Hit-and-run accidents, including those resulting in serious injuries and fatalities, are reported on regularly by local news. In many cases, law enforcement looks to the public to help identify and arrest the drivers involved. While these are tragedies victims will never forget, and for which families may have no means of ever fully rectifying, apprehending hit-and-run drivers is a way to provide those affected with the sense of justice they deserve. In terms of ensuring victims and families are compensated for their losses, however, criminal arrests, if they ever happen, are not a source for financial recoveries.
The tragedies we see in the news are a reminder about hit-and-run accidents and the law – not only in terms of laws requiring motorists to stop at the scene of an accident and render aid, but also to victims and families who face added difficulties in their fight for justice and compensation following hit-and-run wrecks, injuries, and various economic and non-economic damages.
To help you better understand your rights after a car accident where the at-fault motorist fled the scene, our team at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP has provided the following information:
- Criminal vs. civil cases – Hit-and-run accidents have the potential to result in two different types of cases; a criminal case against the driver (if they are found and arrested), and a civil case involving lawsuits any victim or family files against that driver. Victims of these wrecks need to know that these are separate and very different matters. One concerns a person’s guilt and their punishment in criminal court, where rules, procedures, and the burden of proof is higher. The other concerns a person’s financial responsibility for causing harm and losses due to their negligent and wrongful acts. Civil cases uses a lower burden of proof than criminal cases, and they are most viable source of compensation for victims. If you’ve been hurt by a hit-and-run driver, or have lost a loved one, you cannot depend on the criminal case providing any meaningful financial recovery.
- Locating drivers – Hit-and-run cases can limit victims’ opportunities for holding an at-fault party accountable, which is why it becomes crucial to locate the driver, who will typically be arrested. Although it is not always possible, victims can provide law enforcement with any information they have that may be helpful in apprehending the offending motorist, which in turn may allow them to pursue a civil claim for their damages.
- UM / UIM Coverage – There are some cases where drivers are never located, or cases where drivers who are located were driving without insurance, or with very minimal coverage. In these matters, victims may have the option to pursue needed compensation through their own auto insurance provider if they have uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage. This is an additional form of coverage you must purchase, and it is strongly advised that you consider doing so. It can make the difference when it matters most.
- Other sources of compensation – When victims have limited means of obtaining compensation, such as not having UM / UIM coverage or having extensive injuries that require greater compensation, it becomes important to explore other potential avenues for compensation. This might include determining whether any other parties may have been at fault for contributing to the wreck. For example, a multi-vehicle accident may have been caused by another motorist, leading a vehicle behind you to crash into the end of your vehicle, and later leave the scene. In this type of situation, victims may still be able to recover compensation equivalent to the identifiable driver’s level of fault.
Hit and run accidents can be truly difficult situations for victims and families, especially when it comes to finding a source of needed compensation. This is why the importance of learning more about and purchasing UM / UIM coverage cannot be stressed enough.
Speak with a Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyer
Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP is comprised of nationally recognized trial lawyers who are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured victims and families throughout Ohio and beyond. If you have questions about your rights following any type of motor vehicle accident, call (216) 600-0114 or contact us online to request a free consultation. Our lawyers are standing by to review your case and explain how we can help.