Car accidents happen with alarming regularity, and even the most capable drivers can find themselves involved in an accident resulting in property damage and personal injuries. Whether you are involved in a minor fender bender or a more serious accident with another vehicle, it is important to be prepared in the event that an accident does occur by knowing your legal rights, as well as your responsibilities as a driver.
At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, our experienced Long Island car accident lawyers understand how easily accidents can happen and the serious damages that can result. Unfortunately, failing to follow state-mandated procedures when involved in a crash or leaving the scene of an accident could lead to criminal charges and financial liability for any damages that occur.
Hit-and-run accidents are a serious matter. As a driver, you need to be aware of your responsibilities if you are involved in a crash or collision, as well as what you can do if you are the victim of a hit and run.
Your Duty as a Driver When Involved in an Accident
According to the latest car accident statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 6 million car crashes reported in the United States during a single recent year, averaging an alarming 16,000 accidents per day. While roughly three quarters of these accidents resulted in only property damage, there were still over 2 million injuries caused by accidents, and over 32,000 people died as a result of their injuries.
Car accidents are serious matters, and every driver has certain legal obligations when involved in an accident. In the State of New York, those obligations are listed under Section 600 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Code. If you have been in a car accident that caused damages to another person’s property or resulted in injuries, state law requires that you do the following:
- Stop immediately at the accident scene, while ensuring your vehicle is not blocking traffic.
- Exchange information with other drivers at the scene, such as your driver’s license number, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
- Provide personal information, such as your name and address.
- Report the accident to the local police or authorities.
Leaving the scene of an accident or failing to do any of the above could result in hit-and-run charges. Penalties for hit and run vary according to the amount of damages involved as well as any injuries suffered by other drivers.
Under the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Code, simply failing to provide information such as your driver’s license or insurance information could end up resulting in misdemeanor charges and fines of up to $1,000. Actually leaving the scene of an accident is considered hit and run, for which you could face felony charges, fines up to $5,000, and even potential jail time, depending on the seriousness of the accident.
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Compensation for Victims of Hit-and-Run Drivers
If you have been a victim of a hit and run driver, our experienced Long Island car accident lawyers and personal injury lawyers may be able to help you get compensation for your injuries. Our team of investigators has a number of resources to draw on that can help hit-and-run victims locate the at-fault driver.
If the driver is found, a claim can be filed against their insurance company and a settlement may be negotiated. In some cases, you may be better served by pursuing compensation for your injuries against the at-fault driver through a personal injury lawsuit. By filing a car accident lawsuit against a hit-and-run driver, you may be entitled to receive the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Costs to repair or replace damaged property
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages, meant to punish the at fault driver for leaving the scene and for any reckless or negligent behavior which caused the accident
In cases involving a hit-and-run driver who is never identified, you may also be able to get compensation for your injuries through your insurance company. You may be able to file a claim for damages stemming from a hit-and-run accident through your own uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) insurance coverage.
The New York Department of Financial Services reports that state law requires all insurance companies to offer supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage to policyholders. Your UM/UIM insurance coverage may help cover costs associated with your accident, in amounts up to $250,000 per person and up to $500,000 per accident.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident
Hit-and-run accidents happen suddenly and with no warning, and drivers are often left stunned and unsure of what to do in the aftermath. If you or a loved one is struck by a hit-and-run driver, take the following steps:
- Pull your car over immediately. Resist the urge to pursue the hit-and-run driver, which could prove to be dangerous for yourself as well as your passengers.
- Make note of important details. Try to get a description of the car, make a mental note of the time and location of the accident, and look around for any witnesses that may be present.
- Call the local police or highway patrol. File a hit and run accident report right away, while the details of the accident are still fresh in your mind.
- Get medical attention for your injuries. Even if you feel your injuries are minor, it always a good idea to seek medical care, as many potentially dangerous conditions can have symptoms that do not always appear immediately.
- Notify your insurer. Let your insurance company know you were a victim of a hit-and-run accident, and provide copies of any police or accident reports that were filed.
- Get help from a lawyer. Remember that even when you are dealing with “your” insurance company regarding a UM/UIM claim, they do not have your best interests at heart. You need someone to stand up for your rights.
Let Our Long Island Car Accident Attorney Assist You Today
If you or someone you care about has been involved in a hit-and-run accident, contact our experienced Long Island car accident attorney today. At the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, we can advise you on the best course of action in your particular case, while ensuring your legal rights are protected.
We have experience in dealing with insurance companies, and understand the tactics they frequently use to deny or undervalue claims. Our legal team thoroughly investigates each of our cases, and can assist you in holding responsible parties accountable for your injuries. Do not let a hit-and-run driver leave you holding the bill. Let us help you today.