It’s a bad day when you get into a car accident. You can be considered lucky if you get out of it without being injured. In those cases where both you and your car are damaged in the crash, you can at least hope for monetary compensation through filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance, right?
Unfortunately, in many car accidents, the person who caused the accident drives off, leaving the victim to somehow get help for themselves (unless a kind Samaritan stops to help), but also leaving the victim in the lurch for when it comes time to pay for the hospital bills and repairs to their car. This is a major reason why motorists should make sure to have uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist insurance coverage. Hopefully, the liable driver is caught – but in the instances where they are not, your UM insurance is meant to pay for such a situation.
What is a hit-and run?
A hit-and-run accident is when someone’s involved in a traffic crash, but instead of sticking around to sort things out, they make a quick getaway without sharing any info or offering help if someone’s hurt. It’s basically when a driver smacks into something or someone, and then they hit the road, leaving the mess behind.
These hit-and-run situations can happen in different ways. There are the ones where one car bumps into another, and the guilty driver speeds off without saying a word. Then there are cases where a car hits a person walking, and the driver bolts without lending a hand or revealing who they are. And, of course, there’s the classic scenario where a driver wrecks something like a parked car or a fence, and then they vanish into thin air without telling the owner or the cops.
Hit-and-run accidents are illegal because they involve dodging your legal responsibilities after a crash. The consequences for these drivers can range from getting jail and prison time, paying fines, losing their license, and having to cover the damages they caused.
What are penalties for leaving the scene of the accident?
In Arizona, there are a few laws that cover what happens when someone leaves the scene of an accident they were involved in. The penalties for leaving when someone is injured are severe:
- Non-serious injury: If the hit and run leads to non-serious injuries, the driver may face 2.5 years in prison (more if they have a prior felony conviction) and a 3-year loss of their driver’s license. (R.S. § 28-661)
- Serious injury or death (where the driver was not responsible for the accident): In cases where the hit and run results in serious injuries or death, but the driver did not cause the accident, the penalty may include 8.75 years in prison (or more with a prior felony conviction) and a 5-year loss of their driver’s license. (A.R.S. § 28-661)
- Serious injury or death (where the driver caused the accident): When the hit and run causes serious injuries or death, and that driver was at fault, the penalty could be 12.5 years in prison (or more with a prior felony conviction) and a 10-year loss of their driver’s license. (A.R.S. § 28-661)
These penalties vary depending on the severity of the hit and run and whether you were responsible for the accident. It’s important to understand the consequences of leaving the scene of an accident, considering the penalties you are likely to face.
What is UM/UIM insurance?
There are no ways to predict when a hit-and-run will occur, and if it happens to you, and you do not have UM/UIM insurance, then you may be stuck footing the bill for your medical treatments and property repairs. As per the Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions:
Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage protects you or passengers in your vehicle for bodily injury you or your passengers sustain in an accident involving a driver who has no liability coverage. Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage protects you or passengers in your vehicle for bodily injury you or your passengers sustain in an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the injuries of you or your passengers.
While it doesn’t outright say it, “a driver who has no liability coverage” includes hit-and-run drivers; after all, you have no idea whether or not they have insurance. The fact of the matter is that there is no party for you to file a claim against, and therefore no insurance. If you have UM/UIM coverage, then when you are in a hit-and-run accident, you should not be left having to pay out of pocket for your injuries and damages.
Having to not only deal with being injured, being the victim of a hit-and-run accident means you have the added stress of figuring out how to pay for the consequences of the accident. However, with UM/UIM coverage, and the help of a good car accident attorney, you will have a far better chance of walking away from all of this with a tidy award. At Plattner Verderame P.C., we have long represented clients who were the victims of a hit-and-run. We will handle your case with care and dedication. While the driver may have gotten away with a horrible crime, we’re here to make sure that you don’t pay for it. To schedule a free consultation today, call us or contact us. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning our fees are contingent upon your successful outcome. When you win, we win. We have offices in Phoenix and Tempe.
Partner Frank Verderame is a seasoned trial attorney, who has dedicated his life to helping victims of serious injuries. He is a Board Certified Specialist in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation, and has been an active part of legal communities and organizations since he started his practice, back in 1983.
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