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While no one expects to get into an accident when they get into the car, the reality is that most people will, at some point in their life, get into at least one traffic accident. However, no one expects that, after an accident, the other motorist involved will flee the scene.
The unfortunate reality is that Pennsylvania hit and run accidents are more common than most motorists believe. By some estimates, roughly 11 percent of all motor vehicle collisions are hit and runs. These accidents pose unique challenges for accident victims who seek compensation for their injuries.
Being involved in any preventable car accident is a traumatic and frustrating experience. However, this is especially the case in Pennsylvania hit and run accidents. At Console & Associates, our experienced team of Pennsylvania Hit and Run Car Accident Lawyers helps hit and run accident victims and their families recover the compensation they need to get back on their feet. Over the past 25 years, we have successfully represented countless accident victims, removing the burden from their shoulders so they can focus on their recovery.
Our attorneys have extensive experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our clients. Although we wish the hit and run accident had never happened to you in the first place, we look forward to having an opportunity to help you on your road to recovery.
Despite the legal requirement that motorists stop after a collision, it is common for motorists to leave the scene of an accident. A driver may flee an accident scene for several reasons, including:
Hit and run accidents are much more common than many people realize. According to recent statistics compiled by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an average of 682,000 hit and run crashes happen per year in the United States. This means that a hit and run accident occurs every 43 seconds.
Almost 65 percent of the people killed in hit and run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists. Unfortunately, the number of hit and run accidents is on the rise, having increased by more than seven percent per year since 2009. Below is the most recently available data:
Under Pennsylvania law, motorists involved in a car accident must immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible. Additionally, motorists must provide their name, address, insurance information, and car registration to anyone else involved in the accident, as well as to responding police officers. Regardless of who was at fault, a motorist must also provide “reasonable assistance” to injured motorists, including taking them to the hospital.
If a driver fails to stop after an accident, they can be charged with a criminal offense. The severity of these charges depends on whether someone was hurt in the accident and, if so, how badly.
For example, generally, fleeing the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, if someone suffered serious bodily injury in the accident, the charge becomes a felony of the third degree, carrying a possible penalty of up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000.
In the case of a fatal hit and run accident, the offense is graded as a felon of the second degree, punishable by up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000. In addition, in fatal hit and run accidents, a driver faces a minimum sentence of three years in jail and a minimum fine of $2,500.
Unfortunately, even if the fleeing driver is located and successfully convicted of fleeing the scene, this will do little to help an accident victim financially. Hit and run criminal cases are focused almost exclusively on punishing the driver for their actions rather than compensating an accident victim for their injuries. While a driver may be ordered to pay restitution in a criminal case, there is no guarantee that they will actually be able to pay.
In situations where a hit and run driver is later identified and located, an accident victim can pursue a personal injury claim against the driver. Based in civil law, these claims provide a means for accident victims to hold at-fault drivers financially responsible for their injuries.
By definition, a hit and run accident is one in which the driver leaves the scene. However, in some cases, through a police investigation, the at-fault driver is later located. Once the driver is found, the accident victim can file a Pennsylvania car accident claim against that driver.
Drivers owe a duty to fellow motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others with whom they share the road. Among other things, this duty requires drivers to stay at the accident scene and provide assistance to anyone who was injured in the accident. When a driver leaves the scene, they show a total disregard for the wellbeing of the others involved in the accident. For example, if an accident victim is unconscious or otherwise unable to call for assistance, their injuries may become much more severe. Thus, even if the accident’s initial cause is in dispute, a hit and run driver may still be on the hook for an accident victim’s preventable injuries.
In Pennsylvania, state law requires all motorists to purchase a certain amount of car insurance. Lawmakers require drivers to carry car insurance because, in the event of a serious accident, chances are that the party who caused the accident may not personally have enough money to fairly compensate accident victims.
A typical Pennsylvania car insurance policy includes a few different types of coverage:
These three types of coverage are all required. However, Pennsylvania law requires that insurance companies also offer optional uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. In many car accidents, especially Pennsylvania hit and run accidents, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is crucial.
After a Pennsylvania car accident, accident victims will ordinarily file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, seeking compensation for their injuries. Under the terms of the at-fault party’s insurance policy, the insurance company will be on the hook for any damages caused by the insured. However, in the case of a Pennsylvania hit and run accident, the other driver is unknown and their insurance information unavailable. It is in this situation that uninsured motorist protection becomes crucial.
