Under Tennessee law, drivers who are involved in car accidents are required to stop at the accident scene or nearby, and not leave the scene of the accident. Drivers are required to stop even when no one is injured in the accident, and there is only property damage to the vehicles. Drivers who are involved in a car accident also have a duty to stop and offer reasonable assistance to injured drivers.
In some situations, a driver is allowed to leave the scene of an accident, but only after leaving his contact information at the scene. If a driver hits an unattended car, he is allowed to leave the scene only after leaving a note in a conspicuous spot on the unattended car with the driver’s name, address, insurance information, and a summary of how the accident happened.
Hit and run drivers can face criminal charges and a fine for leaving the scene of a car accident. In addition the other drivers and passengers involved in the accident can file civil claims against the driver.
Seeking Compensation from a Hit and Run Driver
In some cases hit and run drivers leave the scene of an accident because they do not have a driver’s license or insurance. Sometimes the driver may have left the scene because of fear of being charged with a crime; for example, because he is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Whatever the reason for the driver leaving the scene, it does not absolve the driver of responsibility for the injuries and damages caused in the accident. Tennessee follows a system where an at-fault driver is generally required to pay for the damages and injuries caused in an accident. All drivers owe a duty to drive safely, and when they breach this duty, and cause injuries to others, then the drivers are held liable are required to financially compensate the injured parties for their injuries.
Hit and run drivers may not be able to be located immediately, but in some cases, the police investigating the car accident may be able to track down the driver. The police can take steps such as interviewing any available witnesses and reviewing any available video of the accident to try and identify the hit and run driver.
Some drivers may turn themselves in to the police and report themselves for leaving the scene of the accident. If the driver can be tracked down, the injured party can file a lawsuit against the driver, or seek compensation from the driver’s insurance company. In filing a claim against the driver, the injured person can file a claim for compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings if cases of permanent disability, and for pain and suffering.
If it can be proved that the hit and run driver fled because he caused the accident by acting recklessly, the injured driver may be able to get punitive damages awarded. These are damages that are meant to punish a person and deter others from acting in a similar manner. Punitive damages may be sought if the hit and run driver was drunk at the time of the accident. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to the other compensation that the injured person receives.
If a hit and run driver is not found by the police and does not turn himself in, the other driver involved in the accident may have to file a claim with his own insurance company. In some cases, the driver may have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage which can help cover the cost of the repairs and medical expenses related to the accident. Tennessee insurance companies are required to offer uninsured motorist coverage to drivers, who can choose to accept it, or decline coverage. While it may increase the monthly car insurance premiums, it is well worth the price for the peace of mind it provides, especially when you get involved in a car accident with a hit and run driver.
Steps To Take After A Car Accident
When you are involved in a car accident, you should always stop as close as possible to the car accident and get out of your car if you are able to and it is safe to do so. Check on the other driver or pedestrian involved in the accident, and if anyone is seriously injured, call for emergency medical assistance. If no one is seriously injured, you should call the police and prepare to wait for an officer to come and write a report on the accident. While you are waiting for the police to arrive, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver, and take as many pictures of the damage to both cars.
Rendering Reasonable Assistance
Remember that even though you have a duty to render aid in the event of a car accident in which you are involved, you only have a duty to render reasonable aid. If you act recklessly or unreasonably in trying to help an accident victim, you could be held liable for any additional injury your actions cause. For example, if you attempt to set someone’s broken bones, or puncture his chest in order to help him breathe, when you have no medical training to guide you, you could be opening yourself up to liability. What is considered reasonable assistance depends on the circumstances of the accident and the level of assistance the injured person needs.
Contact an Experienced Hit and Run Accident Attorney
Filing a claim for compensation for an accident involving a hit and run driver can be difficult but not necessarily impossible. If you are injured in a car accident, or are asking yourself “what should I do if I’m involved in a hit and run accident?”, it is important to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer before speaking to the insurance company about a settlement, even your own insurance company . For more information on how to seek compensation following a car accident, contact the Law Offices of David E. Gordon to speak to an experienced Memphis, Tennessee, car accident lawyer. David Gordon is a highly reviewed personal injury lawyer, who is one of fewer than 2% of Tennessee lawyers that are Board Certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court.