Being involved in a Georgia car accident can result in devastating injuries and damages, no matter the circumstances. While this is true, cases of hit-and-run accidents can be especially bad.
If a hit-and-run accident occurs, it means a driver leaves (or flees) the scene before the police arrive on-site and create an accident report. Legally, this is viewed as someone “shirking” their responsibility and is considered illegal throughout the state of Georgia.
For the victims of a hit-and-run accident, recovering compensation may seem impossible if the other driver left the scene. However, not only is it possible to receive compensation for your losses but you can also receive punitive damages in some situations, which are meant to punish the at-fault driver.
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is recommended that you contact an Atlanta car accident lawyer from the Law Offices of Matthew C. Hines for assistance. We will investigate your case, gather evidence, and do everything possible to help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.
How Hit-and-Runs Are Unique from Other Georgia Accidents
When a motor vehicle accident occurs in the state of Georgia, everyone who is involved is required to stop and remain present. At this point, they should check to see if anyone was injured and contact 911 or the authorities.
When the police arrive at the scene, they will create a formal police report, which is essential to any personal injury or insurance claim you may make.
If someone leaves the scene (after a hit-and-run accident occurs), the entire process is derailed.
Consider the following situation:
- You are in an accident with another driver, and your head strikes the steering wheel, leaving you unconscious. Sometimes, the other driver will leave or flee, and if this happens, there may not be anyone else who knows what happened, nor will anyone contact the authorities or emergency services. There are situations where accident victims have died because no one contacted emergency services. A hit-and-run may cost you your life.
When this happens, the driver who flees is dodging their legal responsibility.
Georgia is a fault state. This means the driver who caused the accident (by way of their insurance company) is responsible for paying all accident-related costs. If someone leaves the location of the accident, they are thought to be attempting to get out of paying these costs.
Sometimes, law-abiding citizens may be accused of a hit-and-run incident if they attempt to move their vehicle after the accident. Pulling over as close to the accident scene as possible is best. You are allowed to move a short distance if staying at the accident scene would put you in harm’s way or leave your vehicle in traffic. If you must move your vehicle, let the authorities and other drivers involved in the accident know what you are doing. Be sure to stay in sight of the accident scene when you move.
How Do You Recover Compensation if the Other Driver Left the Scene?
According to Georgia law, you have the same right to recover compensation in a hit-and-run accident as in other situations. If you find yourself in this situation, stay at the scene and wait for the police to arrive. If you can, get the license plate number and a basic description of the vehicle that struck you.
After reporting the hit-and-run accident, the police will work to locate the driver of the vehicle that struck you. In some situations, they can find the at-fault party within hours or even minutes of the report. Damaged cars can’t drive very far in many situations and are usually easier to recognize when going down the road.
In other situations, the authorities may have to conduct a longer search. These searches have a good success rate. Some of the ways that offending vehicles are found include the following:
- Talking to the witnesses who wrote down the full license plate number or a vehicle description (i.e., make, model, color, etc.).
- Tracking the license plate to the vehicle’s registered owner.
- Searching in local neighborhoods for any parked vehicles that match the description of the offending vehicle.
- Publicize the vehicle’s make and model so neighbors will turn the offender in.
In some situations, the hit-and-run driver will turn themselves in after calming down.
If authorities cannot find the at-fault party in the hit-and-run accident, you can turn to an Atlanta personal injury lawyer from the Law Offices of Matthew C. Hines, who can utilize our accident investigators to try and locate the individual.
Understanding the Use of Punitive Damages in Hit-and-Run Accidents
In most personal injury accident cases, punitive damages aren’t awarded. While they are always an option, it is not something commonly seen in Georgia.
Punitive damages will be additional money the court awards to accident victims if a crime impacts them. In most car accident cases, you only receive compensation to cover your accident-related medical costs, lost wages, and any other damages you sustained.
However, punitive damages go beyond this. They are designed to force the guilty driver to pay you additional money. Punitive damages are awarded to victims as a punishment against the at-fault party.
There are two reasons that punitive damages are given in Georgia. These include the following:
- To offset the pain, the accident victim experienced
- To penalize the driver who left the scene and send the message that this will not be tolerated
FAQs About Georgia Hit and Run Accidents and Your Rights as an Accident Victim
Being involved in an accident can be scary and overwhelming. While this is true, if the at-fault driver leaves the scene, it can worsen a bad situation.
If the at-fault driver leaves the scene, you have options. Our legal team can help answer your questions and help you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
You can also find answers to some of the most common questions we are asked here.
What if the driver who left the scene cannot be found?
The worst result of a hit-and-run accident is being unable to locate the at-fault driver. While this can seem like the end of the road, there is still hope.
In these situations, you can purchase a policy called MedPay. This is designed to cover the costs of your needed medical treatment after an accident. The policy will start paying sooner than your personal health insurance, which also helps to reduce your policy premiums and limits.
When you purchase auto insurance, it’s smart to add underinsured/uninsured driver coverage. This is a proactive way to protect yourself in these situations. With this coverage, if the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the damages and injuries you sustain in an accident, this coverage will kick in. It will also pay your costs if the other driver can’t be located.
It’s smart to purchase this policy before being involved in an accident. However, some insurers will let you file a claim after an accident occurs. In these situations, the coverage will only be available for property damage, not your medical costs.
What if your attorney and the other party’s insurance company can’t reach a settlement?
If the driver who fled the accident scene is found, you can move forward and file a claim or personal injury lawsuit against them. When you do this, your attorney will begin negotiating with their insurance company to secure a fair amount of compensation.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies may not be willing to provide a fair settlement amount for the injuries and damages you sustained. If this happens, your attorney may advise you to move forward with the legal process and exercise your legal rights by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
What happens if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance?
Sometimes, a hit-and-run driver won’t have insurance (which may be why they flee the scene) to cover the cost of the incident. If a driver doesn’t have insurance, you won’t be able to negotiate with their insurance company to recover a fair settlement offer. In this situation, you must go directly to the personal injury lawsuit to try and recover compensation.
How do you know when it is time to file a personal injury lawsuit?
You may wonder how to know when it is time to file a lawsuit against a hit-and-run driver. In most cases, your attorney will let you know when it is time to take this step.
In many cases, this legal action will be necessary to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
If the at-fault driver has assets, property, or income, the court may issue wage garnishments or put liens in place to ensure your full compensation. If the driver has nothing, the lawsuit may not do any good, and you still won’t receive any compensation. Our legal team can investigate the case and determine if it is worth pursuing.
Why should you hire an attorney for help after a hit-and-run accident?
If you are the victim of a accident, you have rights. Finding the at-fault driver and holding them responsible can be a difficult process. A reputable and experienced hit and run attorney can help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve and that your legal rights are protected.
Let the Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys at the Law Offices of Matthew C. Hines Help with Your Case
You have legal rights if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Georgia. While the first step is to find the at-fault driver, you will quickly discover that when you contact our legal team at the Law Offices of Matthew C. Hines, we will take over and handle all aspects of your case.
We are victim advocates and work aggressively to ensure that a fair settlement offer is achieved. The first step is to contact our office and schedule a free initial consultation. We can discuss your situation and create a plan to move forward.