Uninsured motorist (UM) protection provides hit and run accident victims with a way to recover compensation for their injuries. In most Pennsylvania hit and run car accidents, this is the only available means of financial recovery. If someone is injured in a hit and run accident and the at-fault driver is never identified, they will file a claim with their own insurance company rather than filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance.
While Pennsylvania drivers must purchase bodily injury liability and property damage liability insurance, they are not required to purchase UM coverage. That said, state law requires all insurance companies to offer motorists the option of purchasing uninsured motorist protection, and most policies include UM coverage. To purchase a policy without this coverage, the insured must specifically reject the coverage. Thus, while the default coverage includes UM protection, motorists looking to reduce their monthly insurance premiums may opt-out of UM coverage. Generally, this is not advisable, because it can result in an accident victim being left with no way to recover money damages from an accident.
When purchased, the lowest amount of UM coverage permitted is $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. If an insurance policy contains higher bodily injury liability limits, the insurance company must also increase the available amount of UM coverage. Motorists should consider purchasing as much UM coverage as they can afford, because an accident victim’s injuries after a serious hit and run car accident can easily exceed $15,000.
Drivers education courses and common sense give most drivers confidence on how to handle minor car accidents. Get out of the car, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, and call the police. However, the moments after a Pennsylvania car accident can be incredibly stressful, especially when the other driver flees the scene of the accident. Few motorists are ready for this situation. Below is a list of essential things to keep in mind after a Pennsylvania hit and run accident:
Motorists involved in a hit and run accident should resist the temptation to chase a fleeing driver. Doing so will only place them in harm’s way. In addition, by leaving the scene, an accident victim will miss out on the opportunity to speak with any witnesses and provide responding officers with their account of the accident. Not to mention, all drivers – including those who were not at fault for causing the accident – are legally required to remain at the scene.
Every hit and run accident is different. In some cases, the other motorist may get out of the car, speak with the accident victim, and then decide to leave the scene once the police are called. In other situations, an accident victim’s injuries prevent them from interacting with the other driver or making any observations of the driver’s vehicle. When possible, an accident victim must get as much information about the other vehicle and driver as possible, including:
In addition, accident victims should consider using their phone to take pictures of the damage to their vehicle. All of this information can be critical to locating the fleeing driver and holding them responsible.
If the accident resulted in injury or significant property damage, the accident victim should call 911 to report the accident. Filing a report is crucial after any Pennsylvania car accident, and a hit and run accident is no exception. If an accident victim can recall any information about the other vehicle, police officers may be able to track down the driver. Also, by making a report, an accident victim memorializes the accident, proving that it occurred. This way, an insurance company cannot later argue that the accident never happened and that the victim’s injuries were caused by something else.
In many hit and run accidents, the accident victim is the only available witness to the crash. This can raise issues if an insurance company disputes the nature of the collision or who was at fault. Thus, locating any witnesses is a crucial step in the investigation process. Accident victims who are able to do so should speak with anyone who saw the accident and obtain their contact information.
In a hit and run accident, the accident victim will be dealing exclusively with their own insurance company. One common mistake many accident victims make is assuming that their insurance company will be on their side.
Insurance companies are for-profit companies that operate to make a profit. This means that they rely on taking in more money each month in premiums than they pay out in approved claims. Thus, insurance companies routinely look for ways out of paying accident victims what they deserve.
While accident victims must report to their insurance company, they should refrain from discussing the accident in detail until after speaking with a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer can explain what an accident victim should – and, more importantly, should not – say to the insurance company.
If you or someone in your family has been injured in a Pennsylvania hit and run accident, give Console & Associates a call to see how we can help. We have more than two decades of hands-on experience aggressively pursuing fair compensation for our clients in all types of Pennsylvania car accident claims. When you choose Console & Associates, you can be sure that your Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers have the skill, dedication, and experience to help you recover compensation for your injuries, whether it be through the at-fault driver’s policy or your own insurance policy.
At Console & Associates, we know that the recovery process is a stressful one. We do everything we can to take over as many of these burdens as possible so you can focus on your recovery. To learn more about what we can do to help you and your family during this challenging time, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania hit and run car accident lawyers, call 866-778-5500 today. You can also reach us through our online form.
Console and Associates, P.C.
100 S Broad St #1523 Suite B
Philadelphia, PA 19110
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