Every car accident comes as a shock. But when the other driver flees the scene, surprise can turn quickly to worry. What happens next? Who’s going to cover your crash-related expenses?
In Alabama, it’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident. No matter what a driver’s reason for leaving may be — general panic, a desire to avoid paying for their mistakes, being uninsured or underinsured, etc. — a hit-and-run accident can leave victims confused, frustrated, and in intense pain.
If you were hurt in a hit-and-run crash in Alabama, the car accident lawyers at Stokes Stemle, LLC can help you seek compensation for your medical treatment and other expenses. You’ve got an advantage from the moment you contact our law firm. Injury claims are all we do.
Our hit-and-run accident lawyers have the knowledge, resources, and experience you won’t find at firms with a broader focus. When you come to us, you get attorneys committed to holding hit-and-run drivers accountable for the damage they caused. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
What Are Hit-and-Run Accidents?
A hit-and-run accident occurs when a driver leaves the scene of the crash without stopping to exchange information or assist anyone who was hurt. An accident can be classified as a hit-and-run when a driver hits another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian and then flees without upholding their legal responsibilities.
Alabama drivers who leave the scene of a crash where someone is injured or killed can potentially be charged with a felony. No driver should leave the scene of an accident until they’ve given contact and insurance information to anyone else involved in the accident, the police have taken everyone’s statement about what happened, and injured parties receive medical treatment from emergency responders.
While there’s no single cause of hit-and-run accidents, some of the more common reasons someone might leave the scene include:
- The driver is uninsured. If someone is involved in an accident and doesn’t have auto insurance, they could be personally responsible for paying for any damages resulting from the crash. If the driver feels they can’t afford to pay for these injuries or worry about being caught without insurance, they may try to leave the scene to dodge their legal responsibilities.
- The driver is intoxicated. Most intoxicated drivers quickly realize the error of their ways if they’re involved in a crash. This may lead them to try to run away to avoid being found guilty of drunk or drugged driving.
- The driver’s license is revoked. Driving without a valid license can get someone in serious legal trouble, especially if they’ve just been involved in an accident. Drivers who lack a valid license may try to flee the scene of a crash to avoid being caught.
- The driver is driving a vehicle that isn’t theirs. Getting in an accident in a car you don’t own is embarrassing and can cause legal problems. If the car is stolen, that just means even worse trouble. This pressure may cause the driver to flee the scene of a crash.
- The driver is carrying stolen property or drugs. Being caught with illegal narcotics or stolen goods can land a driver in jail and facing severe penalties. The fear of possible repercussions may compel a driver to hit and run.
Hit-and-Run Laws in Alabama
Stopping to exchange information with the other driver after an accident isn’t just the right thing to do morally. It’s the law.
In Alabama, drivers must stop if an accident results in injury, death, or damage to another person’s vehicle. State law also requires drivers to stop and exchange their names, address, and other information after a crash.
Failing to stop after an accident that results only in property damage is a misdemeanor in Alabama. If there is an injury or death, the crime is a Class C felony. A driver who flees the scene of an accident could also face additional penalties if evidence shows that they were intoxicated, driving without insurance, or breaking the law in some other way.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
The aftermath of a hit-and-run accident can be chaotic, but staying claim is the best way to protect your rights and give yourself the best chance at recovering compensation for your injuries. Here are a few tips for what to do after a hit-and-run accident:
- Don’t leave the scene. It’s tempting to pursue the other driver if you see them fleeing, but you need to let them go. First, you may be more injured than you think. Second, if you try to go after the driver and fail to catch them, you now have no proof of the original accident. As frustrating as it may seem, you need to stay where you are after a hit-and-run crash.
- See your doctor for a complete exam. If you don’t go to the emergency room after the crash, see your doctor as soon as possible. You need to rule out any unseen injuries. You also want documentation that links your injuries to the collision on your medical record. Follow whatever course of treatment your doctor recommends. Even a brief gap in treatment could be enough for an insurance adjuster to claim that your ongoing injuries were not related to the accident.
- Write down everything you remember about the hit-and-run accident. The more information you can give to the police, the better chance they have of finding the person who hit you. If you can, try to note the vehicle’s make, model, color, license plate number, and any visible damage before it leaves the scene. If you noticed anything about the driver, share that as well.
- Keep a journal. Document how your injuries and the crash have affected your day-to-day life. A diary can help demonstrate the non-financial impact of the crash on your daily life, such as pain and suffering.
- Stay off social media. The insurance company or their lawyers may misconstrue even something as innocent as a post about going out with friends after the crash. They may look at your social media accounts and use your post to support the argument that you weren’t really injured or as hurt as claimed.
- Talk to a hit-and-run accident lawyer. Getting compensation for your injuries after a hit-and-run can be tricky, especially if the other driver is never found. However, you may still have options even if the other driver can’t be found, and a hit-and-run lawyer can help you find the best way forward after the crash.
Recovering Damages for a Hit-and-Run Accident
Your options for recovering compensation after a hit-and-run accident depend greatly on whether the driver who caused your injuries is found. If the driver is eventually located, you can file a claim against their insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit, just as you would in any other car accident case. Assuming the driver is insured, their bodily injury coverage will cover your losses up to the limits of their insurance policy. If you want to pursue any additional compensation, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
If the other driver is eventually caught but is either uninsured or underinsured, your options for recovering compensation are a bit different. You can file a claim against your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) if you have it as part of your auto insurance policy. You can also file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, but if they have few assets, you may not end up being able to recover very much.
You have the fewest options for recovering compensation if the driver who hit you is never found. You can file a UM/UIM claim if you have coverage. If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then you might be out of luck, though you should speak to an attorney to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. It’s possible that a third party contributed to the wreck, which could potentially be an additional source of compensation for you.
Hurt in a Hit-and-Run? Call Stokes Stemle, LLC Today
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident, the lawyers at Stokes Stemle, LLC will uphold your rights and fight for the compensation you need. Get a free case review by filling out our contact form or calling one of our three Alabama offices.