Hit and run cases are legally tricky, because everything hinges on whether the at-fault driver can be apprehended. If you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
In 2015, the Arizona Department of Transportation logged 13,018 hit and run crashes. Of those, 2,530 resulted in injuries to the struck person.
Here’s what you need to know to increase the chances that the driver will be caught and to build a strong case.
Hit and run accident law in Arizona
According to Arizona law, drivers involved in an accident resulting in damage, injury or death must:
1. Give their name, address and vehicle registration number.
2. Show, on request, their driver’s license to the person struck or to the driver of the other vehicle.
3. Assist any people injured in the accident, including calling 911 to arrange for them to get treatment for injuries.
Any person who does not do the first two actions is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor. Any person who does not do the third action is guilty of a class 6 felony.
What to do after a hit and run accident
It’s important to be especially vigilant after a hit and run accident, because any details you can provide to the police may help catch the runaway driver and strengthen your claim.
If possible, try to get any information you can about the vehicle that struck you – license plate, description of the car and driver. Write it down immediately. Also write down the date and time of the accident, the specific location, the road and traffic conditions, and the weather. You may be in shock and not thinking clearly, so your memory of the incident later may be especially unreliable. Plus, your information will be seen as more credible if your write it down straight away and can show that to a police officer.
Call the police immediately. Report the facts as completely and honestly as you can.
Seek witnesses who may be able to describe the accident and the vehicle. Get the names and contact information of each witness so your lawyer can contact them later if necessary.
Photograph the scene, your damaged vehicle, and your injuries. Of course, photograph the fleeing vehicle if possible.
Seek medical care, even if you feel you don’t need it. The shock of an accident, which is compounded by the uncertainty of a hit and run, can delay the onset of symptoms such as pain. If you do not seek medical care right away and wish to claim compensation for injuries that manifest later, you may not be able to claim those injuries. A doctor, however, will be able to immediately detect injuries such as whiplash.
Consult with an attorney before making any statements to an insurance company.
For more information about what to do after an auto accident, read our article here.
How do I make a claim in a hit and run accident?
The police or your attorney may be able to track down the hit and run driver based on the evidence you give them. Occasionally, video surveillance of the area may help apprehend the driver. If the police or your lawyers are successful, you can file a claim against the driver’s auto insurance company for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. For more information about what compensation you may be entitled to, read our article here.
If the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance, or has insufficient insurance, you may be able to file a claim against your own insurance company to cover your damages. But you can do this only if you have purchased uninsured motorist coverage. (You can read more about what to do if the other driver has no insurance or inadequate insurance in our article here.)
If your damages, such as medical bills, exceed the other driver’s or your insurance policy limits, you can sue the other driver for the difference. However, in a hit and run situation, it is likely the driver has no insurance or very little insurance, and has very little money. So filing a claim against him or her may not be practical.
If the hit and run driver cannot be found, your options are limited. However, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you may be able to file a claim against your own auto insurance company to cover your damages. Essentially, a missing driver is similar to an insurance-less driver when it comes to insurance claims.
Again, it’s wise to consult with an experienced attorney about your options. Attorneys have ways of investigating and recreating accident scenes that may help strengthen your claim. The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Legal team offers complimentary consultations, so there’s no risk. We get paid only if and when you reach a favorable settlement.