Being in a car accident is a terrifying experience. In moments of intense panic, you might be tempted to drive away as fast as you can, hoping that nobody saw what happened. Maybe you assessed the scene and thought it was safe to leave. If you are not careful, you could make the accident worse by unknowingly committing a hit and run and jeopardize your liability with your insurer, and even risk jail time.
Hit and Runs - 8 Things All Drivers Need To Know
What is a hit and run accident?
When you think of hit and run accidents, do you imagine a vehicle speeding through a red light, striking a fellow motorist or even a pedestrian and then zooming off?
Well, there are hit and runs where there is vehicle damage and/or someone is injured. But hit and run can also be someone hitting a parked car and driving off.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there were an estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes in 2015, which means more than 1 hit and run crash happened every minute in the US. Furthermore, 20% of pedestrian deaths in the last 10 years were caused by hit and runs.
Hit and run is a growing problem and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2011, roughly one in every five pedestrian fatalities involved a driver fleeing the scene of the accident.
At BlackboxMyCar, we have seen many footage of hit and run cases. Here are the things you think all drivers need to know.
1. A hit and run is a crime
Driving away from the scene of an accident is a crime. Hit and run laws vary from state to state. They can be traffic infractions, misdemeanors or felonies depending on the severity of the accident, total amount of property damage, and cause of the accident.
Is hit and run a felony? Are there jail times?
Felony hit and run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident when there is any type of injury to a person, whether pedestrian or an occupant of a vehicle. The penalties for felony hit and run can be quite severe. Most states impose fines of between $5000 and $20,000, with the possibility of up to 15 years of prison.
A hit and run is classified as a misdemeanor if it only involves property damage, and in most states, misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $5000 with possible jail time of up to one year.
Can I still be sued?
Yes, it is possible that the other party involved may sue you in court for the damages they suffered, and it is known that many states will impose “treble damages” on you. What that means is any damages awarded to you are automatically tripled to punish your actions.
For example, if the jury in a civil suit awards you $10,000 in damages, the judge can triple that amount to $30,000 because it’s a hit and run offense - after all, you did drive away from the scene of the accident, intentionally.
2. Always stop to check if you think you hit something
Accidents happen. The first thing you need to do is stay calm and assess the scene and the damage.
If you hit another vehicle or damaged someone’s property
If you hit another car, note the license place, make and model of the vehicle. If you hit someone else’s property, take down the address or location and note the property damage. Try to see if you can find the owner of the vehicle or property. If you are unable to find the owner, affix a note with your information to the damaged object. Leave your name, phone number and license plate number. You also need to file a police report and notify your insurance company.
If you hit someone
Call 9-1-1 for help. Keep in mind that failure to act that results in injury to the victim can lead to harsher charges, including vehicular manslaughter. If you don’t have a phone and/or need to leave the scene to get help - temporarily leaving the scene is usually not considered a hit and run offense provided you return to the scene.
3. You can be found guilty if you hit an animal
If you hit a neighbour’s pet, livestock or wild animal, you must stop. Hitting an animal and not stopping is classified as a hit and run in most states, exceptions are small wild animals and birds. For example, hitting a domestic pet, horse or livestock animal without stopping and reporting “property damage” is a misdemeanor in California. Pet owners may file civil suits for wrongful death, animal abuse, or property damage. Of course, if you kill a small wild animal, like a squirrel or skunk, you don’t have to call the police.
4. Hit and runs can be reduced to an infraction and even be dismissed
If the property damage is not too high and has been paid for by the defendant, the charge can be reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction (possibly just a hit-and-run ticket).
Of course, one of the most desired outcomes of a hit-and-run is a civil compromise between the defendant and the victim. In other words, if the responsible party has made all restitution and paid the victim for all of their out of pocket expenses, the judge may dismiss the case against the defendant.
What happens if I lie about a hit and run?
Don’t make the situation worse by making false statements to the police or your insurance company, like your car was stolen when it wasn’t. Sooner or later, the lies (and serious consequences) will catch up to you, and if you cover an accident with a false report, you may be charged with insurance fraud, too.
5. You must make all reasonable efforts to identify a hit and run driver
You're driving along, minding your own business, and suddenly you're sideswiped by the car next to you. The other driver doesn't bother to stop, and before you know it, the car's long gone. What do you do?
In the event you are the victim of a hit and run, your insurer can reject your claim if they ruled that you didn’t do enough to identify the hit and run driver. .
This is when having a dash cam on board can save the day. Don’t have a dash cam? Let’s hope that someone nearby had a dash cam that captured the incident.
