Atlanta Hit & Run Accident Lawyers
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver crashes into another car (or pedestrian, motorcyclist, bicyclist, etc.) and drives off instead of staying at the scene to exchange insurance information and make sure the other person is okay. Accident victims are often seriously injured in car crashes and need immediate medical attention, but they might not be in a condition to care for themselves or call for help. Because of this fact, hit and run accidents demonstrate especially despicable behavior on the part of the negligent driver. Perhaps they fled because they were on drugs or had been drinking and driving, or they are uninsured and worried about having to pay the damages out of their own pocket. But none of these excuses justify putting another person’s life at risk just to avoid responsibility for one’s actions.
The Atlanta hit & run accident lawyers at Shiver Hamilton Campbell are dedicated to helping accident victims and their families recover significant compensation when they have been harmed by the negligence or wrongful conduct of another. If you or your loved one has been injured in a hit and run crash in metro Atlanta, we’ll put all our skills and resources behind holding the appropriate party accountable and seeing that you get the care and compensation you need and deserve. Call our office for a free consultation about your options after a hit and run car accident in Atlanta.
Georgia Law on Hit & Run Car Accidents
Section 40-6-270 of the Georgia Code requires every driver involved in an accident causing injury, death or property damage to immediately stop at the scene of the crash or to return to the scene as soon as possible. At the scene, drivers are required to share their name, address and vehicle registration number, and to show their driver’s license upon request. Drivers are also required to render aid to an injured party, including transporting the person to the hospital if needed or if they request it, or otherwise arranging for transportation or emergency medical help, such as by calling 911.
Drivers who knowingly fail to stop and comply with this law are guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to a year in jail. If the accident resulted in serious injury or death, the hit and run driver is guilty of a felony and can be sentenced to up to five years in prison for failing to stop, exchange information, and render aid.
Most people know that stopping at the scene of a crash is required by law and is the right thing to do regardless. Sadly, though, hit and run accidents are on the rise in Georgia and are becoming an increasingly greater proportion of auto accidents, injuries and deaths every year.
Common Fact Patterns
There are some common patterns hit and run accidents in Atlanta follow. Hit and run accidents can happen at any time, but they most often happen at night. Also, they are usually the result of someone who does not have insurance, has a suspended license, or is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
When a hit and run accident occurs, it is important to get an Atlanta hit and run accident lawyer involved immediately who can reach out and cooperate with law enforcement. An attorney can try to find surveillance camera footage if the accident happened in an area where there are businesses or houses nearby. An attorney can also locate witnesses who may be able to identify a license plate or have other information that can lead to the identification of the hit and run driver.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
When someone is in a hit and run case and is unable to locate the other driver, it becomes necessary to use uninsured motorist coverage. When someone cannot find the at-fault driver, there is no way to recover damages because no one was identified who can pay the demanded compensation.
When an individual sues the at-fault driver and has UM/UIM coverage and the UM/UIM carrier defends the case, the jury may return a verdict against the at-fault driver for the compensatory damages relating to the pain, suffering, injuries, and medical expenses. The jury may even return a verdict for punitive damages. In that scenario, the underinsured or uninsured motorist carrier is responsible for paying the verdict against the at-fault driver for the medical bills, injuries, and expenses; but is not responsible for paying the punitive damages.
Another interesting thing about a hit and run claim is that when an injured person seeks to collect from their uninsured motorist carrier there must be evidence of physical contact with the vehicle that hit them or a corroborating witness to validate the claimant’s version that the allegedly at-fault driver did, in fact, cause the wreck.
If there are no witnesses to corroborate their version of events and no evidence of physical contact with another vehicle, the person cannot collect from the uninsured motorist carrier. The rules are intended to prevent fraudulent claims against UM/UIM carriers when someone is inattentive and runs off the road and later tries to claim the accident was the fault of someone else. Unfortunately, the requirements can be distorted or perverted by the uninsured motorist carriers to make it more difficult for people to recover compensation a legitimate claim.
Steps to Take Following an Accident
There are three important steps anyone who suffers an injury in a hit and run accident should take. The first step is to get immediate medical treatment. People often have an adrenaline rush after a wreck, particularly when they were in a hit and run they become excited or agitated. The injured person usually does not focus on how they feel physically. Many times, people suffer significant injuries such as a disc herniation or a spinal injury and are unaware of that injury until later when the adrenaline subsides and they begin to notice their symptoms.
The second step is to contact their insurance carrier immediately. Although in Atlanta, an individual generally has two years after a wreck to make a claim against the responsible party, many insurance policies require the person bringing a claim to give notice about a potential claim to their insurance company as soon as practical. The third step a person needs to take is to contact an Atlanta hit and run accident lawyer who can preserve the required evidence. An attorney can also usually help identify any appropriate insurance policies.
How Our Attorneys Can Help After a Hit & Run Accident
Hit and run drivers don’t always get away clean with their crime. If you got a description of the vehicle or even a partial license plate number, we may be able to track them down. The driver might have hit other vehicles down the line and left a trail of evidence, including eyewitnesses and video footage from security or traffic cameras. We might also be able to locate the driver by canvassing garages and body shops where the driver might have taken their vehicle for repair or to hide the damage.
Our lawyers will work with law enforcement agencies and private investigators as necessary to locate the negligent driver and bring them to justice. Not only will we seek to recover compensation for the measure of harm done to the accident victim, but hit and run drivers are often prime candidates for punitive damages as well. Georgia law authorizes up to $250,000 in punitive damages to penalize, punish or deter people who cause an injury through their willful misconduct or lack of care showing a conscious indifference to the consequences of their behavior. Punitive damages must be proven by a high legal standard (clear and convincing evidence), but our experienced courtroom litigators make the extra effort to hold hit and run drivers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
If the hit and run driver cannot be located, we can pursue a claim through your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Unless you specifically rejected UM coverage in writing, it should be part of your liability insurance policy. UM coverage is meant to help out when you are hit by an uninsured driver, but it applies to hit and run situations as well. Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle a UM claim on your own, though. Insurance companies require a high level of proof before they will accept a UM claim, and if you are unrepresented by an attorney, they will either dispute your claim or try to settle with you for a much lower amount than an experienced car accident lawyer could get for you. Insurance companies have a duty to their shareholders to protect their bottom line; our only duty is to you and to get you the best result possible.
Don’t Despair. Call Shiver Hamilton Campbell To Speak With a Atlanta Hit & Run Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a hit and run accident in metro Atlanta, or if you lost a beloved family member in a hit and run crash, call Shiver Hamilton Campbell for a free consultation at 404-593-0020. We take on cases involving the most serious catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, and we fight to secure significant compensation for our clients who were hurt because of another’s negligence or wrongful conduct.