Here in Massachusetts, if you leave the scene of an accident where anyone has been injured, or property has been damaged, you may be charged with a crime.
But if another driver collides with you and then flees from the accident scene, what should you do?
And what if you become a hit-and-run victim – you’ve been injured, but the driver who injured you can’t be found? What are your options then? Can a car accident law firm help?
CAN YOU BE COMPENSATED FOR INJURIES IN A HIT-AND-RUN INCIDENT?
You will also learn what steps you must take to obtain compensation if you are injured by a hit-and-run motorist.
After most traffic crashes, if a negligent driver has injured you, at least you will know who that driver is, and in this state, an experienced Boston personal injury attorney will be able to help you take the appropriate legal action.
But in a hit-and-run situation, if the police cannot find the person who injured you, where can you turn for compensation?
WHEN A COLLISION HAPPENS, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FIRST?
Your compensation could actually hinge on what you do immediately after the collision. When a traffic accident happens, it is imperative to think quickly:
1. Try to get the other vehicle’s license plate number. If you have time and you are able, use your phone to take photos of the other vehicle and the license plate.
2. Call 911. If it’s a hit-and-run with injuries, give the 911 dispatcher as many details as you can.
3. If you are not too severely injured or incapacitated, talk to any eyewitnesses – even before the police arrive – and try to obtain their contact information. You may need their statements or testimony later.
4. Exchange contact and insurance details with the other driver or drivers. Cooperate with the police but do not admit any fault or answer any “leading” questions. Find out when and how you can obtain a hard copy of their accident report.
5. Report the accident to your auto insurance company, but do not make any formal statement to the insurance company before you consult with your accident attorney.
6. If a driver who injures you flees the scene, make sure that the police are on the way, and try to write down every detail before you forget anything. Look around the accident scene to determine if any video cameras may have captured the incident.
WHAT AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE IS REQUIRED IN MASSACHUSETTS?
Massachusetts requires motorists to carry four different types of auto insurance coverage with these minimum limits:
1. Bodily Injury to Others: $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
2. Personal Injury Protection (PIP coverage): $8,000 per person in an accident
3. Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Motorist (UM coverage): $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
4. Damage to another’s property: $5,000 per accident
WHAT WILL UM INSURANCE COVER?
If you are a hit-and-run victim, your own automobile insurance is the first place to turn. In fact, because Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state, you must seek compensation first through your own coverage, without regard to which driver was at fault.
If the police can’t track down the hit-and-run driver who injured you, or if the police find the driver and that driver is uninsured, you can use your UM bodily injury and property damage coverage.
WHAT WILL PIP INSURANCE COVER?
PIP insurance will cover you or your passengers’ injuries from a traffic accident, up to the coverage limit, without regard to which driver was at fault.
PIP insurance also covers these damages in hit-and-run accidents:
1. Reasonable medical costs, meaning all medical costs arising from the injuries you sustained in the accident, including surgeries, medical tests, hospital stays, and ambulance fees.
2. Wages lost because you were injured by a hit-and-run driver. PIP coverage pays 75 percent of your average weekly gross wages.
3. Essential services that you cannot perform if you are injured. PIP can compensate you for childcare costs and even for housekeeper expenses provided that you can document and justify those expenses.
And even if a hit-and-run driver is found, in the state of Massachusetts, you will not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit unless your medical expenses in the accident surpass $2,000.
WHY DO DRIVERS HIT AND RUN?
In almost every case, a hit-and-run driver runs because of his or her involvement in some other serious crime. Someone might run from an accident scene because he or she is:
1. driving without auto insurance
2. carrying illegal weapons or drugs
3. operating a stolen vehicle
4. under the influence of alcohol or drugs
5. named in a pending arrest warrant
A driver who is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries will face severe criminal penalties in Massachusetts, but if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, you need to realize that sometimes a driver flees the scene, gets away, and is never located.
IF A DRIVER INJURES YOU AND LEAVES THE SCENE, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If a driver injures you and can’t be located, can you do anything about it? The smartest approach is simply to stay alert and remember that hit-and-run is possible whenever an accident happens.
Until law enforcement officers actually arrive at the accident site, stay alert and try to get photographs of the vehicle that hit you – especially the license plate number.
UM and PIP insurance should cover your medical expenses up to the limit of the policy if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver. Your health insurance policy may also provide some coverage.
If you are injured in a hit-and-run accident in Massachusetts, seek medical attention at once, and then schedule a meeting with an injury attorney – as quickly as possible.
HOW WILL A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP YOU?
Your injury attorney will handle the negotiations with your auto insurance company, and in some cases, your attorney may be able to identify other potential sources of compensation.
After any injury caused by another driver, seeking an accident lawyer’s guidance is a smart move. In a hit-and-run case, having that guidance at once is imperative.
Nothing is more important than your health, your family, and your future.
If another driver injures you, and if that driver can’t be found, you must be advised and represented by a good accident attorney, and you must obtain that advice and representation immediately. It’s the right move – and it’s your right.
Eric J. Parker, the Managing Partner of Parker Scheer LLP, has over 30 years’ experience representing victims in complex personal injury cases. He is active in many legal associations and has won many awards for performance and principles. Eric believes in giving back to the community and supports young scholars and law students by acting as faculty and mentor to them.