Nearly 700,000 hit and run accidents happen every year in the U.S. Unfortunately, over the last decade, these numbers have been trending upwards. The most vulnerable parties involved in hit and run accidents include pedestrians and bicyclists. In fact, these two groups encompass more than 65% of the fatalities recorded as a result of a hit and run. Since there are so many pedestrians and bike riders in large cities like Houston, these types of accidents happen quite often. Whether you are a victim or the offending driver, it is imperative that you stay at the scene of the accident. Otherwise, there may be major criminal consequences levied against you. If you have been injured as a result of a hit and run accident, call the police, seek immediate medical attention, and contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Being fairly compensated for your injuries after an accident has occurred is not always an easy feat. This is especially true of hit and run accidents. Fortunately, you do not have to fight by yourself. Give the offices of Jerome O. Fjeld, PLLC a call for your free initial consultation today.
What is a Hit and Run Accident?
A hit and run accident is a crime in which a motorist is involved in or causes an accident with another vehicle, person, or property, but does not stop at the scene and provide their personal information or file a police report (if necessary). Examples of information that drivers involved in collisions must provide include their name, driver’s license number, insurance information (including policy number), license plate number, and any other pertinent information required by the law. If an accident occurs where there is not another person present and only property has been damaged, it may suffice if you leave the aforementioned information in a note at the scene.
Penalties for Hit and Run Accidents
In Houston, if you leave the scene of an accident that involves serious bodily injury and/or death, you can be charged with a third-degree felony. Consequences can include jail time (1 to 10 years) as well as fines up to $5,000. Hit and run accidents (that do not involve serious injury or death) with another occupied vehicle are considered Class C misdemeanors. Offenders can face a fine of up to $500 (if the damage caused was lower than $200). If there is more than $200 of damage, drivers may face up to six months in jail as well as additional fines. In addition to criminal charges, potential jail time, and hefty fines, perpetrators of hit and run accidents may face a civil lawsuit if damages or injuries are caused.
Common Reasons for Hit and Run Accidents
There are various reasons that hit and run accidents occur. Albeit, most offenders do not have a sufficient explanation for their actions. In many cases, hit and run accidents occur when the offending driver has been driving under the influence (alcohol or drugs), lacks insurance, has a suspended (or non-existent) license, has an outstanding warrant, etc. No matter the reason, it is typically the victim that suffers the most when hit and run accidents happen.
What to do if You Are Involved in a Hit and Run Accident
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a hit and run accident, it is important that you protect yourself legally, financially, and physically. After an accident has occurred, it is recommended that you take the following steps:
- Be Aware: If you are able, take down the offender’s license plate number as well as the make, model, and color of their vehicle. Also, identify potential witnesses.
- Stay at the Scene: According to the law, both the offender and the victim must stay at the scene of the crime.
- Contact Law Enforcement: A police report will be a necessary step in apprehending the suspect as well as potentially seeking damages from them.
- Seek Medical Attention: Injuries are not always apparent immediately after an accident has occurred. It can sometimes take hours, days, or weeks for the effects of injuries to surface. It is best to get checked out by a professional.
- Contact Your Insurance: In some instances, you may have to file an uninsured motorist claim with your provider. Thus, it is best to have the accident noted.
- Call a Personal Injury Attorney: Working with an adept personal injury attorney can be an asset when you are seeking fair compensation after a hit and run accident.
Working With a Proven Attorney
Recovering from injuries can be tough enough. Filing a personal injury claim and/or lawsuit alone can make things even more difficult. The professionals at the offices of Jerome O. Fjeld, PLLC are here to help you throughout the entire process. We help our clients to file court documents, attend appointments, negotiate with insurance companies, interview witnesses, etc. Give us a call to schedule your free initial consultation today.