove your case:
- Witness testimony from people who saw the actual accident
- Pictures of the scene of the accident (even though there are not two cars in the picture)
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
- Traffic or dashcam footage
Evidence can support a successful hit and run claim, so you want a lawyer with the resources to build a strong and supported claim for you.
You Need a Police Accident Report
Perhaps the most important thing you must do is call a police officer from the accident scene. You need the police report that says the other driver left the accident scene. Hopefully, you called the police at the time of the accident. If you are reading this and have not called the police, do so immediately.
Your insurance company will not entertain a UM claim without evidence that you were in a hit and run accident. The officer may have some statements from people who saw the accident and give their recollections of what they saw.
Damages in a Hit-and-Run Accident Case
Even if you can prove the other driver’s fault to your insurance company, you must still negotiate financial compensation with insurance company for your injuries. You cannot count on your insurance company.
First, may recover the same compensation as in any other car accident, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress
Your Insurance Company Will Make Your Life Much More Difficult
The insurance company does not want to pay you everything that they owe. They will try to find every way possible to reduce your compensation. The most common tactic is to make you low settlement offers to get you to take less in a settlement agreement. They may underestimate the value of your damages so that they can start with a much lower negotiating position.
Most dealings with an insurance company involve negotiation. They will never put all of their cards on the table at once, often beginning with a settlement offer they know is low.
Never hesitate to reject offers that will not cover your losses. Your attorney can advise you when it is wise to accept an offer or continue negotiations. Over time, you may reach an agreement. However, you can count on a drawn-out process, especially when much money is at stake.
Your Lawyer Can Make Extra Effort to Locate the Responsible Driver
The police will do their best to locate the driver responsible for the hit and run accident. Hit and run accidents are criminal cases. Law enforcement may briefly investigate, but they may then let the case languish if they do not catch the driver in the first few days after the accident. These are usually lower-priority cases for police, reducing the chances you can identify the driver.
However, your lawyer will not let the case go cold until they have pursued every possible lead and then some. Your compensation depends in part on whether you can locate the other driver because it gives you an additional insurance policy against which to file a claim. An attorney can continue to investigate your car accident, leaving no stone unturned in an attempt to find the responsible driver.
Your attorney can:
- Pursue a lead if you have a photograph or a witness with part or all of the license plate number
- Interview people in the area to learn if they saw anything right before or after the crash
- Request evidence if there are nearby traffic cameras that recorded footage of the driver or the accident
- Analyze damage to your car and checking with repair shops in the area if they noticed a car that fits the police description
- Track GPS location of phones that were in the area at the time of the accident and where they were right afterward (your attorney may need to obtain records from the phone company)
Your lawyer may also hire an investigator who can attempt to locate the driver.
Finding the Driver Means That Their Insurance Will Pay
If you succeed in finding the hit and run accident driver, their car insurance policy will become the primary insurance coverage to pay your damages. They will compensate you right up to the amount of their policy limit. Then, your insurance coverage will transition to the secondary coverage that will pay if the other driver does not have enough insurance.
If you locate the driver, your lawyer can negotiate with their insurance company. Your attorney should handle all communications and negotiations with adjusters. You should never have to speak with the insurer or decide whether to accept a settlement offer alone. Your lawyer will be your liaison to the negligent driver’s insurer.
If your damages exceed their coverage, you will file a claim against your policy. The same UM coverage that you have also applies to underinsured motorists. You can still expect your insurance company to make things difficult for you.
You Need an Attorney for a Hit-and-Run Accident Case
Just because another driver is not yet in the legal process does not mean you should go without an attorney.
You still need to report the accident to your own insurance company. After a UM crash, your car insurance company’s interests automatically become adverse to yours the second you report the crash.
You cannot trust your insurance company for a second when they are the ones who have to pay you money. They can and will use anything against you to lessen their financial burden. Never speak to them about the accident on your own without a lawyer.
You Do Not Need to Pay Upfront for a Hit and Run Accident Attorney
Hire a lawyer right after your accident. The one thing that you do not need to worry about is money. A car accident lawyer does not ask you for money when you hire them. They will not send you bills while your case is pending. They will only receive legal fees if you receive a settlement or jury award.
If you do not hire a personal injury lawyer in Denver for your case, you can find yourself getting less money for your injuries or even nothing at all.