Legal Options in Hit and Run Claims

A significant number of car crash victims never partner with personal injury attorneys and obtain maximum compensation for their damages. Their reasons are varied. But the bottom line is usually they do not believe it is worthwhile to work with a New York personal injury attorney.

Hit-and-run claims are a good example. Many people think if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not stop at the scene and basically admit liability, they cannot obtain compensation.

But in many cases, that’s not true. As outlined below, attorneys know how to locate drivers who flee the scene of a collision. Additionally, most New York jurors hate hit-and-run drivers. So, they often award significant noneconomic damages in these cases. These damages compensate for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible losses.


Tracking Down the Tortfeasor

If the hit-and-run driver caused a fatal accident, law enforcement investigators often diligently pursue the case. People who leave the scene of a fatal crash could be charged with a very serious felony. But if the victim survived, their approach is different. Many law enforcement officers view such situations as a civil matter between the victim and the other driver.

To locate an absent tortfeasor, personal injury attorneys use proven methods that get results, such as:

  • Reviewing Video: A surveillance, red light, or another camera, even if it is several blocks from the crash scene, might have captured the tortfeasor’s license plate number or some other identifying information.
  • Finding Additional Witnesses: For various reasons, some car crash witnesses do not come forward at the scene. But these reluctant witnesses are often willing to talk to a personal injury attorney.
  • Staking Out the Area: There is nothing glamorous about sitting in a car and waiting for the tortfeasor to come back into the area. But the stakeout method works more often than you might think.

Attorneys often partner with private investigators, accident reconstructionists, and other professionals in these cases. Such partnerships usually increase the chances of success.

An attorney does not need a mountain of information to establish liability. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If an attorney identifies the vehicle, it’s more likely than not that the owner was also the tortfeasor.

The burden of proof is much higher in criminal court, which is one reason it’s hard to prosecute hit-and-run drivers. Since prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a witness must normally place the defendant behind the wheel at the time of the crash.


Non-Tortfeasor Hit-and-Run Cases

These methods often produce results, but they do not always work. Even if the tortfeasor remains at large, victims have legal options in these cases.

If the tortfeasor is never identified, most car crash victims can file claims with their own insurance companies. Since the company wants to keep its customers happy, such claims often settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms.

Procedurally, these cases are usually streamlined as well. These claims usually do not go to trial. It’s typically illegal to sue your own insurance company. So, if the parties cannot settle the dispute, the matter usually goes to arbitration. This expedited proceeding is a lot like a trial before a judge, but it is much less time-consuming.


Reach Out to a Zealous Attorney

Hit-and-run crash victims have multiple legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.