According to data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a hit-and-run crash occurs every minute in the United States. Hit-and-run deaths are at an all-time high, totaling a record-high 2,049 nationwide in 2016 – a 60 percent increase from the number of hit-and-run fatalities in 2009. Pedestrians and bicyclists comprise 65 percent of those fatalities.
Involved in an Accident? Stop and Wait.
Ohio law requires any driver who is knowingly involved in a vehicular collision with a person or property while on a public road or highway to stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident. He or she must remain at the scene to give his or her identity and the ownership information about the vehicle to the other parties to the crash (including drivers, passengers, and any injured parties) and the police officer on the scene. If an accident occurs on private property, the person must stop and provide identifying information for him or herself and the vehicle upon request of any person at the scene or, alternatively, report the collision and that information to the police within 24 hours.
Even if a vehicle is unoccupied (e.g., if a driver collides with a parked car), the law requires a driver to provide, in writing, the name and address of the owner of the motor vehicle he or she is operating and its registered number, and attach the information to a conspicuous place in or on the unoccupied or unattended motor vehicle. A driver who hits a building, structure, or other personal property (like a mailbox, for example) must also take reasonable measures to locate the property owner and provide his or her identifying and vehicular information.
Criminal Penalties for Hit-and-Run Accidents
A driver who fails to stop and remain at the scene of an accident commits the crime of “failure to stop,” which can carry severe penalties. Also known as a “hit-and-run,” or a “hit skip,” failure to stop is at a minimum a first-degree misdemeanor. If the accident or collision results in significant injuries or death, the fleeing driver can face felony charges. Regardless of the severity of the injuries or damage involved, a driver convicted of failure to stop will face at least a six-month license suspension, restitution up to $5,000, and various fees, fines, and court costs.
Many drivers flee the scene of an accident because they are afraid of being caught for another serious offense, like driving under the influence, possession of illegal or controlled substances, vehicle theft, or other crimes. Some drivers fear probation or parole violations or worry about immigration issues. Regardless, leaving the scene of an accident is never advisable.
Occasionally, a driver will realize after an accident that he or she was involved in a collision that the driver wasn’t aware of at the time. In that case, failure to stop charges may not be appropriate, as the law requires that the driver knows about the collision to be criminally liable.
Civil Suits for Damages from Hit-Skip Cases
Whether or not a driver has knowledge of a collision, if his or her negligence caused you to suffer personal injuries, you may be able to recover costs for past and future medical care, wage loss, pain and suffering, and other related damages in a civil suit. In many hit-skip cases, although the driver initially leaves the scene of an occurrence, he or she is ultimately identified by subsequent investigation. The police or a private investigation may reveal witnesses to the occurrence, physical evidence related to the crash, or recordings of the events (security camera footage, for example). Seeking counsel from an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after an accident increases your chances of identifying and locating a driver responsible for your hit-and-run injuries.
If you, a family member, or loved one has been injured in a hit-skip accident, look to the experienced attorneys at Obral, Silk & Pal, LLC to fight for your right to compensation.