Hit and Run Accident Lawyers
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What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
The law requires that any person involved in an accident must stop in a safe place and provide information or render aid where necessary. If someone leaves the scene of an accident, this is what is termed a "hit and run" accident. Hit and run is a serious crime in most states.
Who Can Be Charged with Hit and Run?
A person may be accused of hit and run even if not at fault for the accident. Drivers who cause property damage are required to leave a note with their name and address. They must also immediately contact the police department in order to avoid a hit and run charge.
Is Hit and Run a Felony or Misdemeanor?
“Hit and Run” can be either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the accident. If a person is injured or killing during an accident, then “hit and run” is a felony. If the accident only results in property damage, then “hit and run” is a misdemeanor.
What Can Happen If You've Been Charged with a Hit and Run?
Police may investigate and contact the suspected hit and run driver. The police may also ask the driver to bring his vehicle to the police department and provide a statement. If this has happened to you, you should consult a lawyer before answering questions or contacting the police.
Factors Determining Sentencing of a Hit and Run
- Nature of the accident
- Extent of the damage done during hit and run
- Cooperation with law enforcement officials during investigation
- Prior convictions of the accused
Potential Consequences for a Hit and Run
- Probation or parole
- Loss of driving privileges
- Significant fines
Can I Claim Compensation as a Victim of Hit and Run?
Yes. This is where the difference between criminal and civil law will become most obvious. Although the police and district attorney’s office will make every reasonable effort to find and punish the defendant, criminal law is a matter of the state whereby the defendant will face fines which goes to state coffers. If the victim wants compensation though, the victim must go to civil court to sue the defendant for negligence. Since the defendant has already broken a law, proving negligence should be easier than usual, so compensation for victim’s injuries should not be too difficult.
Are There Any Defenses to Hit and Run?
Yes, although the use of each defense will depend upon the specific case.
- You were not the driver – “Hit and Run” only applies to drivers. Passengers cannot be charged and owners cannot be liable if they were the one behind the wheel. This defense includes cars which were stolen.
- No Injury – Every driver has a duty to assist injured persons or exchange information in case of property damage liability later. If, however, there was no injury or property damage, then can be no “hit and run.”
- Mistaken Belief – If you honestly believed that no one was injured or that no property was damaged, then the charge(s) may be reduced if not outright cleared.
- Certain Exceptions – A court may find certain exceptions for specific situations. For example, if the persons in the other vehicle(s) are threatening your life, it may be permissible to remain at a safe distance.
If You Are the Victim of a Hit and Run Accident, What Can You Do?
Contact the police immediately. If there is sufficient evidence, the police will then forward your case to the District Attorney's office to prosecute for hit and run. You may also initiate an action in civil court to recover damages to your property or for injuries. A capable personal injury lawyer could help you recover those damages.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Since conviction of a hit and run offense can carry serious penalties, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with hit and run cases. Also note that a conviction in criminal court could carry over to civil court. If you are being sued in civil court, consulting a lawyer familiar with hit and run cases could improve your chances of reaching a favorable outcome.
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Last Modified: 02-02-2015 04:11 PM PST
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