Hit-and-run accidents are on the rise and may be more prevalent than you think. AAA reports that one hit-and-run crash occurs in the United States every 43 seconds. When a person leaves the scene of an accident, the remaining victims are left with physical injuries, property damage and frustration. These types of collisions also place additional burdens on law enforcement and the victims seeking compensation for injuries and vehicle damage. If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Virginia, learn more about your options for recovery and tips for what to do after a Virginia hit-and-run accident.
Virginia Hit-and-Run Accident Laws
A hit-and-run crash is a collision where one of the people involved flees the scene before offering any assistance or information. Virginia uses the term “leaving the scene of an accident” to describe what is commonly referred to as a hit-and-run accident. As set forth in Virginia Code § 46.2-894, the driver of a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in injury to a person or damage to another vehicle or property is required to do four main things.
- Stop immediately as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic.
- Report your name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number to State police or law enforcement.
- Report your name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number to the driver of the other vehicle or an occupant if they are capable of understanding the information.
- Render reasonable assistance to any injured person which generally means notifying emergency services (e.g., calling 9-1-1), or taking the injured person to a healthcare provider like a hospital or doctor.
If a driver sustains injuries that prevent them from complying with the above, they are required to make a report to law enforcement and the other person involved in the crash as soon as “reasonably possible” reporting their name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number.
The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident in Virginia will depend on whether there was a person in the vehicle and the amount of damage; a person may be charged with a Class 5 felony or a Class 1 misdemeanor. A driver may face felony charges if another person or attended vehicle was involved in the accident and the other person was injured or died, or there was more than $1000 in property damage. A driver can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if there was less than $1000 in damage to an attended vehicle. Passengers may also face felony or misdemeanor charges.
A few other key points to remember:
- These requirements apply to any driver or passenger over the age of 16.
- It does not matter what party is responsible for an accident—both drivers must stop and provide the requisite information and render assistance.
- If a person hits an unattended (parked) vehicle or property, they are still required to make a reasonable effort to locate the owner. At a minimum, sufficient notice should be left at the scene which would permit the property owner to locate the driver—name, address, circumstances of the accident. Law enforcement must also be notified in writing within 24 hours.
- Always provide honest, complete information to law enforcement and the other parties.
What Should I Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
- Call law enforcement. Contact law enforcement immediately. Not only can you report the accident as required by law, but the quicker you notify law enforcement the faster they can begin their investigation and work to locate the other driver.
- Seek medical attention. Your health and safety, as well as the health of your passengers, should be your primary concern. Seek medical attention immediately and always follow through on all treatment recommendations from healthcare providers. Not only do you need to obtain treatment for any injuries, but you will also need medical record documentation of your injuries should you choose to seek compensation for your injuries.
- Document the details. The shock and adrenaline of being in an accident may serve to cloud your memory so it is best to write down any information you can recall about the driver and vehicle that hit you. Color of the vehicle, make and model, any distinguishing features like bumper stickers or dents and scratches, license plate number and any information you can provide about the driver if you saw them. You should also note the time of the accident, location, and weather or road conditions. No detail is too small, so when in doubt document it.
- Take photographs. Photograph the scene, your injuries, and any damage to your vehicle, property and passengers.
- Identify witnesses. Witnesses may be able to provide information so, if possible, obtain their contact information and ask them to remain at the scene to share their information with law enforcement.
- Speak with an attorney. Accidents are stressful enough, but being the victim of a hit-and-run collision brings a separate set of challenges. Attorneys can be particularly useful in these situations. For instance, an experienced Virginia hit-and-run attorney will investigate the hit-and-run accident and has access to professionals who are able to reconstruct the crash scene. An attorney can also guide you through the process of receiving compensation for your injuries, which may be more complicated if the driver of the other vehicle cannot be found.
Can I Recover Damages After a Hit-and-Run?
If the at-fault driver can be identified, there are two main types of damages available: compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Property damage
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate a victim. Rather, these types of damages are imposed purely to punish a wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent against future wrongful conduct. They are reserved for particularly egregious situations.
What Happens if the Driver Cannot Be Found?
If law enforcement is unable to locate the at-fault driver, the victim of a hit-and-run accident may be limited in terms of their ability to obtain compensation for injuries and vehicle damage. In some instances, a victim may be limited to filing a claim with their own insurance company and their ability to recover may be dependent on whether they carry uninsured motorist coverage. The options for recovering compensation are heavily depending on the facts of your case.
Do not be discouraged. The personal injury attorneys at Renfro & Renfro have significant experience handling motor vehicle accident and hit-and-run accident injury cases. They will review your case and advise you on your options, which includes identifying all avenues for recovery. If you have been the victim of a Virginia hit-and-run accident, cooperate with law enforcement and take great care to ensure you fulfill your reporting obligations under the law. Most importantly, do not lose hope in recovering the compensation you deserve. Contact the skilled hit-and-run attorneys at Renfro & Renfro for a free consultation today.