A few weeks ago I posted about Motor Vehicle Deaths being on the decline. In contrast, I recently heard an NPR story which reported on the nationwide increase in the number of hit and run deaths involving pedestrians and cyclists. NPR cited a study by the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration as evidence of this troubling statistic. Apparently the cities of Los Angeles and New York have the highest incidences of hit and run fatalities.
For example, in 2012, LAPD investigated 2,500 auto-pedestrian incidents. According to a University of Michigan study, the number of auto-pedestrian accidents in LA is nearly three times the national average. The NPR story goes on to cite a couple of LAPD officers who investigate these hit and run accidents. According to Officer Rhiannon Talley, "There's so much - so many cases, so many victims, and not enough hours in the day." Speaking of the disturbing nature of someone fleeing the scene of an accident after causing serious injury or death to a pedestrian, Detective Chris Laurino said, "They'll drive their car home, and they'll wash the blood off, cover up the car and act like nothing happened . . . [i]t's incredible the lack of conscience some people have." The officers recount that one of the first things a hit and run driver will do is to take the car to a body shop to have the damage repaired and often that is where they can catch the offenders. The NPR story reported that the LAPD Valley Traffic Division solves only about half of the hit and run accidents.
As a personal injury lawyer, I've handled many hit and run accidents. Often the person who caused the accident is never found. In those cases, we're usually still able to help the accident victim by making an uninsured motorist claim. Preston and I discussed uninsured motorist claims in a recent interview:
By carrying sufficient uninsured motorist coverage you can be sure that you, your family, and passengers are protected in the event you are involved in an accident with a hit and run driver. Unfortunately, you cannot always depend on the other driver to take responsibility for his or her actions and stick around for the police to show up. So, protect yourself by making sure you have the right insurance coverage.
In addition, pay attention to details if you are involved in an accident. If possible, get a good description of the other vehicle and a license plate if possible. The police can often locate the other vehicle even if you can only provide a partial license plate. A hit and run driver may stay at the accident scene for a few moments before leaving, in which case, quickly take a photo of the other vehicle. In some cases, you may get lucky and video surveillance form a convenience store or gas station may show the hit and run vehicle.
Finally, locate all possible witnesses to a hit and run accident. Do what you can to make sure witnesses stay at the accident scene in order to provide a statement to police.
With good police work, a little luck, and some hard work, we're hopeful that hit and run drivers will be caught and held responsible for their actions in both the criminal and civil courts. But as mentioned, even if the hit-and-run driver is never caught, we can still help you with your case. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a hit and run accident, give us a call at Handy & Handy to discuss your case. We're here to help you.