In New York, a hit-and-run accident is viewed as leaving an accident scene in which you were involved without reporting it.

Getting a hit-and-run ticket in New York can (depending on the circumstances) result in your being fined up to $250 and can land you in jail for 15 days! Three points are added to your driving record, a fact that will be of concern to your liability insurer. This means your rates will rise noticeably. And if you hold a commercial driver’s license, fleeing the scene of an accident and getting caught means you lose that license for a year.

Hit-and-run drivers come from all walks of life: working class folks, the affluent, students, senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, doctors, bankers, native American chiefs, and criminals. Almost six people are killed in hit-and-run accidents every day. In 2015, there were over 2,000 hit-and-runs every day. More people are fleeing accident scenes than any other time since authorities began keeping the statistic in 1975.

A simple explanation for why people leave an accident scene is the “stand or flee” emotion which is in all human beings. Many drivers may see the legal consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, texting while driving, not having liability insurance when they cause an accident, or even something so simple having an expired driver’s license, as a “threat” to their safety – in this case, their driving safety. And they think if they leave the scene they probably won’t get caught.

Some other reasons for their behavior include:

  • The driver is driving a vehicle without permission or it’s stolen.
  • The driver is driving an employer-owned vehicle and does not want his employer to know that he got into a crash.
  • The driver has outstanding warrants for his arrest for unpaid tickets, or other crimes.
  • The driver is in this country illegally.
  • The driver is transporting illegal goods or drugs.

Psychologist Emanuel Robinson with the Westat Center for Transportation, Technology and Safety Research says that anytime we get into an accident we get emotional. “Most people remain at the scene. Some of them are so filled with adrenaline that they argue over who is to blame, but…. others just want to get out of there.” Robinson adds that they get scared and don’t know what to do – so they just leave. “People are also really good at rationalizing,” he continues. “They’ll say, ‘it’s nothing, just a little scrape, I don’t need to stay around.’”

Another reason why drivers flee the scene is they’re uninsured and have no financial means to pay the compensation owed to injured victims. But just because they fled the scene doesn’t mean the negligent driver can evade his or her financial obligations. Concerned witnesses remember things such as some or all of a license plate number, or the appearance of the negligent driver’s damaged vehicle, or they may have even snapped a quick picture. Security cameras are everywhere now, so maybe one recorded good video or images which the police or an experienced attorney can use to find the driver and hold him/her accountable (both criminally and compensation-wise).

Compensation for Hit-and-Run Victims (if the negligent driver remains unidentified)

Drivers or passengers injured in an accident by someone who is uninsured or who carries only the minimum insurance required may be limited in their ability to recover for their medical bills, lost income or pain and suffering unless they have access to additional coverage through the uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) features on their own auto insurance policy.

When people make claims against their UM/UIM coverage for hit-and-run accidents, they need to provide their own insurance company with “proof of physical contact” and evidence that their injuries or property damage arose from the contact. Legitimately injured victims of a hit-and-run should not have any problem meeting this documented burden of proof.

Recovery under a New York UM/UIM policy varies, depending on the amount of coverage a driver has on his or her policy and the amount of insurance the at-fault driver has. The victim’s UM/UIM coverage begins to pay for damages only after the at-fault driver’s policy is exhausted – assuming one is found.

If you have any questions about hit-and-run or UM/UIM insurance, please consider Kaplan Lawyers PC at your service.