Hit-and-run accidents can be especially egregious, which is why laws have been put in place to hold people accountable. Police in Des Moines investigated a hit-and-run on a pedestrian crossing Douglas Ave. in early 2023. After being struck, the victim was taken to an area hospital and listed in critical condition. The vehicle involved in the accident was found a few miles away. The investigation resulted in the arrest of a 70-year-old man believed to be responsible.
Leaving the scene of the accident is worthy of a misdemeanor charge. If convicted, the perpetrator can face jail time, fines or both. Hit-and-run accidents leave people without much recourse to compensate for damages. These types of accidents can be life-changing events and might require some extra effort to recoup losses and damages to protect the rights of whoever has been injured.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
A hit-and-run accident is what happens when a motor vehicle collides with another motor vehicle or a pedestrian and leaves the scene of the accident without providing the required information to the other parties involved or law enforcement. The law requires the driver of the vehicle responsible for damage in a collision to move their vehicle to a safe distance from the accident if possible to prevent other accidents. That isn’t to say that they can drive home. If the vehicle is disabled, they can remain at a safe distance from the accident.
According to Iowa traffic laws, the person responsible must fulfill a few requirements in the event of an accident resulting in property damage, injuries, and even death. Failure to comply with the requirements of the law can result in charges and penalties according to state statutes.
- Provide name and contact information to other parties and law enforcement
- Provide Registration information about the vehicle
- Share their driver’s license information with other people involved
- If the accident results in death, “all surviving drivers” need to stay at the scene of the accident
- Unless they are leaving to get medical attention
- Identifying information such as license, registration, or other ID must be left at the scene of the accident for law enforcement
Reasons for Hit-and-Run
People run from an accident for any number of reasons. They might become confused or fearful of having just collided with someone on the road. A driver might panic and want to escape the situation. A hit-and-run driver might be operating the vehicle unlawfully, either by driving with an expired or suspended license, registration, or lack of insurance. The driver might even be intoxicated or even have outstanding warrants for their arrest they are hoping to avoid by running away from the situation. Despite these fears of accountability, for whatever reason, drivers had a duty to the public when operating a motor vehicle. Automobile accidents are very serious and oftentimes extremely expensive, especially to the victims.
Different Types of Hit-and-Run
Hit-and-run accidents are most often between two motor vehicles. Hit-and-run accidents may involve someone driving home late at night. They might misjudge the distance between their vehicle and a parked car on the curb and sideswipe it as they pass. A hit-and-run could be as simple as backing out of a space in a crowded parking lot and breaking out the taillights of the car in the spot behind them.
A hit-and-run might happen at an intersection, when one vehicle stops at the red light and the vehicle behind them hits them from behind and speeds off to avoid getting a ticket or dealing with police or insurance companies. Hit-and-run accidents might also involve elderly or inexperienced drivers who are confused and panic after impact. Some drivers might not have even noticed they were in a collision due to their mental state, disability, or medication.
Hit-and-run accidents involve vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions. Pedestrians, and bicyclists, are smaller profile objects compared to everything else on the road. Pedestrians are fragile compared to thousands of pounds of glass and steel moving at speed and will always lose when hit by a car. Driving off without offering help, or contact information regarding the person responsible is especially heinous. According to statistics in recent years, 106 people died for every 100 hit-and-run crashes in Iowa alone.
Injuries from a Hit-and-Run Accident
Because of the sheer amount of force exerted on a person during a car accident, injuries are often severe. All of these injuries require immediate medical attention. Here are some that are common to hit-and-run accidents:
- Bleeding and bruises: Sharp metal and broken glass can cause serious cuts and the impact of a car collision alone can result in bruising and even internal hemorrhaging.
- Road rash: Abrasion injuries from contact with the pavement are common with pedestrians and accidents involving crashes with bicycles or motorcycles. These injuries are painful and difficult to treat because of the damage done to a large surface area and the risk of infection.
- Broken bones: The force of the impact is more than enough to break bones, from fingers and toes to femurs and even the pelvis.
- Whiplash: Especially in accidents involving rear-end collisions, whiplash occurs when an impact from behind causes the head to swivel hard on the neck. The impact may result in broken blood vessels, vertebrae, and even cause permanent injury to nerves and result in chronic pain.
- Traumatic brain injuries: TBI’s are common from high force impacts. From concussions to serious internal brain bleeding, broken blood vessels within the brain may result in stroke and permanent cognitive damage, or even death.
- Burns: Ruptured fuel tanks and even chemical/coolant spills can cause serious burns to the body and may even require surgery such as skin grafts.
- Fatalities: Death is a common result of a hit-and-run, maybe even especially so. The person causing the accident might have fled the scene because they realized the injuries were so grave and either couldn’t deal with the emotional fallout or the consequences of being at fault for the death of another person.
Damages from a Hit-and-Run Accident
Ambulance bills, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and even property damage are just a few of the types of losses associated with a car crash. In a typical car accident, these expenses–also known as damages–are often covered by the insurance company of the person at fault for the accident. Medical bills and lost income due to injuries can easily balloon into the tens of thousands of dollars. Permanent disabilities resulting from the accident can mar a person’s right to the pursuit of happiness and providing for their families and rob them of the potential they had in life. Death can leave an empty hole in a family once filled by a loved one, provider, and caretaker of the rest of the family.
Protect Your Rights in a Hit-and-Run
Running from the scene of the accident leaves the victim of the accident without the chance to get compensation for injuries. The outcome of a hit-and-run accident might seem very bleak, but that isn’t to say that the injured are without protection. Eyewitness accounts, traffic cameras, and even dashcams have gone a long way towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions. Smart phones allow everyone the resource of collecting information at the scene of the accident, from license plate numbers and video of the accident to photographs of the person responsible, if at all possible.
When injured in a hit-and-run accident, it is important to always contact law enforcement and seek medical attention. Law enforcement and attorneys representing the injured have access to this evidence and can track down those responsible to build a case against them. Car accidents are usually loud, chaotic events that draw a lot of attention. In many hit-and-run cases, there is bound to be someone who has seen something and the information they provide can go a long way towards finding the perpetrator and holding them liable for their actions.
If the identity of whomever is responsible for the accident can be found, most certainly, their insurance can be used to pay for the damages done. Compensation can be taken from suing those responsible and forcing the sale of their assets to cover damages. The wages of the guilty party may even be garnished to aid in the payment of damages for the victim’s losses. Because they violated the law, they will also face criminal charges for hit-and-run, which will include fines and penalties, including jail time if convicted.
If you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident, contact or call us at 515-444-4000 as soon as possible for a free consultation.