The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports approximately 10% of all vehicle accidents in the U.S. every year are hit and run accidents (read report here). We’ve all seen shocking headlines before reporting that a pedestrian has been struck down by a hit and run driver. A hit and run auto accident, however, can involve anything from hitting a pedestrian or striking another car in a traffic accident, to simply bumping another car in a parking lot and then driving away. (Yes, many people do not realize that if you bump another car going in or out of a parking space and then drive away without leaving a note, that too is a hit and run.)
Common Thread In The Accidents
The commonality in all of these situations is that the driver pulls away without taking responsibility for the accident. Damage in hit and run accidents can be either to persons or property or both. The fact that the driver does not take responsibility for the accident can compound already bad problems for the victim, who may have to struggle to pay for their physical injuries and recuperation, or for damage to their vehicle or other property.
The laws vary from state to state regarding auto accidents. In Pennsylvania, it is a requirement for a person whose motor vehicle, has been in an accident to stay at the scene until help arrives or pertinent information has been given to involved parties. Failure to do so is a criminal offense in the state. Leaving the scene in some cases is a felony in Pennsylvania, and there can be stiff penalties, including loss of a driver license, heavy fines, and/or jail.
In Pennsylvania, a driver who hits another car or other property is supposed to stop and give their information to the owner of the property. This information should include name, address, vehicle registration number, license plate number, and auto insurance policy number. The accident should also be reported to a law enforcement officer. However, how often do people leave notes with this information on the window shields of cars they have hit in parking lots or garages? Not too often, but they are required to do so. See here for Pennsylvania accident things to keep in mind.
Accidents Involving Physical Injuries
Accidents that involve physical injury are more serious. In addition to providing the same information mentioned above, a driver involved in such an accident should stop and give any necessary assistance, such as giving first aid, calling 911, or taking the injured person to a hospital.
There can be serious consequences for a hit and run auto accident in Pennsylvania, depending on the kind of accident. Typically, there are more serious consequences when bodily injury or death is involved. Those leaving the scene of a property damage accident might be charged with a misdemeanor, while those involving physical injury or death might be charged with a felony. Fines can vary from $5,000 to $15,000, and jail time can range from a week to 7 years. The penalties derive not so much from the fact that an accident has occurred, but to the fact that someone left the scene without taking responsibility. Usually an investigation takes place to determine the details.
In addition to these criminal penalties, the families of victims may also be able to bring civil suits, find out more about civil suits here. Victims can often not only get compensation for their injuries, treatments, and other losses, but may also be able to be awarded punitive damages because of the hit and run.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a hit and run accident, call a qualified attorney, who can get you the justice you deserve.