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What Happens When a Hit and Run Driver Causes an Automobile Accident?

Motor vehicle accidents can take a big toll on everyone involved. The cars may be damaged or completely totaled. Injuries can be serious, sometimes resulting in death. Previously peaceful lives may suddenly involve hospital and doctor visits, loss of the ability to work, a lack of transportation, insurance headaches, emotional damage, and the possibility of litigation.

Fortunately, the legal system in Oregon and across America is designed to hold accountable the wrongdoers who cause motor vehicle crashes. But, on occasion, these wrongdoers take the greatest action possible to attempt to avoid their responsibilities – they flee the scene. At this point, the hit and run driver now has more than civil liability to worry about – the driver has now committed a crime. In this article we will discuss Oregon hit and run law and what happens when a driver causes an automobile accident.

Criminal Liability

When an accident results in injury or death, Oregon Revised Statutes Section 811.705 makes it a felony if a driver fails to take any of several actions outlined in the statute. You can review a driver’s obligations in detail with the link we have provided. The following is a list of some, but not all, of the actions required by a driver:

  • Must stop at the scene of the accident.
  • Must remain at the scene until all requirements in the statute have been complied with.
  • Must give required information to the other driver, passengers, and any other injured person at the scene.
  • Must render reasonable assistance to the injured.

Similarly, Oregon Revised Statutes Section 811.700 makes it a misdemeanor to fail to perform the duties outlined in the statute when there is property damage (as opposed to injury).

And soon, the criminal law concerning hit and run will become even stricter. Oregon has passed a new law, which will take effect January 1, 2019, that requires even drivers who only think they hit something to stop and investigate. Additionally, drivers will be required to take action even if they learn later that they may have struck someone or something.

Criminal Damages

Oregon law also provides that the Court can order any person convicted of the two statutes above to pay money damages to the victim, as part of the sentence.

Civil Liability

Any time another driver negligently causes an accident, he or she is responsible for the consequences of that negligence. But hit and run cases can cause unique issues. Obviously, if the other driver cannot be identified, that driver cannot be held responsible. Thus, it is crucial to note as much information as possible in the event of a hit and run accident. Attempt to write down the license plate number, or at least the make, model, and color of the motor vehicle. Obtain information from any witnesses. Contact law enforcement immediately. If you can see the driver, note the gender, hair color, approximate age, and other identifying characteristics.

What about Insurance Coverage?

If the hit and run driver can be identified, his or her liability insurance carrier will be responsible for damages caused by the driver’s negligence. Therefore, attempting to identify the driver is important. If the driver cannot be identified, the victim will need to pursue recovery against his or her own uninsured motorist coverage. A lawyer can help evaluate if any other insurance policies might provide additional coverage.

Contact a Lawyer

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we have always taken great pride in playing our part to protect society by holding people responsible for their actions when they do not exercise reasonable care. Thus, almost nothing is more frustrating than a hit and run driver – it’s the ultimate refusal of a wrongdoer to accept any responsibility. If you’ve been in an accident with a hit and run driver, please call us with your questions. We’re happy to talk with you about the investigation and evaluation of your case, as well as the insurance issues which can sometimes be complicated.