The recovery process following a car accident can be difficult. But when the at-fault party leaves the scene before you’re able to understand the situation, it can make things that much more of a challenge.
Perpetrators of hit-and-run accidents are breaking the law and deserve to face the consequences of their actions – especially when those they hurt face a lifetime of pain.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, know that you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. While it can be difficult to secure compensation on your own, a skilled attorney can help you obtain the financial recovery you need to help you during the healing process.
The determined Houston hit-and-run accident attorneys of Lapeze & Johns are ready to fight for you. Give us a call at (713) 766-0075 today for a FREE initial case review.
Types of Hit-and-Run Accidents
In the state of Texas, a hit-and-run is defined as an accident in which – typically – the at-fault party flees the scene of the accident that they caused.
If an individual is involved in an accident and intentionally leaves, fails to render aid to any injured parties, fails to call for help, or fails to provide their insurance and contact information before leaving, then it is generally considered a hit-and-run accident.
Examples of hit-and-run accidents can include:
- A driver collides into your parked car and does not leave a note with their contact information.
- A driver crashes into you on the road and speeds off before sharing their information.
- A drunk driver hits you and flees the scene to avoid the consequences of intoxicated driving.
From finding the perpetrator to proving the accident occurred to your insurance company, the investigation process of a hit-and-run accident can require much work and diligence. That is why it is so important to seek the help of a seasoned car accident attorney who can help you with your hit-and-run situation.
Hit-and-Run Laws in Texas
As per the Texas Transportation Code, a driver is legally required to take reasonable steps to address a car accident involving other parties. Actions that must be taken include rendering aid, exchanging contact info and, if necessary, contacting the proper authorities.
Below are the required actions a driver must take in the different types of scenarios:
- Accident involving injury or death. The driver must return to the scene and render aid, provide their personal information, and show their driver’s license if requested. Failure to do so can result in a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison. If the victim’s injuries were not serious, then it could result in a felony conviction up to a year in county jail to 5 years in state prison, along with the potential of up to a $5,000 fine.
- Accident causing damage to an occupied moving vehicle. The driver must stop as close to the car as close as possible, render aid, relay contact and insurance information, and call for help. Fleeing without rendering aid can result in a Class C misdemeanor with a potential fine of up to $500. If the total damages to the vehicle is less than $200, then the at-fault party may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and up to 6 months in county jail.
- Accident causing damage to an unoccupied, or parked vehicle. The driver must pull over and try to locate the owner of the unoccupied vehicle so that they can address the accident and offer their contact information. If the owner cannot be found, the driver must leave a visible note on the car, detailing the events of the accident and providing their contact information.
- Accident causing damage to fixtures or landscapes. The driver must take “reasonable steps” to contact the pertaining authority personnel and report the property damages, as well as their contact information. If damages look to exceed $1,000, the driver is responsible for addressing the incident with the police.
Failure to follow the procedures as listed, according to what type of accident has taken place, can result in jail time and fees. Fleeing the scene of an accident can have legal repercussions that depend on the severity of damages, physical injuries, and if there is a death.
Repercussions can be more severe if the hit-and-run perpetrator was under the influence or had warrants out for their arrest at the time that they committed the crime.
How a Hit-and-Run Accident Can Be Investigated
Aside from the physical injuries and mental anguish one may suffer from a car accident, there is also the emotional stress of seeking compensation to aid in your recovery.
If you are involved in an accident, please consider following these steps:
1. Collect All Possible Evidence
Car accidents can be sudden and unexpected. However, in the case that you are able to see the perpetrator’s car, try and gather as much information as possible.
That includes the following information:
- Color of the car
- Make and model of the car
- License plate number
- Number of doors the car has
- Physical description of the driver
- Passenger descriptions, if any
2. Gather Eyewitness Testimonies
Various emotions can arise in the event of an unexpected accident, making it difficult to process the details of an event. However, if there were people around the area where you crashed, some may be able to provide details about the incident, the at-fault party, and their vehicle.
If possible, move your car out of traffic’s way and to a safer location. Usually, accidents that occur in busy areas will be witnessed by others. Ask witnesses for their contact information. Their testimonies can be used to identify the perpetrator of the accident and help to build a strong claim.
3. Surrounding Surveillance Footage
If the crash occurred near a business, school, or government establishment, then there is a great chance that there are surveillance cameras that captured the event.
Surveillance cameras can be the ultimate tool in the event of a hit-and-run accident. Locating nearby surveillance cameras after the accident can be tedious work, but it is worthwhile if it helps to capture the perpetrator.
4. File a Police Report Right Away
If you have been hit by an individual that proceeds to evade the scene, contact the authorities immediately. Seeking help from the authorities at the scene is a useful way to speed up the investigative process.
The police will file an accident report, documenting the information you can provide about the guilty party. They will help inspect the site of the crash to find evidence that can be used to locate the individual who fled the scene.
In the case of hit-and-run accidents, sometimes the insurance company will seek proof of the incident, such medical records of the injuries you suffered. The accident report filed by the authorities is one official way to relay information back to the insurance company to hold your claim valid.
File Your Hit-And-Run Claim
An integral part of a hit-and-run claim is the investigative process. You will need to prove that damage to your vehicle or injuries suffered in a crash are the direct result of a driver’s negligence and that the at-fault driver fled the scene.
Seeking professional legal assistance can relieve some stress associated with the hit-and-run process. The length of time it takes to finalize a hit-and-run claim depends on how long it takes to investigate and find the perpetrator.
First, seek medical care and the help of the authorities. Then, when you are ready to do so, reach out to an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney who will act fast and with the intention to investigate and build a strong case for you.