While any car accident can be serious, hit and runs are looked on as particularly bad. A hit and run means that one of the drivers involved flees the scene before police arrive and make an incident report. The courts see this as an act of shirking responsibility, and it is illegal in Georgia.
We often speak to hit and run victims in connection with:
You still have a right to recover money for your injuries and damages, even if the other driver fled the scene. You may also be awarded extra money known as punitive damages.
Why does Georgia treat hit and runs differently from other accidents?
Hit and run is considered to put lives at risk. Anytime there is an auto accident, everyone involved is supposed to pull over. Then you can check to see if anyone was hurt, and call 911 if needed. You can also call the police to make a formal report, which is an essential first step if you will need to make an insurance claim.
Hit and run derails this process. Imagine if you were involved in an accident and knocked unconscious by your injuries. If the other driver flees, it’s possible that no one knows you are hurt and no one calls an ambulance. In some cases, accident victims die because no one stopped to call 911. Hit and runs cost lives.
It’s also seen as attempting to dodge responsibility. Georgia is a fault state, meaning that the driver who caused an accident (or their insurance company) pays for all costs. The law views hit and run as an attempt to get out of paying.
Be aware that law abiding citizens can sometimes be accused of hit and run if they try to move their car after an accident. Always pull over as close to the accident scene as possible (it is acceptable to move a short distance if stopping in the accident scene would put you in the way of traffic). If you have to move your car, tell the police and the other driver first, and make sure you stay within sight of the accident scene.
How can I recover money if the other driver ran away?
You have the same rights under the law whether the driver fled or not. The best thing to do is to stay at the accident scene and wait for police. If possible, get the license plate of the car that hit you.
Once the hit and run is reported, police will try to locate the vehicle that hit you. In many cases they will find it within hours or even minutes—damages cars often don’t get far, and may be very easy to recognize.
In other cases police will have to do a longer search. These searches have a very high rate of success. They may be able to find the offending vehicle by:
- Speaking to witnesses who got the license plate or the color, make and model
- Tracking the license plate to its registered owner
- Searching neighborhoods for parked cars that meet the description
- Publicizing the make and model so neighbors will turn in the offender
In some cases the hit and run driver will even turn themselves in later when they’ve calmed down.
If police cannot find the car that hit you, our accident investigators may be able to help.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are extra money the court awards you if you were the victim of a crime. In most car accidents, you are only given enough money to make up for your medical bills, car repairs, lost wages and other losses. But punitive damages go above and beyond this, forcing the guilty driver to pay you money as a form of punishment.
Punitive damages are designed to do two things:
- Help offset the injury and pain a crime victim has suffered
- Penalize the hit and run driver and send a strong message that hit and run will not be tolerated
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.