Statistics vary among different jurisdiction, but around 50 percent of hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. For the reasons outlined below, the proportion may be a little higher in McLeod County civil courts.
Many hit-and-run drivers are either uninsured or underinsured. Others have outstanding warrants or no valid drivers’ license. Still others know they are at fault. They run because they are worried about the consequences of their action. The bottom line is that these individuals are scared of something. However, that’s certainly no excuse for fleeing the scene of a collision.
These claims present complex issues for Hutchinson lawyers. Starting at pretty much square one, attorneys must build successful claims. Much more often than not, the results are quite impressive.
What Causes Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Some form of human error causes about 95 percent of car crashes. Things like defective products and dangerously-designed roadways cause a few crashes here and there. But the vast majority are related to one of the four kinds of driving impairment as identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Alcohol: A few drinks makes most people great fun at parties. But alcohol is a depressant which slows reaction time. It’s also a mood-altering substance which impairs judgement. This combination makes it very, very dangerous to drink and drive.
- Drugs: This category includes “street drugs” like heroin, legal prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and even some over-the-counter medicines like Unisom. It could also include caffeine and some other drugs commonly found in food and beverages. The jury is still out as to the relationship between marijuana and driving impairment.
- Distraction: Hand-held cell phones combine all three types of distracted driving. These users take their eyes off the road, take their minds off driving, and take a hand off the wheel. Hands-free cell phones are not much safer. They involve two types of distraction while giving drivers a false sense of security.
- Medical Condition: Millions of Americans suffer from conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy. These individuals may lose consciousness at any moment, often with little or no warning.
Fatigue causes many car crashes as well. Alcohol and drowsiness affect the brain in about the same way. Driving after eighteen straight awake hours is like driving with a .08 BAC.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor
In many hit-and-runs, there is little evidence at the scene which points to the tortfeasor (negligent driver). Typically, first responders do not investigate these cases very carefully. They are more concerned with securing the scene and taking care of injured victims. So, it’s often up to Hutchinson lawyers to run down evidence like:
- Surveillance Video: A witness may have only a vague description of the offending vehicle. But a nearby security or other camera might have recorded the license plate number or some other identifying information.
- Additional Witness Statements: Hutchinson lawyers can often convince reluctant witnesses to come forward and share what they know. This exercise must take place quickly, because memories fade very quickly.
- Physical Evidence: At the other end of the scale, collecting physical evidence takes time. Hutchinson attorneys often partner with private investigators. These individuals may stake out the area to see if the tortfeasor returns or check out nearby body shops for damaged vehicles.
In criminal court, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, there must be a witness or other evidence that puts the driver behind the wheel at or near the time of the crash.
But in civil court, Hutchinson lawyers need only establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). In practical terms, that usually means attorneys need only identify the vehicles. If they do that, it is more likely than not that the owner was also the driver.
Hutchinson Lawyers and Unknown Tortfeasor Cases
Some people believe that if there is no tortfeasor, the victim has no way to obtain compensation. But that’s normally not true.
Many victims in these situations may file claims against their own insurance companies. Hutchinson lawyers are available to serve as advocates in these cases. If the two parties cannot agree on a settlement, these cases often go to arbitration instead of trial.
In both litigation and arbitration cases, this settlement often occurs during mediation. A neutral party, who is usually another Hutchinson lawyer, conveys offers and counteroffers between the two sides. This form of mediation is at least partially successful in roughly three out of four cases.
The damages in a hit-and-run case usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. If the tortfeasor is identified, many McLeod County jurors are inclined to award additional punitive damages. Most jurors do not like hit-and-run drivers, so they often want to punish these tortfeasors.
Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones
Hit-and-run victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.