Accidents are upsetting. With most accidents, the injured person gains some comfort from knowing that they can pursue legal action against the other driver and his insurance company. But in a hit-and-run accident, once the other driver leaves the scene, getting compensation for injuries becomes more difficult.
Hit-and-run crashes are serious events. In Alabama, they account for many injuries and deaths each year. This guide to hit-and-run accidents in Alabama will outline the facts about these accidents and explain what to do after a hit-and-run accident.
Hit-and-Run Accidents: By the Numbers
Hit-and-run accidents cause thousands of deaths and injuries each year. According to a 2018 report by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the number of hit-and-run crashes has increased nearly eight percent each year since 2009. In 2016, hit-and-run drivers caused 2,049 fatalities. Of these, 1,229 killed pedestrians.
The numbers for hit-and-run accidents in Alabama contain both good and bad news. On the positive side, AAA found that Alabama had 17 hit-and-run fatalities in 2016 – a number half that of the previous year. Sadly, that number was still high enough to make Alabama the sixteenth most deadly state on the AAA list.
Factors in Hit-and-Run Accidents
Though hit-and-run crashes can happen at any time, some factors seem to make them more likely.
According to AAA, hit and runs are four times more likely to occur at night. (This is likely because in the daytime, it is more difficult for drivers to leave without being seen.) Similarly, drivers are more likely to leave the scene on remote roads as compared to busy streets.
However, there are some contradictory findings. While busy roads usually see fewer hit and runs, AAA found that hit-and-runs happen more often in urban areas. (This could be because cities contain more pedestrians and pedestrians are most likely to be involved in hit-and-run accidents.) Also, ironically, hit and runs are more common on roads with lower speed limits.
As for the reasons why drivers flee, while there is no one answer. However, fear plays a major role. For example, drivers who are drunk and fear punishment are more likely to flee than those who are sober. But any driver can decide to leave the scene at any time if they believe they can do so without being seen.
Alabama Law on Hit-and-Run Accidents
In Alabama, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. Alabama law states any driver involved in an accident that causes injury, death, or property damage “shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident.” The law also requires drivers to exchange details including their name, address, vehicle registration, and driver’s license information. (The same rules apply to unoccupied vehicles, though the law allows drivers to leave a note.)
Drivers who fail to stay at the scene face severe penalties in Alabama. Alabama law treats a hit and run that only causes property damage as a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment is up to one year of imprisonment and up to $6,000 in fines.
However, Alabama law punishes hit-and-run accidents that harm humans much more harshly. In Alabama, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident that has caused death or injury commits a Class C felony. The sentence for a Class C felony can be anywhere from 366 days to 10 years. The law also allows the court to impose up to $15,000 in fines.
Seeking Damages After a Hit-And-Run Accident
While it’s comforting to know that hit-and-run drivers will face criminal consequences, most people want to know, “Can I get damages after a hit-and-run accident?” The good news is that damages are possible. There are two potential paths for recovery.
First, if you find the hit-and-run driver, you can file a lawsuit. Sometimes, the police can identify the fleeing driver by interviewing witnesses, using surveillance camera footage, or asking the public to provide information. An attorney may be able to use a private investigator to find additional information.
Second, even if you don’t know who hit you, you may still be able to recover damages after a hit and run. However, this option will only be available to you based on your insurance coverage.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, collision insurance, and comprehensive coverage can all help you financially after a hit and run. However, if you opt-out of uninsured motorist coverage, your options will be more limited. Worse, if you own these policies but have low levels of coverage, your insurance company may refuse to pay. An experienced attorney can help you work with the insurance companies to get compensation.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Generally, the list of things to do after a hit-and-run accident is the same as the list of things to do after any car accident. You should:
- Move your vehicle to a safe location.
- Check for injuries.
- Call 911.
- Refrain from discussing fault.
- Avoid giving statements to the insurance company without legal counsel.
However, in a hit and run, you should add a few more things to the standard list.
- Make a Record. Write down as much as you remember about the other vehicle (make, model, color) and its driver as soon as you are able. You should also write down details of the accident, such as which direction the other vehicle went after the accident.
- Take Pictures. Taking pictures of the scene and of the damage to your car can help. For instance, if your car was rear-ended, the police will know to look for a car with damage to its front.
- Talk to Witnesses. Talking to witnesses will be crucial as this may be the only way to identify the offending driver.
- Get Video Footage. As soon as you are able, ask nearby homes or businesses for security camera footage that might identify the other car.
There is also one important thing you should not do. Do not try to follow the other driver. Going on a chase will likely cause you to drive recklessly and increase your risk of getting into yet another accident.
More Questions About Hit-and-Run Accidents in Alabama?
Hopefully, this article has helped you learn a bit more about the rules that apply to hit-and-run accidents in Alabama. If you’ve been injured by a hit-and-run driver in Birmingham or elsewhere in Alabama, contact Collins Law, LLC today. Our clients consistently give us high marks for our professionalism and responsiveness. Call (205) 881-0403 or click here today to schedule a free consultation.