Sadly, it is not uncommon to see news reports of hit-and-run incidents in Utah. The latest figures published by the Utah Department of Public Safety noted that in 2018, 13 percent of pedestrian accidents and 6.7 percent of bicycle accidents were caused by hit-and-run drivers. Although there are no published figures for other types of hit-and-run accidents in Utah, the AAA reports that one such incident occurs somewhere in the country every 43 seconds.
Hit-and-run accidents are doubly frustrating, leaving you in pain and reeling from the injustice of being abandoned by the other driver. Although finding the at-fault party can be challenging, you have every right to pursue compensation if you have been injured and suffered losses.
Siegfried & Jensen, car accident attorneys, have been successfully fighting for our clients’ rights for over 30 years. We are keen to hear your story and explain your legal options. Call us today at (801) 845-9000 for a completely free case evaluation, or reach out online, and we will be in touch soon.
Defining a Hit-and-Run Accident
In a hit-and-run accident, a driver leaves the scene of the accident without doing the following:
- Checking on the welfare of other parties (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.)
- Providing contact information
- Exchanging insurance details
Utah Law on Hit-and-Run Accidents
Laws vary from state to state, but it is often a crime to leave the scene of an accident without waiting for the police to arrive, especially if there are injuries or fatalities.
If you leave an accident, under Utah law, it is classified as follows:
- Leaving an accident involving property damage – Class B misdemeanor
- Leaving an accident involving injury – Class A misdemeanor
- Leaving an accident involving serious injury or death – Third-degree felony
The Impact of Hit-and-Run Crashes
The AAA also reported that pedestrians are killed more often than other road users in hit-and-run cases, with around 20 percent of pedestrian deaths involving hit-and-runs. If you have lost a loved one in a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
Clearly, no one should leave the scene of an accident without authorization from the police. So why do some people choose to flee?
Why Hit-and-Run Accidents Happen
Some common reasons for leaving the scene of an accident include:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Thinking the accident is not serious
- Lacking insurance coverage
- Fearing arrest
Drivers with other pending legal problems, such as outstanding arrest warrants, suspended prison sentences, or immigration issues, may fear the ramifications of being involved in a car accident.
The Effect of Hit-and-Run Car Crashes
In the most serious cases, hit-and-run accidents can result in death, disability, or other life-changing conditions. You may be left with out-of-pocket expenses for:
- Medical bills
- Lost earnings
- Funeral costs
- Ongoing care expenses
Additionally, you may find yourself suffering in other ways. Life-changing injuries may mean that you no longer enjoy family life to the full. You may not be able to do the things you once enjoyed, which may change the dynamics of your closest relationships.
Unfortunately, securing compensation for the full impact of your injuries may not be possible unless the runaway driver is identified. This is because if you claim compensation only from your own insurance, it will not pay out for pain and suffering. However, if you hire legal counsel with experience in hit-and-run cases, you may be able to receive damages to help you recover from the financial impact of the crash.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Pursuing compensation in hit-and-run cases is rarely straightforward, and you will benefit from the expertise and experience of a car accident attorney. He or she may be able to identify the challenges and opportunities for seeking justice.
If the driver is identified
If the police track down the hit-and-run driver, the case can proceed as normal. So if you hire a car accident lawyer to represent you, he or she will work with a legal team to gather evidence and build a strong case for compensation. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may also be able to sue for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Remember, though, that many hit-and-run drivers do not have insurance. This may only leave you with the option of filing a lawsuit against the individual, who may not have the financial resources to pay compensation. In this scenario, talk to an experienced auto accident attorney about whether it is advisable to file a lawsuit or not.
If the driver can’t be identified or can’t pay
Unfortunately for Utah motorists, many hit-and-run drivers are never identified. To help track down the liable driver, the best thing you can do after the accident is to note down the license plate of the vehicle. The police rely on this information, as a description of the vehicle and even security camera footage are rarely enough to make an identification.
If the police can’t identify the driver or he or she is unable to pay, you will need to explore other routes for compensation. Although a hit-and-run incident is a crime, you cannot seek reparations from the Utah Office for Victims of Crime. However, a Utah car accident attorney may be aware of other financial assistance programs.
Looking to their own insurance provider is the best course of action for most people.
Claiming on your own insurance
In Utah, the following three types of insurance are required by law:
- Bodily injury liability
- Property damage liability
- Personal injury protection
If these are the only types of coverage you have, you can only claim on your personal injury protection (PIP) policy. This type of no-fault insurance pays out no matter who caused the accident. You can use it to cover your medical expenses up to the coverage limit.
If your expenses are greater than your policy will cover, you may be able to file a claim on your health insurance. For example, you could use your PIP insurance to cover the cost of copays and deductibles.
Utah motorists can also take out additional insurance that may pay out in the event of a hit-and-run accident.
Additional sources of compensation
There are many forms of additional cover available in Utah, but the following three options could come to your aid in a hit-and-run situation:
- Medical payments: This provides additional cover for your medical expenses
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury: Hit-and-run drivers will be treated as uninsured motorists, allowing you to access compensation for your injuries from this policy
- Uninsured motorist property damage: This covers damage to your property, including your vehicle, in a hit-and-run crash
Navigating all these potential sources of compensation can be confusing. Additionally, it can be stressful dealing with insurance companies, even if the adjusters claim to be on your side. An experienced Utah car accident lawyer, though, can handle all negotiations on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Siegfried & Jensen Car Accident Lawyers Want to Hear Your Story
Every hit-and-run car wreck is unique, so there’s no need to automatically assume that you don’t have a case. The tenacious yet compassionate car accident attorneys at Siegfried & Jensen have experience in helping hit-and-run accident victims pursue justice and secure fair compensation.
Our auto accident attorneys will listen carefully to your story and weigh your legal options. We can advise you on whether your case is likely to succeed and the potential challenges you will face. Finally, when we agree to take on your case, we will fight with everything we have to secure the compensation you deserve.
Don’t delay in seeking justice! Call us today at (801) 845-9000 for a free case evaluation, or fill out our online contact form, and we will set up a consultation soon.