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February 17, 2020

What Happens If I Am the Victim of a Hit and Run?

Posted by Dan Dewoskin in Articles, Auto Accident, Personal Injury, Personal Injury Blog, Serious Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

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The number of hit and run accidents that take place in metro Atlanta is staggering.  We see clients far more often than we would expect after car wrecks where the other driver takes off into the night.  Sometimes, these wrecks are minor, but often, they involve serious collisions with no other driver in sight when the officer arrives at the scene.

Hit and run drivers may take off for various reasons, possibly because they are driving without a valid license or insurance.  They may be aware that there are warrants for their arrest for something minor, or perhaps something serious.  There are many excuses why the other driver does not stick around, but none of those reasons excuse the irresponsible behavior.

Now, the important thing here is that, if the other driver takes off, there is likely only one insurance company that can even possibly be involved to make things right for an injured driver or passenger.  This is the driver’s, or sometimes the passenger’s, own insurance company.  This would be a UM, or uninsured motorist, claim with the insured party’s insurance company.  If there is no UM coverage, then there would be no real avenue of recovery in this situation.  We see far too many of these sorts of cases.  After all, many hit and runs are based upon the other driver not having any insurance.  Given that this is why they leave the scene in the first place, knowing the identity of the driver is only one factor in figuring out how best to get compensation for our clients who are injured.

Every once in a while, a hit and run driver is caught just after the wreck.  This makes for a great case, as the other driver has now opened himself or herself up to claims for punitive damages.  Not only may this driver, and the insurance company, find themselves questioning the responsible driver regarding the injuries sustained, but they do so while having to explain why they did not feel the need to hang around for the police.

In one memorable case, we represented a young woman in a wreck where a hit and run driver was followed by an off duty police officer.  He faced the officer from the inside of his garage as the door closed, as the officer told him that the police were notified and on their way.  The police did come and arrest the young man, and after suit was filed and depositions were taken, it was clear that this young man was responsible for all damages.  The insurance company was not happy with the situation, but they ended up paying policy limits instead of explaining why the young man was just scared and that he should not be responsible for punitive damages.

Unfortunately, it is rare that the hit and run driver is actually caught.  Atlanta Police Department has a special unit devoted to hit and run accidents.  Although you may think this means that they are catching the majority of these folks, the existence of this unit suggests rather how widespread the problem is.  They may take the reports, but even their focus is on the most serious of cases with the most serious injuries.  Most of these reports will just languish from a criminal justice and accountability standpoint.

For our purposes, although we believe strongly in accountability from a criminal justice standpoint, we are most concerned with getting proper compensation for our injured clients.  This is only possible when our clients have proper insurance coverage.

When you or someone you know is involved in an automobile collision due to the negligence of someone else, seek medical attention as soon as possible, follow the advice of your medical professionals, and call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.

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Author: Dan Dewoskin