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Being involved in a car accident is terrible, even under the best of circumstances, but the stress and anxiety surrounding the accident is only compounded when the other vehicle involved flees the scene. Drivers may flee an accident scene for any number of reasons, such as fear, not having car insurance, or simply not wanting to take responsibility for their negligent conduct. Leaving the scene of an accident is never a wise decision because it does not alleviate the driver’s civil liability for the accident and it will most likely result in either a criminal misdemeanor or felony charge.
If you or a loved one were injured in a hit and run accident in Austin or the surrounding area, or if you are dealing with an insurance company after being injured in a hit and run collision, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation. Our team of personal injury attorneys in Austin, Texas, have extensive experience with car accident cases and will do everything necessary to maximize your potential for recovery.
What is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run occurs any time the driver of one vehicle hits another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a third party’s stationary property, causes damage, and then leaves the scene of the accident. While there may be some valid defenses for a “hit and run,” such as a mistaken belief that no property damage or personal injury was caused as a result of the collision, it is often the worst decisions that an offending driver can make.
Another option that drivers can choose after an accident, if they are really pressed for time, is to leave a note. If a driver hits the property of another, and the owner is not around, or the owner is unidentifiable, a driver may leave their contact information in a place that the vehicle’s owner will be able to find it. This option is risky, however, because if the note is not found by the property owner, it can be considered a hit and run.
Hit and Run Statistics
In 2018, the Auto Insurance Center (AIC) published an analysis of FARS data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between the years of 2012-2016. Using this data, the AIC calculated the number of fatalities and fatal crashes per 100,000 residents in each state that were classified as hit-and-run accidents and compared the frequency of such occurrence against other states by the given year and month.
The AIC analysis found that hit and run fatalities have consistently been on the rise across the United States. The data showed that the total number of hit-and-run fatalities (involving at least two vehicles) increased from 1,512 deaths in 2012 to 2,046 deaths in 2016.
The study also found that October is statistically the deadliest month for hit and run collisions. While the end of daylight savings time in November is typically credited with an increase in drowsy driving accidents, hit-and-run collisions typically spike in October—days before the clocks roll back. In contrast, January and March represented the two safest months of the year statistically for these types of accidents.
Specifically, in regard to Texas, the AIC study found that it ranked in as the fifth deadliest state in terms of fatal hit and run collisions per 100,000 residents. The data indicates that every year there are approximately 1.19 hit and run fatalities for every 100,000 Texans.
Hit and Run Laws in Texas
Under Texas law, leaving the scene of an accident which involved the death or serious injury of a person is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to ten years in a state prison. If, however, the accident involved an injury that is not serious, it is merely a felony punishable by up to one year in a county jail, or up to five years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Moreover, Texas law also holds that any vehicle which leaves the scene of an accident, involving any damage to an occupied vehicle, is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $500. The law goes further, holding that the offense increases to a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in a county jail), if the damage is more than $200. In reality, almost any damage to the exterior of a car nowadays will cost upwards of $200 at a repair shop; therefore, few drivers will receive a class C misdemeanor even if they believe they only caused minor damage.
Texas law imposes the same penalties for hitting parked cars as to those for leaving damaging fixtures or landscaping without stopping to report or notify the property owners.
What to Do After a Hit and Run?
1. Seek Safety and Medical Attention
Immediately following a car accident, your primary concern is to assess the safety of all parties involved. If there are injuries or a fatality, notify emergency medical services right away. If you’re hurt, don’t try to “tough it out.” This tactic could not only hinder your physical recovery, but it could also inhibit your ability to recover financial compensation from insurance companies later.
If your vehicle is still in the roadway, and you can safely move it, you should attempt to maneuver it out of traffic to the shoulder of the road and illuminate the hazard lights.
2. Report the Accident
If the negligent driver flees the accident scene immediately following the collision, do not try to follow the driver. The person leaving the accident may be dangerous and should not be confronted without the authorities present. Instead, try to take a photo or memorize their license plate as they are driving away.
Once you have moved your vehicle to the shoulder of the road, call 911 to provide them the location of the accident. Under Texas law, if anyone involved in the accident was injured or if there was damage to one or more vehicles exceeding $1000, you are required to report the accident to police. This law applies equally to an at fault driver as well as to accident victims.
Regardless of whether the accident is a minor fender bender or a major collision, getting an accident report is a necessary and extremely helpful step in furthering your future claim for financial compensation.
3. Gather Information and Document the Accident
As you wait for the police and emergency services to arrive, you should assess the scene of the accident and the extent of damage to your vehicle. You should try to gather as much evidence as possible in the moments immediately following the accident while the scene is still fresh, as both your memory and the scene are likely to change over time. Video and photographic evidence are particularly helpful in preserving the details of an accident scene. If you are not capable of taking a photograph of the fleeing driver, try to write down a description of their vehicle and any portion of the license plate number that you can remember.
You should also document any injuries to yourself or your passengers as soon as possible. If possible, you will want to gather information from the other vehicle(s) at the scene, including but not limited to the names of any passengers or third-party witnesses who saw the accident occur.
Finally, when the police arrive, identify the officers, record their badge numbers, and request a copy of the accident report.
4. Contact an Attorney
Once you're ready, contact an experienced hit and run accident attorney in Austin who specializes in car accident cases. Speaking with a personal injury attorney can help you coordinate with your insurance provider, determine the statute of limitations for your claim, understand the process for filing such claims in your state, and assess your potential for compensation.
Personal Injury Claim for Hit and Run
While it’s unfortunate, many victims of hit-and-run accidents have a hard time getting compensated for their injuries because the driver who was responsible for compensating them took off. However, this is exactly where consulting a personal injury attorney will be beneficial.
As a preliminary matter, if you have Uninsured Motorist coverage (UIM) on your insurance policy, a personal injury lawyer can help you maximize your compensation for damages through your own insurer.
If the negligent driver has not come forward by the time you consult an attorney, they may be able to investigate other means of identifying. For example, if you bring the attorney a copy of the police report, they may be able to request copies of any surveillance cameras near the accident scene to further assess the identity of the fleeing driver.
Under Texas law, a person must bring suit for personal injury no later than two years after the date of the accident. However, if the negligent driver is not identifiable at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations period does not begin to run. And, if the driver who hit you is later identified, a lawyer can help you pursue a lawsuit at that time.
Get a Free Consultation for Your Personal Injury Case from Zinda Law Group
At Zinda Law Group, our personal injury lawyers have helped many claimants and their beneficiaries get their lives back on track after suffering injuries, death, and financial losses. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for any associated medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and all the other costs your hit and run accident in or near Austin has caused.
Our firm believes that injured clients should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. This is why we offer 100% free consultations. Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your claim. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit and run collision, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with our personal injury attorneys today. We are also offering free virtual consultations during the COVID-19 crisis.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.