Being involved in a car accident can be a frightening and frustrating experience to undergo. That experience becomes more frustrating when the driver responsible drives off, in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own negligence. However, that does not mean that your case is over. A hit-and-run lawyer can work with you to find the responsible party, and hold them accountable for what they have done. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, get in touch with a skilled accident lawyer who can start working on your case. A Toledo hit-and-run accident can fight for a positive outcome for you.
Defining a Hit-and-Run
According to Ohio law, an individual involved in an accident has a duty to stop within a reasonable distance, communicate with the other driver, and call the police. The person must allow the police to do an investigation and cooperate with them by making statements about how the accident happened. In a hit-and-run accident, one of the drivers flees the scene. Many hit-and-run accidents happen late at night or early in the morning when there are not many other cars in the area, so it is easier for a vehicle to speed away rather fast.
These are difficult cases because there may be a situation where there is a witness or the other driver follows them resulting in a high-speed chase. Hopefully, the other driver has a license plate number or some independent corroborative evidence. There are Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases that focus on the definition of independent corroborative evidence. That is important in a hit-and-run case because sometimes a person cannot locate the other driver.
When the other driver cannot be located through a license plate or a witness, the person can make a claim under the uninsured or underinsured motorist portion of their insurance policy. The policy says that the person must have independent corroborative evidence. Recent case law indicates that does not necessarily mean the person must have an independent witness based on the medical records, or the statements of the people the car. That was recently interpreted as independent corroborative evidence so an individual can make an uninsured motorist claim. It is important to have an uninsured motorist coverage and it has gotten easier in the last few months.
The person may hit and run because they are driving under suspension, are drunk, are under the influence of drugs, or there is a felony warrant for them.
Sometimes when the hit and run driver is found, they claim they were not driving the vehicle. The issue becomes who was driving the vehicle. If the person did not report the vehicle stolen before the accident, there is the assumption that they are lying. If they report the car stolen two or three days later, there is a good chance they are not telling the truth.
One of the interesting things in a hit and run situation is case law in Ohio that an individual can sue for punitive damages to punish the reckless behavior of the person who left the scene of the accident. That can substantially increase the individual’s bargaining leverage and the value of the case.
Unique Aspects of Hit-and-Runs
One of the aspects of a hit-and-run accident case that differs from other types of car accidents is that people do not tell the truth in a hit-and-run accident. When someone is accused of a hit-and-run accident, they admit they were the driver of the vehicle. In cases where the defendant is unwilling to admit that they were the driver, they either admit they loaned the car to somebody, or they do not admit to anything.
When the case is filed, some hit-and-run drivers continue to lie. When the Toledo hit-and-run accident lawyer can show that their story makes little sense, that can substantially increase the value of the case. Juries award more money when they perceive the hit-and-run driver as a liar. The attorney can question the driver about drugs, alcohol, and their license being under suspension. Usually, they have additional bad qualities. The preferred case is one that has good evidence about the identity of the driver who left the scene of the accident. That puts the insurance company between a rock and a hard place, representing an unlikeable person.
With the assistance of a Toledo hit-and-run accident lawyer, a person can recover for economic and non-economic damages including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, future lost wages, future economic loss, and any damages for permanency.
Punitive damages are additional damages used to punish the offender in the case. Although the law is disputed in Ohio for punitive damages, the person can use the threat of punitive damages to motivate the insurance company to pay a premium to settle the case.
Insurance companies do not like risk. A drunk driver or a hit-and-run claim are situations that put the insurance company at risk of a much higher verdict than a typical auto accident where somebody just made a mistake. Insurance companies pay a premium to settle hit-and-run cases. They have much less jury appeal if the case goes to trial.
Gathering Evidence For Claims
After being injured in a hit and run accident, a person should contact the police as soon as possible and take pictures of the property damage. The person can canvass the area for any witnesses and preserve names and phone numbers of any witnesses. They can check to see what businesses are in the area that may have video from cameras that captured the events surrounding the hit and run accident.
The attorney can help preserve evidence using photos. They can also canvas the neighborhood, use private investigators to obtain witnesses and, help with uninsured motorist claims. Usually, the person’s own insurance company does not encourage them to make an uninsured motorist claim. The attorney can obtain a copy of the client’s uninsured motorist policy, make sure all the requirements are met, and the evidence is produced to preserve the uninsured motorist claims.
How an Attorney Can Help
For hit-and-run accident claims, an attorney can research databases to find the license plate number and identify the suspected driver. The attorney may have some connections with the investigating police department so they can encourage the detectives or police officers to find the correct driver.
Even when the other driver cannot be located, the same claim can be made under the uninsured motorist policy and is effective against the hit-and-run driver. The attorney can do the legwork to protect the client by finding the other driver and prosecuting them or by advancing the uninsured motorist claim.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, get in touch with a Toledo hit-and-run accident lawyer who can work diligently to hold the responsible parties accountable, and can help you pursue damages.