Legal Options for Hit and Run Victims in AL

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2018.

When someone causes a car accident due to negligence, the other drivers they injure will usually seek compensation for their losses through personal injury claims. However, if an at-fault driver flees the scene, or strikes a parked vehicle and flees without leaving a note or contacting the parked vehicle’s owner, the victims may wonder if there is any hope for legal recourse at all. The determining factor in the victim’s future legal options is whether or not law enforcement can locate the at-fault driver.

Finding the At-Fault Driver in a Hit and Run Accident

In the unfortunate event that an at-fault driver flees the scene of an accident and escapes, the victims will likely need to resort to filing a claim against their own insurance policies to cover the damages. Most insurance carriers will not increase premium rates for the victim of a hit-and-run, but every insurer has different policies. The wording of the victim’s insurance policy will dictate what the insurance company will or will not cover after a hit-and-run.

The police may use traffic camera footage, eyewitness accounts, and other evidence to locate an at-fault driver after a hit-and-run. If the police can locate the at-fault driver, the victim of the hit-and-run has a good chance of securing compensation for his or her losses through a civil action. The at-fault driver will likely face criminal charges as well, and the victim may receive punitive damages in addition to other forms of compensation through his or her civil action.

Punitive Damages in Car Accidents

Alabama state law requires “clear and convincing” evidence for punitive damages to come into play in a civil action. Generally, the evidence used to locate the at-fault driver will fulfill this requirement. While some states place caps or limits on some types of compensation in civil claims, punitive damages are more subjective and generally left to the jury’s discretion. A few factors that go into a jury’s determination for punitive damages include:

  • The defendant’s financial status. Punitive damages exist to punish immoral and illegal behavior, so a wealthier defendant will likely pay much more in punitive damages than a less wealthy defendant.
  • The seriousness of the plaintiff’s damages and injuries. Defendants who cause serious bodily harm or death through hit-and-run incidents will likely face steep punitive damages.
  • The defendant’s character in court. A combative or hostile defendant will likely face more punitive damages than one who is more cooperative and contrite during legal proceedings.

Potential Compensation for a Hit-and-Run

If the police locate the at-fault driver in a hit-and-run incident, the victim stands a very good chance of securing compensation for his or her losses. In addition to any punitive damages the jury decides to award, plaintiffs in hit-and-run cases can also receive compensation for their medical expenses, property damages, lost income, and pain and suffering. Every state uses different methods for calculating pain and suffering compensation, but it is usually at least three times the amount of the plaintiff’s medical expenses. For example, a plaintiff who receives $10,000 in medical expense compensation could reasonably expect anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000 in pain and suffering compensation depending on the severity of his or her injuries.

One of the best steps any injured driver in Alabama can take after an accident is to reach out to a qualified and reliable Birmingham car accident lawyer. Even for hit-and-run cases, attorneys can help injured drivers find peace of mind after accidents and help them explore every available avenue of compensation for their damages.