Why Do I Need to Hire a Hit-and-Run Accident Attorney?
Car accidents are stressful events, but most of us know what to do following a collision. You pull over to safety, check on everyone’s physical well-being, exchange insurance information, and call the authorities. Not only are these steps critical for your safety, but they are also mandatory under the law. Every state in the U.S. has laws prohibiting drivers from hitting and running, and leaving the scene of an accident can result in serious criminal and civil liability for the driver.
If another driver hit you and fled the scene, it can be distressing. However, you still have options for seeking relief and financial support for your accident-related losses. Hiring an Austin car accident attorney will ensure you have the best chance of seeking financial compensation for your injuries.
Understanding Hit-and-Run Accidents
Hit-and-run accidents occur when a party leaves the accident scene without carrying out their legal obligation to stay, offer information, and help those who suffer injuries. Every jurisdiction has a specific definition of hit-and-run accidents, and these incidents can cause serious bodily injury and even death.
Note that drivers may be found guilty of being in a hit-and-run accident even if they were not the cause of the incident. No one involved in a crash should leave the scene, even those who might otherwise be considered victims.
While you might do the right thing and remain at the scene, you might be shocked to see the other driver speed away. You should never try to follow the driver or track them down. Write down anything you remember about their vehicle, and then call the authorities as the law requires. The police can take steps to investigate and hopefully identify the driver.
Whether or not you locate the driver, your car accident lawyer can identify the best path to compensation for your losses.
Reasons Why Drivers Might Hit and Run
It’s hard for many people to understand why someone might choose to flee the scene after causing harm to another person. However, there are several reasons why drivers engage in this irresponsible and illegal behavior.
One common reason is fear. The driver may panic and feel overwhelmed by the situation they’ve found themselves in. They may worry that they will face severe consequences for their actions, such as criminal charges or increased insurance premiums. Instead of facing the consequences of their actions, they make the impulsive decision to flee.
Another reason for hit-and-run accidents is a lack of financial responsibility. Some drivers do not have the required insurance coverage under state law, which can result in serious consequences, both criminally and civilly.
Some drivers may flee the scene because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Impaired judgment can impair their ability to make rational decisions and take responsibility for their actions. They might want to avoid a DWI arrest, so they take off without thinking.
Regardless of the reason, it is never justified to flee the scene of an accident and leave injured victims without help or support.
Hit-and-Run Accidents: Legal Consequences
Abandoning the scene of an accident constitutes a criminal offense in every state, and the sanctions range from fines to imprisonment. The severe nature of these penalties will depend on whether or not the accident caused death, serious bodily injury, or property damage.
Those who cause hit-and-run accidents may also suffer civil penalties, where a victim or the victim’s family members may sue the responsible party for damages. Every jurisdiction will have unique penalties associated with hit-and-run accidents; the most severe ones involve fatalities.
When to Retain a Car Accident Attorney
Prospective clients need to retain a car attorney soon after the incident occurs, and most hire legal representation right after they get out of the hospital. If you delay your search, the insurance company may believe you are not suffering from any injuries. You must document the nature and extent of your injuries throughout the accident case.
Hit-and-run accident cases are particularly complex because the plaintiff sometimes does not know who to name as the defendant or the injured person does not know the insurance company that covers the driver. Therefore, all drivers considering hiring a car accident attorney must provide the attorney with all their information regarding the accident.
The Cost of Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
Injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means clients do not have to pay any legal fees at the beginning of the legal representation. When the attorney obtains a settlement or judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the attorney will deduct their fee from the total financial award. Only if the car accident attorney gets compensation for the plaintiff will they assess the cost of legal services.
Prospective clients do not have to worry about paying an hourly fee or a retainer for legal representation. The client benefits from legal representation without cost, and the attorney is motivated to work hard to get a settlement or judgment.
The Traits to Look For In a Car Accident Lawyer
Attorneys representing clients in hit-and-run accident cases often have experience in this practice area. Prospective clients need to look for legal representation with a proven track record of success, meaning that the attorney has tried hit-and-run accident cases before a jury.
Also, prospective clients need to focus on retaining an attorney who is an effective communicator and provides their clients with regular updates.
