Legal Options Following a New York Hit-and-Run Crash
New York has a high number of uninsured and uninsured motorists. In most cases, these drivers are most likely to flee the scene of a collision. Other fleeing drivers have criminal law issues, such as outstanding arrest warrants.
A large number of drivers run, and a large number get caught. Statistics vary greatly by jurisdiction, but in most cases, authorities apprehend and successfully prosecute about half of all hit-and-run cases. The percentage may be higher in civil court, due to the lower standard of proof, as outlined below.
Whether or not the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is identified, victims have legal options in these instances. So, it’s always important to reach out to an experienced New York personal injury attorney immediately after the accident.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor
First responders collect evidence in hit-and-run cases, but this duty is not their first, or even second, priority. After they secure the scene and tend to injured victims, then they interview witnesses and collect some physical evidence samples. By this time, much valuable evidence is gone.
A New York personal injury attorney picks up where first responders left off. Some common evidence collection tactics include:
- Finding Additional Witnesses: Emergency responders only interview the witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene. Attorneys re-canvass the area looking for people who may have seen something yet, for whatever reason, do not want to talk to police officers.
- Inquiring at Body Shops: When tortfeasors damage their vehicles in hit-and-run collisions, they usually do not go to reputable body shops. Instead, they go to under-the-radar places. Much like many witnesses, such body shop owners do not want to talk to police officers. But they will talk to personal injury attorneys, in many cases.
- Reviewing Surveillance Video: There is usually a red-light or other security camera near the scene, and first responders view such video. There are also usually cameras in the immediate vicinity. Even if these cameras only caught a glimpse of the tortfeasor’s vehicle, that glimpse may be enough to establish liability.
In criminal court, prosecutors basically need an overwhelming amount of physical evidence to convict a hit-and-run driver. Additionally, a witness must place the person behind the wheel at or near the scene of the crash.
But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way. For example, identifying the vehicle, through something like a partial license plate number, is probably enough. A vehicle’s owner was probably driving that vehicle at any given time.
Most New York jurors hate hit-and-run drivers. Therefore, they often award high compensation in these cases. Insurance companies know this, so they are often willing to settle these claims on very favorable terms.
Unidentified Tortfeasor Claims
Despite a personal injury attorney’s best efforts, it is sometimes impossible to locate the tortfeasor. Yet even in these situations, victims may still obtain compensation.
Typically, victims can file claims against their own insurance companies, if they have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Since the insurance company wants to keep a paying customer happy, these claims often settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms. Many times, these claims do not include complete liability waivers. So, an attorney can keep looking for the tortfeasor while obtaining immediate compensation for the victim.
Procedurally, these claims usually go to arbitration instead of a trial. It’s normally illegal for people to sue their own insurance companies.
Reach Out to an Assertive Attorney
Hit-and-run crash victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.
In over a decade of legal practice, Attorney Michael Redenburg began his career defending cases for the clients of insurance companies. Initially defending no-fault claims at a Long Island-based law firm, he then moved on to a Manhattan-based firm where he defended the clients of insurance carriers in an auto accident and premises liability matters.