6. You will be required to pay your collision deductible even if you’re not at fault
Unfortunately, hit and run accidents are the only times when you will be required to pay your collision deductible, even when it wasn’t your fault. With a hit and run, there is no other driver to hold responsible so your insurance company will be accountable for paying the damages that the hit and run driver caused.
Who pays for the damage and medical bills?
While there isn’t such a thing as “hit-and-run insurance”, there are car insurance coverages that come in handy: uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury helps pay for injuries caused by a hit-and-run accident, while uninsured motorist property damage covers damages to your car.
For example, if you're injured in a hit-and-run, you might make a claim on your uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. You won't need to pay a deductible on that coverage. But if your vehicle is damaged in a hit-and-run and you make a claim on your collision coverage, you would then need to pay out of pocket for your collision coverage deductible. Of course, if you can identify the driver, or jot down the car’s license plate number and the police can get the insurance information, then the at-fault driver would most likely be held financially responsible for the injuries and damages - a good reason to get a dash cam on board!
Would a hit and run claim raise my insurance premiums?
Many people may wonder if hit and run raise insurance. Making an insurance claim after another driver has damaged your vehicle in a hit and run should not have an impact on your premium as long as you have reported the incident to the police and your insurance company considers it a “not-at-fault” loss. But do keep in mind that any claim you make would go on your insurance record and claim frequency may affect what you pay for car insurance.
Would a hit and run offense raise my insurance premiums?
Many states require you to get a SR 22 Certification, which is a guarantee that you have the state-mandated coverage and are financially responsible for any accidents. That’s the same requirement associated with DUI’s. While the SR 22 certification is a one-time fee and is generally not expensive, the violation that resulted in the SR22 requirement will affect your auto insurance premium. Also, be aware that your state or insurer may require you to pay in full when your car insurance policy includes an SR-22 filing.
7. Witness accounts are crucial
In the event you don’t have a dash cam, or if you are unable to recall the description of the car and/or driver, do not engage in a car chase with them. Not only is it unsafe, you might miss getting eyewitness accounts or even dash cam footage.
Do keep in mind that you need to get the name and contact information of alleged witnesses. The policy and your insurer needs to be able to follow up with them to request a statement.
Are all witnesses credible?
No. Even if a witness did observe the hit and run accident, the witness’ testimony is helpful only if that person is credible - people can have different opinions and draw different conclusions even though they are observing the same event.
Instead of relying on unreliable or uncredible witnesses, why not get an unbiased one on board?
8. A dash cam can save you a lot of headaches
Trying to record as many details about the incident can be difficult, especially if you didn’t get a good look at the other driver. Information such as a description of the other care and drive, the time and location of the incident, the sequence of events, including which direction the car was headed after fleeing the scene - these are all information that you can get from a dash cam. Dash cams are made for situations like these.
A dash cam can also help in the event the hit and run happened when you’re away from your vehicle, ie. in a parking lot. Many dash cams offer parking mode recording - you may recall seeing the following terms in the dash cam’s user manual: parking mode, parking surveillance, sentry mode or parking guard; all these refer to the same time - the ability to record incidents when the car has been powered down.
What is parking guard on a dash cam?
There are many types of parking mode recording, the most common being motion and impact detection. When the dash cam detects that the car has been powered down, it will go into parking mode where the camera stands by for any action. Generally, motion and impact detection work hand-in-hand. Say, a car pulls into the parking stall in front of you, your dash cam’s motion sensor will be triggered. Your dash cam will go into standby mode - the camera will start to record. If the car should bump or hit your car, the impact sensors in your dash cam will be activated and your dash cam will continue to capture the incident and lock the recorded footage on to the microSD card so you can review it for all the details you need.
Parking mode recording is made possible either by hardwiring the dash cam to the vehicle’s fusebox or through an external battery pack. Learn more about parking mode here.
What is the best parking mode dash cam?
We recommend Thinkware, BlackVue or IROAD if you are looking for a dash cam with reliable parking mode. But if you are asking us which is the best parking mode dash cam, hands down the Thinkware U1000 with the optional Radar module.
With 4K UHD from the front-facing camera and 2K QHD from the rear, the U1000 is the highest resolution 2-channel dash cam system on the market. But what makes the U1000 the best parking mode dash cam is the optional radar module that unlocks ultra-high-frequency radar motion detection as well as Energy Saving Parking Mode with buffered recording.
Learn more about the Thinkware U1000 and the Radar module on our blog.
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