What to Know About Hit and Run Car Accidents
Following a hit-and-run accident, victims and their families may face sizeable medical debt, lost time from work, and long-term rehabilitation. Survivors are often left dealing with considerable pain and suffering and permanent disability. When a fatality occurs, the victim’s loved ones are left carrying the emotional and financial strain.
It can be very difficult for victims and their families to receive financial compensation following a hit-and-run accident, especially when the at-fault driver is never found. Auto insurance policies may cover some expenses from hit-and-run damages, but deductibles or policy limits usually apply. Unless the hit-and-run driver is eventually found, a victim may not be fully compensated, even when the accident wasn’t his or her fault.
In the event that the hit-and-run driver is eventually apprehended and has auto insurance, a victim may be able to recoup their deductible costs. However, many drivers who flee from the scene of a car accident are uninsured or underinsured, leaving a victim with no legal recourse for recovering damages.
If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run driver, you may need to file a civil personal injury claim to receive compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, future lost wages, and other damages. Contact the Omaha personal injury attorneys at Berry Law. They can protect your interests and help fight for the justice you deserve following a hit-and-run accident.
What is a Hit and Run Car Accident?
A hit-and-run involves a driver who knowingly causes an accident by striking another driver, pedestrian, bicyclist or stationary property, and then leaves the scene without providing any information about themselves or assistance to injured persons.
Even if you are the victim of a hit-and-run caused by another driver, you must still stop and remain at the scene of the accident, regardless of how minor it may seem or whether or not you were at fault. Parties involved in a hit-and-run have a responsibility to communicate what happened to law enforcement and render aide to any injured persons. Leaving the scene of an accident also prevents a victim from being able to talk to any possible witnesses about what they saw.
Failure to stay at the accident scene until police arrive can lead to charges, especially if you abandon someone in need of medical attention. Leaving an injured driver, passenger or bicyclist without offering assistance or contacting the authorities is against the law in the state of Nebraska.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Driver in the Event of an Accident?
Since failure to stop is a crime, law enforcement will conduct an investigation and search for any drivers who leave the scene of an accident. Nebraska Revised Statute 60-697 addresses a driver’s obligations in the event of a collision, as well as the penalties for failing to perform those duties:
- The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident on a public highway, private road, or private drive that results in injury or death to any person must immediately stop his or her vehicle at the accident scene.
- A driver involved in an accident must provide his or her name, address, and license number of the vehicle, as well as his or her driver’s license to the person who was hit or the occupants of a vehicle that was struck.
- Any person in an accident involving a motor vehicle has a responsibility to render aide to persons injured in the collision, including calling for emergency medical assistance if it’s apparent that such care is necessary or is requested by the injured party.
What should I do if I’m involved in a hit-and-run accident?
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, regardless of whether you are at fault, stop immediately. Don’t attempt to follow the driver of another vehicle. You may run the risk of becoming involved in another accident or placing yourself in an otherwise dangerous situation with a mentally unstable motorist.
If you leave the scene of an accident, law enforcement may question who was at fault for the collision. You may also miss the opportunity to speak with eyewitnesses who can provide more information and lead to the offending driver’s arrest.
Get to safety by moving your vehicle and any injured persons out of the way of oncoming traffic if possible. Assess yourself and passengers for injuries and call 911 to get help on the way. Report the hit and run to law enforcement and your insurance company immediately.
Record as much information as possible about the other driver and vehicle, including:
- License plate number
- Vehicle make, model, color and body style
- Any unique or custom characteristics of the vehicle that hit you, such as personalized license plates, stickers or modifications
- A description of any damage to the other vehicle
- The driver’s appearance
- Direction the vehicle was headed
- Location, date, time and cause of the accident
Ask eyewitnesses if they can provide additional details and record their personal contact information for later. Witnesses can be especially helpful in hit-and-run accidents that occurred while you were outside of your vehicle at the time of the collision. For example, a hit and run accident in a parking lot.
Be prepared to present your driver’s license, registration and insurance information to police, along with your phone number. Assist police in identifying other individuals who were involved in the accident if there were injuries or fatalities. Failing to meet any of these basic obligations could result in your being charged with failure to stop.
If you are physically able, document evidence with photos of the scene of the accident and any struck vehicles or property for insurance purposes.
Obtain a copy of the accident report, which you will need to file an insurance claim. This report will also help police in their search for the missing driver. Keep the accident report and all other relevant photos and paperwork pertaining to the accident safe for use in the future. File an insurance claim with your insurance provider within 24 hours following the hit-and-run.
What if I hit a stationary vehicle or property and can’t find the owner?
In the event that you hit a parked vehicle or structure, you are legally required to attempt to locate the owner or to leave a note securely attached with your name, address, phone number, and license plate number. You should also inform law enforcement that you tried to take ownership for the accident by attempting to find the owner of the damaged property.
What are the penalties in Nebraska for leaving the scene of an accident?
A hit-and-run accident is a misdemeanor in Nebraska if no one is injured. For a first offense hit-and-run accident that involves only damage to property, the charge is a Class II misdemeanor under Nebraska law. If convicted, the driver faces a fine of up to $1,000.
For drivers with a prior history of hit-and-run violations, a subsequent hit-and-run offense that doesn’t result in bodily injury to another person is a Class I misdemeanor with up to $1,000 in fines.
When minor injuries to another driver, their passengers, a pedestrian or bicyclist are involved, a hit-and-run driver can be charged with a Class IIIA felony, punishable by fines of up to $10,000. If the accident results in serious injuries or death, the offense is a Class III felony, and the driver could face up to four years in prison, two years of post-release supervision and up to $25,000 in fines.
Additionally, Nebraska drivers who are convicted of hit-and-run charges can lose their driving privileges or be required to undergo license supervision for at least one year and up to 15 years in some scenarios.
Will my insurance cover the expenses of a hit-and-run accident?
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance companies in some states will refuse to cover hit-and-run accident damages, but that is not the case in Nebraska. Nebraska requires all drivers in the state to carry mandatory uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, which may help pay for medical expenses, lost wages or damage to your vehicle in the event that a hit-and-run driver is found to be at fault for the accident and doesn’t have insurance, or if he or she is never found.
If you also have collision coverage, it will typically pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s been damaged in a collision with another object or if it rolls over during the course of the accident, even if the other driver is never found. Deductibles and policy exclusions may apply, although some insurance companies will waive the deductible in hit-and-run accidents. You will need to call and find out the terms of your particular policy.
Be aware that filing a claim in a hit-and-run accident may raise your insurance premiums and cause you to lose any claim-free discount status you may have, even if you weren’t at fault for the accident.
Do I need to hire an attorney if I’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident?
It’s a good idea to consult a car accident attorney in Omaha, even if you are filing a claim against your own insurance policy. An insurance company may attempt to limit your damages, even with uninsured motorist coverage through your own policy. It’s possible that you may have to fight the insurance company to recover what is owed to you. Hiring an attorney to represent you protects your right to recover damages and receive the maximum possible compensation. To get started on this process, schedule your consultation today.