Can You Collect Damages From a Hit and Run?

Can you prove a hit-and-run? Though the answer should be no surprise, especially today, there are still drivers who think they can get away with leaving the scene of an accident. You need not worry about who will pay for the damages to your car when, even in a minor accident, you find a dent in the side of your vehicle that wasn’t there when you went into the grocery store. Finding the driver who did it, essentially, is a process, not a mystery. Drivers who leave the scene of an accident can easily access the local street, parking lot, store cameras, and other available video footage. Once police view the footage, it’s a matter of time until they find the hit-and-run driver and you collect damages from it. 

Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident is a Crime

In Maine, operators of vehicles involved in auto accidents are required by law to stop at the scene of the accident or return immediately to the scene if stopping is not possible. Additionally, regardless of who’s at fault, drivers have a duty to “render assistance” and “provide information” to any injured persons. Leaving the scene of an accident, a hit and run, can have serious consequences, especially if injuries or a fatality result from the accident.
Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime. Depending on an accident’s circumstances, drivers who leave the scene can be charged with a Class E, a Class D, or Class C crime.

  • Class E crimes apply to hitting a parked car and leaving the accident scene. It carries penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and a possibility of a jail sentence of up to 180 days. 
  • Class D crimes related to accidents that involve injuries or fatalities and carry penalties of up to 12 months in jail, a 90-day license suspension, and a $2,000 fine. 
  • If the accident results in injuries or fatalities and is caused by driving recklessly, intentionally or not, a Class C crime may apply. If an accident is caused due to the driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is a Class C crime, which carries up to 5 years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and 90 days suspended license. 

Can You Prove a Hit and Run?

No matter the type of accident, a hit-and-run charge is a serious offense. Even though Maine law requires every driver to carry a minimal amount of car insurance coverage, those who leave the scene of an accident may not have insurance, they may be operating an unregistered vehicle or, even worse, operating a vehicle while intoxicated. If you cause an accident and are under the influence and fleeing the scene, it’s more than likely that the court will increase your sentence. Whether at the accident scene or relocated, law enforcement will test anyone suspected of or who appears to be impaired by alcohol.

Those who are victims of hit-and-run drivers should, if possible, call the police immediately. Barring any injuries that require immediate medical attention, the sooner police and emergency personnel arrive at the scene, the better. Police must investigate the accident and file a report for you to file a claim to recover compensation for any medical expenses, lost wages, damages to your vehicle, and so on. Write down your account of what happened. Communicate the facts as you know them to the police. Do not speculate.

Additional steps to take after an accident include documenting it, taking pictures of the accident scene, and exchanging information with any witnesses. Never refuse medical attention, even if you feel “okay.” You should always seek medical attention after an accident. First, it can be used against you when filing a claim. Secondly, it is not uncommon for an adrenaline rush to mask any injury you may have sustained. The full effects of the injury may not surface until hours later. The police officer on the scene will provide you with a police report number for your insurance company when filing a claim. Police then will conduct an investigation and, sooner than later, find the hit-and-run driver.

Whether a lack of coverage from the hit-and-run driver or difficulty collecting from your insurance company, you have several legal rights and options to pursue after a car accident. If you are experiencing any difficulty collecting the compensation due you for damages from a hit-and-run accident, contact Hardy Wolf & Downing’s car accident attorneys. With nearly 40 years of experience, we’ll work to make sure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.