At NMR, we spend a lot of time discussing the concept of responsibility and the law’s requirement that everyone exercise reasonable care to make society safer for all of us. We have also discussed the ways in which automobile and truck accidents occur, along with common sense recommendations to follow if you are involved in an accident, such as taking photographs and identifying parties and witnesses. The legal system is designed to then parse out the facts and circumstances of an accident in order to properly assign liability and award appropriate damages.
The person who perhaps best represents the antithesis of these ideals is the hit-and-run driver. These drivers attempt to hide their involvement in an accident, thereby frustrating the system. When they flee the scene, they seek to avoid liability and take with them a variety of forms of evidence that could be essential to explaining how and why an accident occurred.
In this article, we will discuss some of the reasons that hit-and-run drivers flee.
A Growing Problem
According to a 2018 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analysis, hit-and-run accidents and deaths continue to increase. AAA reported that a hit-and-run accident occurred every 43 seconds in the United States. More fatalities occurred in 2016 (the last year of data that was available) than at any time since 1975 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started keeping statistics. Hit-and-run accidents included crashes between automobiles, as well as the striking of motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
AAA further reported that the fatality rate from hit-and-run crashes increased from 2009 at the rate of 7.2 percent per year. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the increase comes from accidents involving pedestrians.
Why Do Drivers Hit and Run?
There are many reasons people may flee the scene of the accident. Some are more obvious than others. Drivers are often, but not always, attempting to avoid criminal apprehension or liability – but for a number of different reasons. Below, we will discuss a few.
- Driving under the influence: Some drivers know that they are driving illegally under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They hope to avoid criminal liability by fleeing.
- Outstanding warrants/stolen vehicle: On occasion, a driver has an outstanding arrest warrant, or is actually driving a stolen car. The driver is attempting to avoid apprehension and jail.
- Driving without a license: Some drivers have revoked licenses and know they should not be driving. They likely fear arrest and jail.
- Driving without insurance or with inadequate insurance: While a driver may fear criminal responsibility, a driver without insurance may fear civil liability and being held responsible for money damages with no insurance company to pay them.
- Emotional response: According to a psychologist quoted by the Washington Post, some people experience emotional responses to the circumstances. They must make a split-second decision and they go into flight mode. She notes that people will sometimes rationalize the accident as being very minor and their presence being unimportant.
- Avoiding civil liability: Some drivers simply do not want to be held responsible for the damages they have caused. They may fear the amount of damages or having their insurance rates go up.
What if You Are Hit by a Hit-and-Run Driver?
If you are involved in an accident and the negligent driver flees, contact the police. Additionally, you should contact a lawyer promptly. Sometimes, the negligent driver can be located and his or her insurance will be responsible for the negligent actions of its insured.
Additionally, even if the driver is not identified, you may have coverage under other policies or provisions, such as uninsured motorist coverage. An attorney can assist you in investigating the case and determining what insurance coverage is available.
Call with Questions
If you have been injured by a hit and run driver, you will likely have questions about your legal rights. The personal injury and accident lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer them – just give us a call. We represent injury victims all across Oregon. We know how frustrating it can be when a negligent driver attempts to avoid responsibility for causing an accident. We take pride in helping in such circumstances to bring such wrongdoers to justice.