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Hit-and-Run Victim's Legal Rights Handbook

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The number of hit-and-run traffic collisions in the US is rising sharply. After years of decline, more drivers are fleeing the scenes of deadly crashes than ever before. Many hit-and-run drivers flee the scene of crashes because they've been drinking and driving.

In conjunction with WeTip, a leading anonymous crime reporting service and non-profit law enforcement advocacy organization, we are committed to wiping out hit-and-run offenses. That's why we've developed this handy guidebook to assist you in understanding your rights as a hit-and-run victim, not only to help you seek justice against hit-and-run off enders, but also to help you recover monetary damages for injuries to yourself or a loved one. What's more, we've launched the Hit-and-Run Reward Program which is a system for anonymously reporting hit-and-run offenders and paying cash rewards to witnesses who care enough to report these crimes.

You can help discourage hit-and-runs by reporting hit-and-runs.

By reporting hit-and-run offenders, the offenders can be brought to justice. Reporting hit-and-run offenders discourages other drivers from fleeing the scene of traffic collisions. The Hit-and-Run Reward Program provides a system for people to anonymously report information on hit-and-run offenses and provides them a cash reward for doing so. In conjunction with WeTip, we have established the Hit-and-Run Reward Program and will pay cash rewards up to $1,000 for information leading to the felony conviction of hit-and-run drivers by way of anonymous tips provided through the Hit-and-Run Reward website, www.HitandRunReward.com, or through the Hit-and-Run Reward hotline at (800) 6-Hit-N-Run (800-644-8678).

As a hit-and-run crash victim, you should know:

Convicted hit-and-run drivers face criminal and civil charges.

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The laws of almost every state in the Union require a person who has been involved in an injury- or death-causing traffic collision to stop at the scene to render aid to injured persons and to identify himself to the other driver(s) and to the local police. A driver must also stop to identify himself even if the traffic collision caused only property damage. A driver who does not stop at the scene of a traffic collision is often referred to as a "hit-and- run driver."

The failure to stop and report an accident is a separate serious violation of law in addition to any violation involved in causing the collision. Not only do convicted hit-and-run drivers face criminal charges punishable by enhanced fines and jail time when a traffic collision involves injuries or death, they can also be held liable for civil damages. Monetary compensation may be awarded for things such as medical bills, loss of income, property damage and pain and suffering.

Punitive damages, or compensation that exceeds a victim's actual monetary losses, may also be awarded, to punish hit-and-run offenders for their callous behavior especially in situations where a victim's injuries are worsened or lethal because of the responsible driver's failure to stop.

Your own auto insurance may be a source of compensation for your hit-and-run traffic collision damages.

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Uninsured motorist coverage is auto coverage that provides protection in the event of a traffic collision in which the at-fault party does not have insurance or in the event that the at-fault party is never identified. Many states require auto insurance companies to provide you with uninsured motorist coverage unless you decline it in writing when you purchase your auto insurance.

You and passengers in your vehicle who suffer bodily harm may be covered for damages under this coverage of your policy. You may also be covered if you are injured while a pedestrian, cyclist or a passenger in another person's vehicle, if the at fault motorist is uninsured or is never identified.

Many states have adopted a form of no-fault insurance, often called Personal Injury Protection (PIP), for things like medical expenses, loss of income, and accidental death and funeral expenses, which will pay you compensation even if the other driver is not identified.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the devastation a hit-and-run offender or uninsured motorist can cause you and your family is through "Uninsured Motorist" or "PIP" coverage on your auto insurance policy. You are best protected with a policy that provides you with all the coverage you may need to cover your medical expenses and keep your financial life in order while you are out of work should you be seriously injured in a traffic collision by an uninsured or never identified driver.

Keep in mind that in some areas of the country, as many as 25% of the drivers do not have insurance and the vast majority of drivers do not have enough insurance to cover you even if you are only moderately injured.

Employers could be liable for hit-and-run damages.

If a driver has been identified and charged with a hit-and-run offense while on the job, not only can the offender be held liable for damages, but also his employer. Generally speaking, an employer is liable for the damages caused by an employee's wrongful conduct if the employee was acting within the "scope and course" of his or her job when the incident occurred.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that just because a hit-and-run driver was on the job at the time of a crash doesn't always mean his employer is on the hook for damages. The applicability of this doctrine of liability ultimately depends on the specific facts of each case and the state law that applies.

A vehicle's registered owner could be liable for hit-and-run damages.

In most states, the registered owner of a car is liable for some or all of the damages resulting from a hit-and-run crash if he or she gave the offender permission to use the car, or if, after the sale of a car, the registered owner fails to transfer the car's title out of his or her name to the new owner or to notify his state's motor vehicle agency that he had sold the car. You need to determine under the laws of your state how to terminate your liability for damages caused by the current user of your old car.

And even when a car has been stolen, the registered owner might still be on the hook for damages if his or her negligence, such as leaving the keys in the ignition, led to the theft of the car and the subsequent hit-and-run incident. The limit of the owner's liability for these damages is established by the law of each state.

Victim Compensation Programs Can Help.

You may be entitled to obtain compensation for some of your damages through state victim assistance and compensation programs as a victim of a criminal offense.

One such program is Crime Victim Compensation, which can help victims of hit-and-run accidents pay for some of the costs of their recovery, including medical care, lost wages, funeral bills and other expenses. Visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (NACVCB) website at http://www.NACVCB.org or call (703) 780-3200 to learn how to contact your state program directly, to seek financial assistance.

Keep in mind that if a state program does pay money, it has the right to recover its payment, either by direct action against those legally responsible or as a lien against the recovery for the injured party.

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