Hitting another vehicle and taking off without exchanging information with the other driver is irresponsible in any situation, especially when people are hurt. Personal injury laws that apply in Houston, TX state that an at-fault driver is liable for any injuries he or she causes. If you were hurt from a hit-and-run, you may be wondering how to collect compensation without access to the other driver’s insurance policy. Here, you will learn how to respond to this type of accident.
What Happens If You Sustain a Personal Injury From a Hit-and-Run?
When a hit-and-run occurs, your immediate response should be the same as it would be for any car accident. You should check yourself and others for injuries, contact the police, and notify your insurance company.
The next step is to pursue reimbursement for your losses according to the terms of your own insurance policy. A personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX can be a good source of information on how to maximize your chances of being compensated for medical expenses and property damage.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
A hit-and-run is a type of accident involving a driver who flees the scene of the crash in order to avoid liability for the accident. Often, hit-and-runs are committed by uninsured or underinsured individuals who know that they would need to pay for the accident out-of-pocket if they were caught. In Texas, this kind of action can be considered either a felony or a misdemeanor. Texas laws specifies that after a crash, a driver must stop to:
- Provide aid to any injured individuals
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver
- Notify the police by the fastest means possible
Even if the at-fault driver hits an unattended vehicle, hit-and-run laws still apply. In that case, he or she must leave a note with valid contact information.
Possible Levels of Conviction for a Hit-and-Run
If the driver who was at fault in a hit-and-run caused a fatality, the hit-and-run would be considered a second-degree felony. In the case of serious injuries but no fatality, a third-degree felony would apply. For accidents involving less serious injuries, the at-fault party could be charged with a county jail felony. Each of these levels of conviction carries the possibility of the accused being subjected to prison time and heavy fines.
If the hit-and-run resulted in property damage but no injuries or fatalities, the crime would be considered a misdemeanor. Hit-and-run accidents causing damage valued at or over $200 are Class B misdemeanors, while any amount of property damage under $200 qualifies the hit-and-run as a Class C misdemeanor.
Responding to a Hit-and-Run
Even though hit-and-runs are illegal in Texas, the Lone Star State still has some of the highest rates for these types of accidents in the country. The first priority after a hit-and-run is taking care of your safety and the needs of your passengers.
You should never attempt to chase after the car that hit you. Speeding after the other driver is illegal and could increase the severity of the damages you suffered. While it might not be possible for the police to catch the driver who hit you, taking these steps can potentially mitigate some of the losses and increase the chances of finding the culprit:
Get Your Car to a Safe Place and Check for Injuries
If you were hit in the middle of the road, pull over to the side. Once you are in a safe place, check yourself and anyone else who was involved in the accident for injuries. It is always best to go to the hospital after a car accident, even if you do not feel hurt. Some injuries can take time for a person without medical training to notice.
Contact the Authorities
Calling the police and getting an official accident report on record as soon as possible can facilitate the investigation. When the police arrive, ask for the names of the responding officers and the number of the police report. This information can be valuable when you file a claim with your insurance company.
Write Down Everything You Remember
While your memory of the accident is still fresh, write down everything you can recall regarding the accident. If you had a chance to see the other driver’s license plate number, be sure to make a careful note of it. Otherwise, try to remember the made, model, and color of his or her car. In your notes, include details about where the accident occurred, what the weather conditions were like, and what events led up to the crash.
Pursuing Compensation After a Hit-and-Run
Unless the authorities can track down the at-fault driver, you will need to rely on your own insurance policies to compensate you for your medical bills and property damage. The policies that you might be able to invoke include:
Uninsured/Underinsured Driver’s Insurance
This type of insurance is designed to offer compensation for the policyholder’s damages when the at-fault driver does not have enough coverage to pay for the accident-related expenses. Uninsured/underinsured driver’s insurance can be used after a hit-and-run because, unless the at-fault driver is found, no information pertaining to his or her policy will be available.
Even if the authorities catch the person who hit you, he or she may not have auto insurance. While it is possible to hold an uninsured driver responsible for paying for the damages out-of-pocket, he or she might not be able to afford the expenses. Getting a person to pay for an accident when they simply have no money is often impossible. In that case, your lawyer may advise you to rely on uninsured driver insurance.
Collision coverage can be used to pay for property damage to your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who was at fault. Often, drivers use their collision coverage after they have been involved in single-car accidents. For example, you could use collision coverage if an animal jumps into the road, causing you to swerve and hit a stop sign.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
PIP covers the policy holder’s medical expenses after a car crash and can be used whether the policyholder or the other driver was at fault. Unlike health insurance providers, PIP providers cannot seek reimbursement from an accident settlement provided by the other driver’s insurance company. However, in the case of a hit-and-run, you would only receive a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company in the event that the culprit was found.
For most people, PIP is the first line of defense against the financial fallout caused by a hit-and-run. There is a good chance that your policy includes PIP because Texas requires providers to include it unless the policyholder opts out.
Getting Legal Support in Houston, TX
Car accidents can result in a mess of liability issues, medical expenses, and legal jargon. Our lawyers have a track record of getting justice served for countless individuals who have been injured in car accidents. Regardless of whether or not you know who hit you, we can help you leverage the legal system and the terms of your insurance policies to get the compensation you deserve. To get in touch with us, contact Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC.