Hit and Run Accident Victims
Car accidents in St. Louis or the surrounding areas allow you to seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your damages. An accident in which the responsible party flees the scene before authorities arrive is commonly referred to as a ‘hit-and-run’ accident or ‘leaving the scene’ accident. A hit-and-run accident is much more complicated than an accident in which the at-fault driver’s identity is known. If not handled properly, it is possible the innocent party is left injured and in debt.
The statistics surrounding hit-and-run accidents are pretty startling. Approximately 11% of all car accidents are hit and run accidents. That’s a pretty high number of accidents in which the victim may have no recourse unless the at-fault driver is located. It’s especially startling to know that many hit-and-run drivers are never brought to justice because of the anonymity of their crime.
- About 1,500 people die each year in hit-and-run accidents
- Roughly 60% of deaths in hit-and-run accidents are pedestrians
- 58% of fatal hit-and-run crashes happen between Friday and Sunday and 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Missouri Law for Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Fleeing the scene of any accident involving a vehicle is unlawful in the state of Missouri. Missouri Revised Statute 577.060.1 states that a driver is guilty of the offense of leaving the scene of an accident if they are in an accident which causes injury, death or property damage and ‘having knowledge of such accident he or she leaves the place of the injury, damage or accident without stopping‘ and providing relevant information to those harmed. The at-fault driver is required to provide the victim with their name, vehicle registration number, driver’s license information, and insurance company contact information following an accident.
Missouri law states that those who leave the scene of an accident are guilty of either a class A misdemeanor or class E felony. If the accident resulted in physical injury to another party or more than $1,000 of property damage, then the crime is considered a class E felony. A class E felony is punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
If an at-fault driver is convicted of a crime in connection with your accident, the conviction will help your injury case. However, a conviction does not guarantee financial reimbursement. To secure financial compensation, you must take action pursing your injury claim.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you should:
- Try to immediately write down the license plate number of the vehicle, its make, model, color or any other information which will help identify the vehicle to investigators.
- Try to record information about the driver of the vehicle, such as hair color, skin color, or anything else that will help identify the driver of the vehicle for investigators.
- Stop and report the accident immediately to law enforcement, by calling 911.
- Try to locate any witnesses who may have seen the driver and obtain their name and contact information.
- Take photos of the accident scene, including skid marks and impact location to your vehicle.
- Look to see if there is a gas station or other business that has cameras which may have caught the driver on tape. These videos are often overwritten on a regular basis if they are not flagged, so it is crucial they are identified and preserved immediately.
- Never try to chase down the fleeing driver, as this may lead to another accident.
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries.
- Contact an experienced St. Louis personal injury lawyer so they can begin an immediate investigation to locate the mystery driver.
Reasons Drivers Flee from the Scene of an Accident
While there are no shortage of reasons drivers run from an accident scene, the following list contains common reported reasons for leaving:
- No Driver’s License: People without a driver’s license will usually do whatever it takes to avoid the fines and tickets associated with driving without a license. They will continue driving as if nothing happened if they are involved in an accident that doesn’t compromise their vehicle’s ability to move.
- No Insurance: Uninsured motorists don’t want to be caught driving without insurance. The accident would also mean that they are responsible for all damages out-of-pocket instead of having their insurance company settle with the victim.
- Suspended License: A driver’s license may be suspended for a variety of reasons including judgments or previous tickets/accidents. A driver who is driving on a suspended license could face serious criminal charges if caught.
- Intoxication: Drivers who are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will likely try to avoid all contact with cops or other authority figures.
- Fear of Punishment: Drivers who already have marks against their license or are afraid of getting marks against them will generally flee the scene of an accident. Insurance companies often increase the insurance premium of at-fault drivers.
- Unaware: Drivers sometimes report that they were not aware that their vehicle was involved in an accident. While this is often a lie, it is more commonly reported with drivers of tractor-trailers, buses, and other large commercial vehicles.
- Work Vehicles: Drivers are often scared to report an accident to their employers when driving for work purposes.
What Happens If the Hit-and-Run Driver is Never Found?
If an at-fault driver who causes an accident leaves the scene and is never found, accident victims are still not without hope. First, you should immediately consult with The Dixon Injury Firm so we can try to locate the driver. A detailed investigation will often reveal information which will help track down the responsible driver. If we are unable to find the at-fault party, our injury lawyers will discuss other ways to seek reimbursement for your damages.
Our St. Louis hit-and-run car accident lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm can help you gather the evidence you need to get the compensation you deserve. The faster our lawyers can being our investigation, the better the chances we have of finding the fleeing driver. For help with your Missouri hit-and-run accident claim, call us today for a FREE Consultation at (314) 409-7060.