One of the most challenging cases brought before an Atlanta car accident attorney is when the at-fault driver fled the scene of the crash. A hit and run accident is not compounded guilt by breaking several laws, but also demonstrates cowardice and a lack of regard for another person’s life. The injured party may be in a severe condition, needing immediate medical attention. They may not be able to call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance.
Yet, there is no end to the number of hit and run accidents on the roads of Georgia. If you happen to be its victim, one of your biggest worries is: how do I recover my damages? Your best choice is to bring your case before an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney. You will present the evidence you have to a seasoned professional and obtain a realistic overview of your chances of recovery.
Legal Obligations of Drivers Involved in Traffic Accidents in Georgia
First of all, every motor vehicle driver has a duty of care towards all the other people they share the road with:
- Other car drivers
If they are involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily injury and property damage, the Official Code of Georgia 40-6-270 stipulates that drivers must immediately stop at the crash scene. They must:
- Offer assistance to any injured person, including transporting the person to receive medical assistance, if necessary
- Make reasonable efforts to contact emergency medical services and the local law enforcement
- Remain at the scene of the accident until the law enforcement officers arrive to investigate the crash
- Upon request, provide their name, address, driver’s license and car registration number.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Accident
Fleeing the scene of an accident is a serious offence in Georgia and it is not treated lightly. First of all, the convicted driver will have their license suspended for minimum 4 months. If they had prior offenses on their record, they will receive a “hard suspension”, meaning that their license will be permanently revoked.
But this is only the beginning. Georgia law stipulates the following penalties for hit and run drivers:
- First offense – between $300 and $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail
- Second offense within 5 years – between $600 and $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail
- For a third and subsequent offenses – $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail.
How to Recover Damages from a Hit and Run Accident
An Atlanta car accident attorney knows that there are two legal options available to you:
- Recovering the damages from your own uninsured motorist coverage (UM) – if you have it
- Identifying the at-fault driver and filing a personal injury lawsuit against them.
Let us examine the two options in greater detail.
Recovering Damages from Your Own UM Insurance Coverage
Auto insurance companies in Georgia must offer their clients the option to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This type of optional coverage may appear as an unnecessary expense, but it can prove extremely valuable after a hit and run accident.
With the assistance of an Atlanta car accident attorney, you can file a claim successfully and recover your economic damages:
- Medical costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages.
Although you will be dealing with your own insurance company, you should not go ahead and file a claim without a lawyer. Just because you pay your premiums on time does not mean that they will be sympathetic and approve your claim immediately.
All insurers try to reduce the payout amount as much as possible for every single claim. In a hit and run accident, they don’t have the other driver’s version of the story, and there is little direct evidence available. Thus, your insurer may try to increase your proportion of fault as much as they can.
Recovering Damages from the At-Fault Driver
Once you report a hit and run accident, the police will start looking for the at-fault driver. The success of their investigations depends on how much you can tell them about the other car: make, model, color and (ideally) a part of the license plate number.
However, there are many challenges to be surmounted, such as:
- The driver may be from a different state
- They may be driving a stolen car
- They may attempt to DIY repair damages on their vehicle.
The Biggest Challenge in Pursuing a Hit and Run Driver
As we explained above, the penalties for a hit and run accident are severe. Thus, the driver who would risk them, most definitely has serious reasons to avoid facing a personal injury claim.
In the experience of an Atlanta car accident attorney, the most important reasons are:
- They are uninsured, because they don’t afford to purchase insurance
- They have already lost a prior car accident claim and they don’t want their insurance premiums to go up too much
- They are driving a borrowed or rental car.
In certain circumstances, your recovery options are limited. An uninsured driver does not own valuable assets. Thus, even if you win a personal injury lawsuit, the difficult part is collecting the awarded amount.
However, if the driver was behind the wheel of a borrowed car, it is possible to recover damages from the car owner’s insurance. If they allowed the negligent driver to use the vehicle, the law says that their insurer must pay for your damages.
An Experienced Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Will Increase Your Chances of Recovery
Being involved in a hit and run accident is an extremely complex event. However, the team of attorneys at Diaz & Gaeta may help you recover at least a part of your damages. The ideal situation is when you have uninsured motorist coverage. We will help you prepare and file your claim on time and negotiate with your insurer.
If the police identify the at-fault driver, we will evaluate the chances of recovering your damages from them. However, the most important thing is to take advantage of a free case review as soon as possible after the crash. Remember that time is running and any day of delay makes it harder to win your compensation: 678-329-9084!