Fleeing the scene of an accident is illegal in Texas. Even though there are serious criminal penalties for a hit-and-run driver, civil liability – paying for the damage and injuries caused – is a separate threat to this negligent person.
Once the driver is identified and prosecuted, you could receive financial compensation for your losses arising from the accident. You must prove the driver caused the crash and was negligent. Information gathered by law enforcement certainly helps with your separate case, and if the driver is convicted of criminal charges, your civil charges are certainly strengthened. An experienced car accident lawyer who finds evidence to support your civil claim, then represent you in negotiations or in court, could be a valuable asset by helping you to recover damages, including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Other monetary compensation – including possible punitive damages.
Compensation from Uninsured Motorist or Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage
Unfortunately, some hit-and-run drivers have no insurance; in many cases, that’s the reason they flee the accident scene. If this has happened to you, recovering money from the driver who caused the crash can be difficult at best, unless this person has significant personal assets to pay you a favorable judgment in civil court.
So, if you cannot find the hit-and-run driver, or if the driver is found but has no insurance or assets, your own insurer may be able to pay your claim.
These claims are typically filed under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). You should have this sort of protection on your Texas auto insurance policy unless you formally rejected it. UM/UIM was created just for this kind of situation. So when you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, your own insurer steps in and fills the coverage breech to the limits of your policy.
What to Do if You’re in a Car Accident with a Hit-and-Run Driver
By following the suggestions outlined below, your insurance claim (or civil case) against the negligent driver – once he or she is found – will be much stronger for your hit-and-run lawyer to win fair injury damages.
- Stay calm. Start taking pictures with your phone of the driver, vehicle, and license plate number if you can. Note the time, location of the accident, and damage to your vehicle.
- Get names and other information from any witnesses.
- Call the police. Once their accident report has been filed, get a copy.
- Ask business owners for video footage. Ask the police if there are traffic cameras that might have recorded the accident.
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries.
- File an insurance claim. You may be covered by your auto insurance’s UM/UIM provisions or, if you were a passenger, your policy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) rider.
- Contact an experienced auto accident lawyer with experience in representing hit-and-run victims.
If you are not seriously injured, many of the above you can do yourself. If a family member or friend has been badly injured in a hit-and-run, this task may fall to you.
What to Do if You’re a Cyclist or Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Victim
Hit-and-run accidents involving bicycle (and motorcycle) riders are becoming more common, simply because there are more of them on the road than there were a decade or two ago. Injuries are far more serious in bicycle and motorcycle accidents because the riders have much less protection than drivers or passengers in vehicles. Plus, motorists don’t always drive with the safety of cyclists or pedestrians in mind. The same safeguards for building a strong case apply. Take pictures, get witness statements, call the police as soon as you can, get as much information as possible, call your insurance company, seek medical attention, and also contact a seasoned personal injury lawyer with experience in handling hit-and-run claims (including cyclist victims). One who understands the biases against cyclists (including motorcyclists) is of value because sometimes it’s difficult for police, insurance companies, and even juries to empathize with cyclists who are injured in a traffic accident.
Our Lawyers Help Hit-and-Run Victims Get the Money They Deserve
Negotiating with insurance companies after a hit-and-run can be difficult, stressful, and complicated, even if you’re dealing with your own insurer. You should consult with an experienced Houston accident attorney who can negotiate on your behalf. The insurance company will have its professionals representing its interests – you should have your own lawyer representing yours.
To schedule a free consultation with the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant, contact us today by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at (800) 444-5000 or locally in the Houston area at (713) 973-8888.