Can You Sue Someone for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

Posted On March 28, 2022 Car Accidents
wrecked car after hit-and-run accident

In the event of an auto accident resulting in injury, property damage, or death, drivers in Connecticut have a duty to:

  1. Stop their vehicles.
  2. Render assistance as necessary.
  3. Provide their name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to (a) the driver who suffered injury or property damage in the crash, (b) a witness to a crash, and/or (c) a law enforcement officer.
  4. In the event that the information cannot be provided to the parties above, report the accident to the nearest police station or precinct.

Failure to perform these actions constitutes a violation of Connecticut’s law on the “evasion of responsibility in operation of motor vehicles” (as defined by Connecticut General Statutes § 14-224). More generally, this is known as leaving the scene of an accident – or a hit and run.

Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is a serious offense. Depending on the outcome of the accident, a driver who evades responsibility can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to 20 years (in cases involving serious physical injury or death).

In addition to criminal liability for evading responsibility, a motorist who leaves the scene can also face civil liability from the driver and other occupants of the vehicle that he or she hit. A hit-and-run car accident lawyer can explore your rights and legal options if you were harmed by a driver who fled the scene after a crash.

How Is Fault Determined in a Hit-and-Run Accident?

At the very least, drivers who hit and run typically “look” guilty. Fear of facing the consequences of the crash is a common reason motorists leave the scene of an accident.

The panic drivers feel after an accident – especially one where they know they are at fault – is often exacerbated by the fact that they are already engaging in one or more wrongful or even unlawful acts. These may include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • The driver is operating the vehicle on a suspended or revoked license
  • The driver has a record of previous traffic offenses, unpaid tickets, an outstanding warrant, etc. and does not want to get caught
  • The driver takes the vehicle without permission – a common issue in accidents with teen drivers
  • Drugs and/or other illegal items are in the vehicle at the time of the crash
  • The vehicle is stolen

As with all car accident claims, you must prove that the other driver’s negligence led to the hit and run. If the driver was intoxicated, operating the vehicle improperly or unlawfully, etc. and these actions resulted in the accident, he or she would likely be found at fault.

You can bring a claim against the hit-and-run driver if his or her carelessness or wrongdoing caused the crash. If your injuries and losses are exacerbated by the driver leaving the scene, you may be entitled to additional damages.

Fault for an accident is generally determined through investigation of the scene and questioning of the parties involved. When a driver leaves the scene, unfortunately, this determination is much more difficult to make.

How Do I Bring a Claim Against a Hit-and-Run Driver?

Bringing a claim against a driver who leaves the scene of an accident may seem like an impossible task. You might know little more than the color and perhaps the make and model of the vehicle. If you sustained an incapacitating injury in the crash, you might not have captured even these basic details.

There are two important steps you need to take if you were injured in an accident where the driver fled the scene:

1. Call the Police

Law enforcement should be notified of a hit-and-run crash as soon as possible. When the police officer arrives on the scene, tell him or her everything you can recall about the vehicle that hit you (as well as the driver, if you got a good look).

The police will also inspect the scene of the accident and your vehicle for physical evidence, as well as interview any witnesses in the vicinity. Based on the evidence, your statement, and any witness testimony, a B.O.L.O. (Be On the Lookout) may be issued for a vehicle of a particular make, model, and color, as well as exhibiting signs of damage consistent with the crash. In cases involving serious injury or death, a reward may even be announced for information leading to the identification and arrest of the driver in the hit-and-run accident.

Despite these investigative steps, many hit and runs go unsolved by law enforcement. Identifying the driver who left the scene is essential for recovering compensation, so it is important to take steps of your own to determine who is responsible.

2. Contact a Lawyer

The police juggle a number of different cases in addition to hit-and-run accidents. When you hire an experienced car accident lawyer, your case will be a priority, not just one file among many on a police officer’s desk.

A hit-and-run accident attorney can take a number of steps to investigate your case, including:

  • Surveying the accident scene and photographing key details
  • Identifying and interviewing witnesses to the accident
  • Reviewing the police report
  • Obtaining video footage of the accident (if available)
  • Inspecting the damage to your vehicle – thorough inspection can help determine what kind of vehicle was involved in the crash
  • Analyzing paint trace – laboratory analysis of the paint chips can help identify the color, year, make, and model of the other vehicle
  • Reconstructing the accident using photos and specialized software

Multiple experts are typically involved in the process of investigating and analyzing evidence from a hit-and-run accident. A combination of compelling evidence and expert testimony can aid in (a) identifying the hit-and-run driver and (b) establishing fault for the crash.

What Compensation Can I Recover for a Hit-and-Run Accident?

The plaintiff in a hit-and-run accident claim may be entitled to the same damages recoverable in other car accident cases, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish

Punitive damages may also be awarded if the evidence shows that the driver’s leaving the scene constituted “a reckless indifference to the rights of others or an intentional or wanton violation of those rights.” Given the duties motorists have in the event of an accident, knowingly evading responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle that results in a collision (especially one that causes serious injury or wrongful death) could meet this threshold.

In the event that the hit-and-run driver cannot be identified, you can still recover some compensation through your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance will pay up to your policy limits for damages in a hit-and-run accident.

Contact a Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyer Today

Hit-and-run accident claims come with a variety of challenges. If you have been injured or a member of your family was hurt or killed in a crash where the driver left the scene, it is important to seek qualified legal guidance as soon as possible.

The Flood Law Firm takes on many cases that other lawyers and law firms in the area will not. Our team will thoroughly investigate to identify the hit-and-run driver, calculate the compensation you are due, and pursue a favorable result on your behalf.

Please call The Flood Law Firm at (860) 346-2695 today for a free case review. Our hit-and-run car accident lawyers serve clients throughout Connecticut from offices in Middletown, Danbury, Bridgeport, and Waterbury.

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