A hit-and-run is the act of causing a traffic accident and not stopping afterwards. The real danger is that by not stopping, the culprit may not be providing aid to victims of an accident in the critical moments immediately after the crash. Imagine how much pain and suffering can be avoided by pulling a victim out from wreckage before it catches fire.
The last decade has seen a drastic increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents across the nation. This trend is alarming for both motorists and pedestrians, who could sustain serious injuries if involved in this type of accident.
In Nevada and most other places it is illegal to not stop after an accident, even a minor fender-bender.
Although it is possible to collect compensation from at-fault drivers in hit-and-run accidents, it can be difficult to identify the vehicle and the driver involved. It can be more difficult to establish negligence after the driver is discovered because of the potential for the loss or destruction of evidence.
If you sustained an injury or property damage in a hit-and-run collision, it is critical to speak with a skilled and committed Las Vegas car accident attorney who can explain your legal options.
Types of hit-and-run accidents
There are a few different types of hit-and-run accidents. The most common involve situations where:
- A motorist strikes a parked car and leaves without notifying the owner of the collision;
- A driver collides with another vehicle, but does not stop and exchange contact information with the other party; and
- A motorist strikes a pedestrian or cyclist and fails to stop and notify emergency responders of the accident.
Almost all hit-and-run accidents are fueled by the at-fault driver’s desire to avoid detection and criminal penalties for:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Vehicle theft; or
- Driving without insurance.
Drivers who choose to leave the scene of an accident face severe penalties if apprehended.
Nevada State Law
In Nevada, drivers who are involved in an accident are required to take certain steps, including:
- Stopping their vehicle at the scene of the crash;
- Moving the vehicle if it is obstructing traffic;
- Providing specific information, including their name and address, as well as their vehicle’s registration number;
- Rendering reasonable assistance to any injured parties, which could include carrying the individual to a hospital; and
- Reporting the crash to the Nevada Highway Patrol.
In the event that the other vehicle was unoccupied at the time of the accident, the at-fault driver must take different steps, including:
- Stopping at the scene of the accident;
- Locating the operator or owner of the vehicle, and providing specific information, including their name and address, as well as their vehicle’s registration number;
- Leaving a note providing this specific information if they are unable to locate the owner; and
- Notifying law enforcement officials of the crash.
The penalties for failing to comply with these rules can be severe. For instance, failing to report a crash can result in a one year driver’s license suspension, felony criminal charges, a prison sentence of up to two years, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Civil penalties and collecting compensation
Aside from criminal penalties, hit-and-run drivers in Nevada can also be required to compensate injured parties for the following damages if they caused the crash:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Property damage;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Funeral costs.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to collect compensation from the at-fault party in hit-and-run cases, especially if law enforcement officials are unable to identify the hit-and-run driver.
Because these cases tend to be more difficult to resolve, it is especially critical for those who have been injured in hit-and-run accidents to retain an attorney who is well-versed in state law and has access to an experienced investigative team who can collect the evidence necessary to establishing fault.
What to do after a hit-and-run
First, you should contact emergency responders immediately if any victim of the accident requires medical attention.
Many drivers who are involved in hit-and-run accidents are tempted to follow and attempt to apprehend the at-fault party. This usually isn’t a good idea, especially for victims who have sustained injuries or serious property damage. Instead, hit-and-run victims should stay put, but attempt to write down details about the car and driver who struck them, including:
- The car’s make, model, and color;
- The vehicle’s license plate number;
- Any distinguishing marks;
- Whether the driver was male or female or other distinguishing characteristics; and
- The direction in which the driver may have traveled.
Obtaining the contact information of any eyewitnesses can also be crucial to establishing the identity of a hit-and-run driver.
If you were not present at the time of the accident and the at-fault party did not leave his or her information, it is important that you take photos of the damage to the vehicle, the scene of the accident, and any debris from the crash. You should also request a copy of the police report once it has been filed to make sure the information is complete.
Unfortunately, in some cases, it is just not possible to identify a hit-and-run driver. In these cases, if the injured party has supplemental uninsured motorist coverage, the injured party will need to attempt to collect compensation from his or her own insurer.
To ensure that you will be covered in the event of a hit-and-run accident, you should talk with your insurer about your policy’s coverage and the supplemental coverages that are available.