A hit-and-run accident is one where a driver intentionally flees the scene without providing contact and insurance information or rendering aid to someone injured in an accident.
According to one report, about one in nine (11%) motor vehicle accidents nationally involves a driver who flees the scene. In Los Angeles, almost half of all crashes (48%) involve a hit-and-run driver.
If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you are no doubt confused, hurt, and above all, angry. And unfortunately, you may ultimately never find the person responsible for your losses.
There are, however, some things you can do to maximize your ability to recover for your losses if you are the victim of a hit-and-run driver.
Call the Police
Although Metro does not respond to all non-injury accidents, it should send officers if you notify the dispatcher that the other driver fled the scene.
To hold a driver accountable for their actions, you first have to be able to locate them. Get as much information as you can while you are waiting for the police to arrive. Write down a license plate number, if you can, even if you only get part of it. Make a note of what state the license plate was issued in. Take note of the make, model, and color of the vehicle. Jot down any distinguishing characteristics of the vehicle, like bumper stickers, dents, or other damage. Write down when and where the accident took place.
If you get a look at the driver, write down a description, including race, gender, clothing, hair color, etc. If there are passengers, note that, too, as well as any description you can get.
Recognizing that you will not likely be able to get all this information, look around for other witnesses. If there are people present who saw the accident, speak to them. See if any of them got the information. Get their names and contact information so you can call on them later.
Look around for traffic cameras. If there are any, make a note.
Take pictures of the scene of the accident. If you can do so without impeding traffic or putting yourself in danger, take the photos of your car at its stopping place. Take wide-angle and close-up shots. Photograph the damage, including if there is any of the other car’s paint on your vehicle. Get photos of the area around you.
Give this information to the police when they arrive (do not give them your only copy; there is no guarantee you’ll get it back).
Call Your Insurance Company
Report the accident to your insurance company. Provide them will all of the information you have gathered, and let them know that the police took a report. Because some people claim to have been in a hit-and-run accident when there was no other driver involved (that’s called fraud, by the way), insurance companies will want to know that you actually have been hit, so the more information you can give them, the better. You do not want to be a victim of a hit-and-run accident and then have your insurance deny coverage because they don’t believe you were hit by someone else.
Hopefully you have uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This type of coverage is not required in Nevada, but is a must for anyone who does not have enough money on hand to cover any potential damages—particularly because even if you identify the other driver, the legal minimum only requires them to have $15,000 coverage per person (up to $30,000) and $10,000 coverage for property damage.
If you do not have UIM coverage, purchase it now. We recommend minimum UIM coverage of $100,000. The good news is if you do have to make a claim against your own UIM insurance, Nevada laws prohibit your insurer from increasing your premiums.
Call an Attorney
Unfortunately, you cannot necessarily count on the police to track down a hit-and-run driver. For whatever reason, the police, even if they have a license plate number, do not track down every hit-and-run driver. But if you retain a personal injury attorney, the attorney should be able to help you either locate the fleeing driver (if you have a license plate or enough identifying information to make that possible) or maximize the value of your claim against your insurance company on the UIM policy. (Or, sometimes, if there is no insurance coverage, we are just the bearers of bad news.) Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys will work on acontingency (they will not get paid unless they can recover money from the opposing party).
At Parry & Pfau, we have represented a number of hit-and-run victims. Sometimes we can find the hit-and-run drivers. As an attorney, it is very satisfying to be able to track down people the police weren’t able or willing to find who have fled the scene of an accident and hold them accountable by bringing a lawsuit against them. In other cases, we do not have enough information about the driver who fled the scene and must resort to making claims against the UIM policy.
DO NOT FLEE THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT
If you are involved in an accident, you not only have a moral duty to remain at the scene, you also have a legal one. In Nevada, you have a duty to remain at the scene of any accident that causes damage to vehicle, property, or injury or death to a person. NRS 484E.010 and 484E.020. You must provide your name, address, and registration number of your vehicle, and show your driver’s license upon request. You must also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in an accident, including taking them to a hospital. NRS 484E.030.
Your duty to remain at the scene applies even if you were not at fault.
If you are involved in an accident that results in the injury or death and you flee the scene without providing contact information and/or reasonable aid to the victim, you have committed a felony that will result in a minimum imprisonment of two years and a maximum of twenty years (recently amended from fifteen) with a fine between $2,000 and $5,000. And it's a separate count for each person injured. Besides being a felon, if you do this, you can be subjected to more severe civil penalties. You are also a terrible person. Don’t do it.
If you have any questions about hit-and-run accidents, or what to do if you are the victim of one, call Parry & Pfau.
Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.