Researching the attorney’s reputation and background by reading client reviews and obtaining recommendations from reliable sources is necessary. Some prospective clients may want to meet with an attorney to determine if they consider them a good fit.
The Types of Damages Hit-and-Run Accident Victims May Seek
Hit-and-run accident victims may seek general damages and special damages for their injuries. They can also seek punitive damages if the defendant acted maliciously or recklessly. Calculating the total damages amount is one of the most important aspects of a hit-and-run case.
General damages are less objective and more subjective, which means they are particular to the victim. General damages include loss of life enjoyment, familial relations, and pain and suffering. Special damages are more objective and based on documentary evidence such as bills and records. Examples of special damages include medical expenses, automobile repair bills, and property damage bills.
Punitive damages punish the defendant for committing egregious conduct and are only available if the defendant acted maliciously or recklessly. These damages should also deter the defendant from committing the same dangerous conduct in the future.
Civil Lawsuits and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Most civil lawsuits can reach a settlement through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, all alternative dispute resolution forms. Preserving judicial resources is a significant public policy goal in federal and state courts. Therefore, it is essential to understand how alternative dispute resolution applies to your case.
Approximately five percent of all civil lawsuits go to trial, and most civil lawsuits settle through negotiations. A settlement agreement is a contract that binds the parties. Each party agrees to the terms, and the defendant will pay a settlement amount in exchange for a release from all legal claims asserted by the plaintiff.
Only the most complex and vital cases go to court to ensure the efficient and rational use of judicial resources. For example, a novel question of law may arise in a complex patent case. A new legal principle may help other courts resolve other legal disputes if this case reaches litigation. Settlement agreements can occur at any point before trial, and sometimes, civil lawsuits will settle on the eve of trial.
Mediation is an informal event during which a mediator spends a day conversing with the two parties and trying to reach a settlement agreement. In this case, the mediator does not have the power to bind the parties. Arbitration, on the other hand, may be binding or non-binding. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator may decide the claims and legal issues, and parties can appeal the decision. Non-binding arbitration is less formal and is often associated with contracts that contain arbitration clauses.
Gathering Evidence for Hit-and-Run Accident Cases
Hit-and-run accident cases are unique because the party who leaves the accident scene may leave evidence that can help law enforcement determine the party’s identity. Also, penal codes and criminal statutes are relevant to hit-and-run accident cases because abandoning the scene of an automobile accident is a violation of criminal law in most jurisdictions.
Every party involved in a hit-and-run accident case needs to do everything within their power to preserve relevant evidence so they can substantiate their legal claims. Plaintiffs need to work with car accident attorneys to ensure they focus on the most critical aspects of their legal case. They need to preserve real and documentary evidence to substantiate legal claims.
Expert Witnesses Have a Role in Hit-and-Run Accident Cases
Expert witnesses are essential to hit-and-run accident cases. After they assess the evidence associated with a case, they will produce a report containing their conclusions.
These reports contain critical information informing the defense counsel that the plaintiff has substantial resources for prosecuting the case. Using expert witnesses can lead to a settlement agreement because it signals to the defendant that the plaintiff is prepared to litigate the case.
Some common examples of expert witnesses used in hit-and-run accident cases include the following:
- Accident reconstruction expert
- Physical therapist
- Structural engineer
- Automotive technician
- Research Analyst
You must seek a knowledgeable car accident attorney who can find the best expert witnesses to support your legal claims and strengthen the legal arguments you assert in your civil lawsuit.
The Statute of Limitations
You must speak to an experienced attorney to ensure that you file your personal injury claim before the statute of limitations period expires. The statute of limitations is a time bar that limits the time someone may file a lawsuit against a defendant. If an individual plaintiff does not file a claim within the statute of limitations period, they may be unable to seek financial compensation for their injuries. Therefore, you need to speak with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer about the statute of limitations period that applies to your case.
In some circumstances, the tolling of the statute of limitations period may arise when an accident victim does not realize they have suffered injuries due to the negligence of another party. A skilled attorney can guide you in understanding the deadline for filing your legal claims.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Contact an experienced car accident lawyer today to learn more about the benefits of having legal representation. You do not have to stand up to insurance companies and defense attorneys alone. You can retain an Austin personal injury law firm‘s experienced car accident attorney to seek monetary compensation for your injuries.