Hit-and-Run Accident Claims in Georgia
When most of us hear about hit-and-run accidents, we immediately think of the heinous criminal act of a driver striking a pedestrian and fleeing the scene. But the term "hit-and-run accident" has a much broader legal definition than these fatal tragedies that all-too-frequently make the news. In fact, at some point in every motorist's driving career, he or she will likely be a victim of a hit-and-run accident, typically one where a careless driver strikes and damages your car in a parking lot and leaves without providing any identifying information. While many hit-and-run accidents involve only property damage, there is a troubling increase in the number of serious, even fatal, hit and run incidents. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that nearly 1,500 people die annually in hit and run crashes. Between 1994 and 2003, 14,914 died.
How Does Georgia Define A Hit-and-Run?
In Georgia, leaving the scene of any accident altogether or just failing to stop or to return constitutes a hit-and-run and is against the law. Every motorist has an obligation to stop or return to the scene of a collision, regardless of whether it involves only property damage or some type of personal injury. Georgia's traffic laws define the duties of a driver and the possible penalties he faces for violating the law that, in some cases, depend on the type and circumstances of the incident.
Types of Hit-And-Run Incidents
An accident is defined as a hit-and-run whenever a driver leaves the scene without stopping to identify himself/herself after the accident. There are three types of hit-and-run accidents. First, there are those collisions that result in damage to property only. These usually occur when a careless driver hits someone else's car in a parking lot and leaves without notifying the owner of the vehicle. The second type of hit-and-run accident is a collision where someone is injured, typically the driver, a passenger in another car or a pedestrian. The third and most serious type is a collision where someone is tragically killed, either another driver, passenger or a pedestrian.
Driver Responsibilities After A Collision
Whenever a motor vehicle accident happens, most states, including Georgia, require that all drivers of the involved vehicles to take certain steps immediately after the incident. These procedures usually depend on:
- whether the only consequence was damage to a parked car or other property
- whether someone was personally injured in the accident;
- whether someone died in the accident
If the driver or another occupant of the other vehicle asks, a driver must also provide his/her driver's license number. At a minimum, take the following steps:
- Check the physical condition of all drivers and passengers; if someone is injured, provide basic first aid or call 9-1-1 for help
- Call the police; get an official police record
- Exchange personal information, including driver's licenses, automobile registration numbers, proof of insurance, and contact information
- Get the names and addresses of witnesses
- Report the incident to your insurance company
Criminal Penalties in a Georgia Hit and Run Incident
Depending on who or what is injured, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident in Georgia can be ticketed or charged with a crime and, in some cases, a felony.
Even if no one suffers serious or fatal injuries in an accident, a driver who decides not to stop at or return to the scene of a collision faces a misdemeanor charge for hit-and-run, for which the penalties can include a fine ranging between $300 and $1,000 and a possible imprisonment for up to 12 months. The driver also faces suspension or loss of his/her driving privileges.
If the incident results in serious or fatal injuries, the hit-and-run driver faces felony charges that include imprisonment from one to five years.
Civil Liability And Other Consequences
Of course, when the driver is ultimately caught, the injured victim or his/her family could also sue the hit-and-run driver in a civil lawsuit. In addition to criminal and civil penalties, if a driver is found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, many insurance companies will cancel tat driver's automobile insurance policy. In both personal injury and property damage claims, the victim may be entitled to punitive damages due to the defendant's reckless conduct.
Protecting Yourself Against A Hit-And-Run Driver
Just buying a minimal insurance policy is not enough to protect a victim of a hit-and-run driver. All drivers should make sure their policy has uninsured motorist coverage and collision coverage These clauses not only protect a driver in the event of a hit-and-run accident, they also provide financial protection to the victim or his family.
Recommended Action If You Are A Victim of A Hit-and-Run
If at all possible, try to get a description of the fleeing car, make, model color and take down the license plate. Call the police and get a report that has the details of the incident, location, time, and witnesses.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 33 Years of Legal Experience to Work For You
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, you should contact a lawyer at Montlick & Associates as soon as possible to learn about your legal rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights. Hiring a competent car accident attorney can be a critical step to protecting yourself and possibly recovering compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, Pain and Suffering, and more. The Accident and Injury Lawyers at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law can help. Our law firm has over 33 years of experience representing care accident victims across Georgia and the Southeast. Contact us to schedule your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour-Live Online Chat.
Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law
17 Executive Park Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Telephone: 1 (404) 529-6333
Toll Free: 1 (800) LAW-NEED
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