Around the country, hit and run accidents are on the rise, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Unfortunately, Texas has the eighth highest rate of hit and run accidents of all the states. In 2016, our state had 233 hit and run crashes involving at least one fatality. There are likely hundreds more hit and run accidents that led to injuries and only property damage every year. If you were recently involved in a hit and run accident, then you need to figure out how you will have your vehicle repaired or replaced, and how to cover the costs associated with your injuries. You’re undoubtedly facing a complicated and frustrating situation, which is why you should speak with our hit and run accident lawyers as soon as possible.
At Anderson Injury Lawyers, our skilled car accident attorneys have experience handling hit and run accident cases. When you hire our firm, we will thoroughly investigate the accident, review the possible relevant insurance claims, and help you pursue compensation for the crash. To schedule a free, initial case consultation, call us today at 817-294-1900, or reach out online.
What is a Hit and Run Accident?
Hit and run crashes do not all look the same, but they have the same underlying issue: a driver involved in the accident did not adhere to Texas’ legal requirements for those involved in accidents, as detailed in Texas Transportation Code § 550.021-024.
In some hit and run accidents, the other driver takes off immediately. You may have very little time to think about it. Suddenly, you are involved in a crash. The next second, you are watching the other vehicle drive away.
Another scenario is that a driver initially stops. They may be equally startled and initially remain at the scene. However, based on the amount of damage, your injuries, or their current circumstances, they may decide to not wait for the police. If the other driver did not assist, exchange information, and wait to speak with the police, this is still considered a hit and run.
If you are ever in a crash in which the at-fault driver failed to provide their information or remain at the scene as long as necessary, do not hesitate to call our Fort Worth hit and run accident attorneys to discuss your options.
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Why Drivers Flee the Scene of an Accident
Texas Law Once Encouraged Hit and Runs
There was once a loophole with the law in Texas that actually encouraged hit and run driver to flee the scene of a crash, since DWI drivers faced far greater penalties than those who fled the scene of a wreck.
The problem with this was that a lot of car wrecks occur late at night, often as a result of driver intoxication. As far as drunk drivers were concerned, it was better to flee the scene. That way, even if they were caught the next day, they'd be able to hide the fact that they were drunk when they hit their victim.
Other Reasons Drivers Might Flee the Scene
If they were the negligent driver responsible for causing the crash, they may flee the scene because they don't want to pay for the damage. Sometimes, however, drivers will flee the scene even if they aren't at fault. In these cases, it is usually the case that the driver had something to hide. Perhaps they didn’t have a valid driver’s license, perhaps they were not insured, or maybe they were intoxicated, as mentioned above.
Texas Hit and Run Laws Have Changed
Thankfully, our lawmakers in Austin saw sense and introduced two bills to close these loopholes.
The First Bill: H.B. 3668
H.B. 3668 relates to a driver’s responsibility following an accident. It modifies Section 550.021(a) of the Texas Transportation Code as follows:
(a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in injury or death of a person shall:
- immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
- immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
- immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if a person is involved in the accident, whether that person requires aid; and
- remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023.
The Second Bill: SB 275
SB 275 relates to the penalty for committing the criminal offense of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a personal injury or fatality. It amends Section 550.021(c) of the Texas Transportation Code, so that it is becomes a felony of the second degree to flee a wreck that resulted in a fatality, and a felony of the third degree if it resulted in a serious bodily injury.
Consequences for Fleeing the Scene of an Accident
Under Texas law, if a person is involved in any kind of car, truck or motorcycle accident (regardless of whether or not they were at fault), they have an obligation to stop and make sure that all occupants of the other vehicle are unhurt. This is known as your "duty to render aid."
Fleeing the scene of an accident - or of any crime - is considered a third-degree felony in the State of Texas. This can be punishable from two to ten years, depending on the severity of the injuries that the person in the accident withstood.
What to do After a Hit and Run Accident
When you are involved in an accident, you are required by law to stop your vehicle, provide aid when necessary, and exchange information. This includes whether you believe the accident caused only property damage, injuries, or fatalities.
If the other driver failed to stick around, you cannot exchange information. However, you can take other steps to prepare for a hit and run accident claim. If you can, you should document the accident, including damage to your vehicle and surrounding property. If anyone saw what happened, ask for these witnesses’ names and contact information.
Do your best to remember the make and model of the other driver’s car or any other physical descriptions of the vehicle or driver. If you can, write down what you can remember right away. The further away you get from the accident, the harder it will be to remember potentially important details.
It is important to call the police in order for them to generate a Fort Worth hit and run accident report. Law enforcement will gather initial information and then open an investigation into the crash. The police also will ask witnesses for information, and if there are nearby businesses, they should inquire regarding surveillance footage. Because hit and run accidents are illegal, the police will search for the at-fault driver in order to charge them with a crime.
You may or may not find out who caused the crash that led to your property damage and injuries. However, you still have legal options, and you should contact our hit and run accident lawyers as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Liability in Hit and Runs
When a motorist drives away after a crash, it is easy to assume they are the at-fault party. The typical assumption is that the driver fled because they are uninsured and want to avoid personal liability. However, being guilty of fleeing the scene of an accident does not actually mean the driver is guilty of causing the accident.
Following a crash, you should still speak to a lawyer about what happened. Depending on the insurance policies available, you may still need evidence that the other driver was responsible for the crash and your property damage and injuries. If an insurer believes you are fully or partly at fault for the crash, you may have a difficult time pursuing the coverage you need.
That being said, some insurance policies that cover damages after a hit and run do not look at fault. Your uninsured motorist coverage may pay for vehicle damages and medical bills whether or not you contributed to the crash. It all depends on your specific policy.
Insurance Coverage for a Hit and Run Accident
As a hit and run accident victim, you likely cannot file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. The next best option is to look for options under your own insurance coverage. A hit and run victim attorney can help you utilize the benefits in:
If you carry collision insurance, this policy can help you get your vehicle repaired or replaced. You typically have to pay your deductible, then the policy will cover the vehicle repairs or a replacement up to the value of your vehicle. Collision coverage typically covers vehicle damage whether you or another driver caused the accident. In some cases, you may have a combination of collision and comprehensive insurance. You should always review your specific policy to determine what it covers, and to what amount.
Uninsured Motorist (UIM) Insurance
If a hit and run driver injured you, uninsured motorist coverage might be extremely helpful. While collision/comprehensive coverage helps you repair or replace your vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage helps cover your medical expenses.
How a Hit and Run Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Following a hit and run crash, it may seem like you do not have a lot of options. However, before giving up and bearing all of the costs of the crash, we recommend calling Anderson Injury Lawyers. We can help you by:
Investigating the accident
We will conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the crash. We may be able to gather evidence that points to who caused the crash and drove away. We may improve your chances of finding the other driver and being able to file an insurance claim against their auto insurance policy.
Identifying relevant insurance policies
When you cannot immediately file a claim against the at-fault driver or file a personal injury lawsuit, it becomes even more important that you look for all relevant insurance policies. You may have your own collision or uninsured motorist coverage. Or, if you are in a borrowed or rented vehicle, the vehicle owner or rental company may offer coverage.
Call Anderson Injury Lawyers for Help Today
After being hurt in a hit and run accident in Fort Worth, TX, we want to help you understand your options. Our goal at Anderson Injury Lawyers will always be to find you coverage for your injuries and property damage, and when possible, pursue compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial losses. If we or the police can identify the hit and run driver, then we will aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve through a third-party insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. With a history of success - our personal injury lawyers have decades of experience and recovered millions for our injured clients - we are ready to help you.