Hit and run accidents are not uncommon. In some cases, a driver who strikes a pedestrian or bicyclist might not have been aware that an accident did happen, especially if the accident was at night or when visibility was limited due to rain or snow. But in most cases, the responsible motorist was aware of the accident and fled nonetheless. This may create problems for injured victims in terms of being compensated for their injuries and damages such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, among others.
Under state law, you are required to stop if involved in a car accident and to exchange license and registration, and insurance information pursuant to Section 24 of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws. If you damage property or the vehicle operator in the car you struck was not present in the vehicle at the time, then you must report the incident as soon as you are physically able to at the nearest police station.
There are many reasons why someone would flee an accident scene, especially if they think there were no witnesses to the accident. These include:
- Not possessing a valid driver’s license or driving on a suspended license
- Not possessing vehicle insurance
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Knowledge of an outstanding warrant against them
- Being an undocumented immigrant
- Fear of losing driver’s license if person drives for a living
- Carrying drugs or contraband in the vehicle
Panic is a strong motivator for persons who are otherwise law-abiding to leave the scene. But like many crimes, it is the coverup that becomes worse than the actual offense.
Retired Boston Arts Teacher Killed in Hit and Run
This past June, an 80-year old man crossing Commonwealth Avenue in Boston was struck by a 23-old man who fled the scene. Officers were able to track down the driver from witnesses who were able to get a vehicle description and matched it to partially identified license plates. According to police, the man gave vague statements about the incident that led police to release the man and not to charge him for lack of sufficient evidence.
A few hours later, however, the man was interviewed by a local news station and made several incriminating statements captured on camera that led police to arrest and charge the man with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. In the video clip, the defendant described seeing the man crossing in front of him and honking at him to alert him. After striking the man, the defendant admitted he failed to stop and fled. He commented that he was scared and did not know what could happen, and added that it was not intentional, adding, “People hit and run people all the time.”
Police also seized video “dash” cam footage that showed the defendant’s jeep accelerating at a high rate of speed, though the report did not indicate if this was before or after the victim was struck. This at least suggests that the defendant was aware that he had struck the man.
The defendant’s lack of remorse, and flippant reaction to the accident will not put him in good graces with the judge at the time of sentencing if he pleads to or is found guilty at trial. Under Massachusetts law, leaving the scene of a fatal accident is a felony offense and carries a mandatory minimum state prison sentence of 2.5 years and up to 10-years; or a mandatory minimum county jail or house of correction sentence of 1-year and up to 2.5 years. Offenders lose their driver’s license for 3-years for a first offense.
For vehicular homicide, offenders may be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. If a felony, defendants face 2-15 years in state prison and a 15-year license revocation. If a misdemeanor, it is 30-days to 1.5 years in county jail or prison and a 15-year license revocation.
Compensation for Victims
The family of the victim in the Boston hit and run accident described above has recourse against the driver for compensation, provided the man was insured. Under state law, the minimum liability coverages are only $20,000/$40,000, or no more than $20,000 for any one victim and a pool of $40,000 for multiple victims to share compensation with no one receiving more than $20,000. If the defendant possessed minimum coverage, the victim’s family could still recover more so long as the victim possessed his own liability coverage with underinsured coverage (UIM) or a household member had such coverage. However, the UIM must be higher than the defendant’s. If the defendant had $50,000 and the victim had UIM of $100,000, his family could recover the $50,000 from the defendant’s policy and another $50,000 from their UIM policy.
If the defendant could not be located, then the victim or family in a fatal accident would have to look to their own uninsured (UM) coverage if they possessed it since it is only optional. There are strict reporting requirements in hit and run cases as you or your car accident lawyers in Boston must notify your own insurer within 24-hours of its occurrence, or the insurer will have grounds to deny the claim.
Retain Tetzel Law
Hit and run accidents can take a toll on you, especially if the offending motorist cannot be located and you are unsure of insurance coverage. Call Tetzel Law, car accident lawyers in Boston, who routinely handle hit and run and other types of car accident injury claims, and who have obtained millions of dollars in compensation for their clients over the years, even in the most difficult of cases. Call us at (617) 933-3858 for a free consultation about your claim.