How are claims handled in hit-and-run cases?

The following article is provided by attorney Stephen Cobb

average jail time for California burglary offenseA hit and run, generally, is something defined as getting involved in an accident by car, that can be with a pedestrian, another car or any fixed object, and then parting from the scene without identifying yourself or providing help to someone who might be needy at the time.

Most states do not consider the fact that the accident was caused by a fault of yours. The act of leaving the scene is simply the crime that is considered. However, the scene can be left with the plan of coming back with assistance, for example going to a nearby phone booth to call 911. Most states do not consider it a crime if the individual comes back immediately to the accident scene after leaving.

It is not necessary for a hit and run to happen on a highway or public road under some state laws. Parking lot collisions are also considered as hit and run in many states. If you back into an unoccupied car parked in a parking lot and leave without a note that has your contact information on the windshield, some states also consider this as a hit and run. However, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in all 50 states.

Considering the circumstances, the crime can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Both of these are punishable by imprisonment in jail that may be a county jail or state prison accompanied with considerable fine. The problem arises with the nature of the hit and run. Sometimes, the driver escapes the scene in a period in which the victim is still stunned and was unable to recognize the model, make or color of the car. If the victim couldn’t communicate accurate information, the driver gets away very easily.

When the need arises to identify and locate a hit and run driver, the police should provide help. If the accident has not led to a serious injury or death, the police render the case as a low priority case. Low priority cases are assigned to either the traffic division or the CAPERS i.e. Crimes Against Persons. However, if the case is serious and the driver can also be identified, the police will start a criminal investigation and will contact and interview both the driver and the owner. This only happens if the police verify the driver and they arrest him, which occurs very rarely.

In most hit and run accidents, the victim is unable to identify the driver or owner of the car. If the victim knows the license plate number, it can help him locate the driver. In such cases, the victim himself or any other witness should be able to identify the person driving the car at the time of the accident. Without identification, the police do not arrest anyone. To make a conviction, the defendant’s guilt must be proven in a way that cannot be doubted. Otherwise, the defense attorney will claim that anyone could have driven the car.


In case the driver is not the actual owner of the car, the driver will be held accountable and not the owner. But if the driver and the owner both broke the law during the hit and run, both will be held accountable. Sometimes, in a criminal case, the driver does not have insurance. In such cases, the victim will be given compensation in two of the possible ways. Firstly, compensation can be granted from the prosecutor’s office by allowing access to victim’s compensation fund. Secondly, compensating the victim can be made part of the conditions of probation. The driver will have to pay the victim through installments. If any of the installments are delayed, the probation officer revokes the probation and the convicted will have to go through full sentence in jail.

If the victim suffers property damage and the driver is arrested, the district attorney’s office and the prosecutor assigned to the case should be contacted. Complete details about the victim’s compensation fund should be gathered.

In criminal cases, only the driver is held responsible whereas in civil cases, both the driver and the owner are considered liable.

Author Bio :

Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Cobb provides personalized representation for criminal defense cases in FL. Call for FREE Initial Consultation (850) 466-1522.

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