Hit-and-run accidents are motivated by many selfish reasons: The responsible driver may not have insurance, they may have outstanding bench warrants, or, they may have driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Regardless of the motives behind the “run,” victims are left to deal with the pain and trauma of the collision on their own.
A hit-and-run accident can prove one of the most traumatic road experiences. If the police don’t catch the hit-and-run culprit, you could be left dealing with the aftermath (including the pain and suffering of injury and vehicle repair) on your own.
It’s tough to know what steps to take to seek compensation. If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, do you need an attorney to file your legal claim? We’ll break down the statistics of hit-and-run accidents in Indiana, why you should file a claim, and why you need an attorney to help you with the process.
Statistics on hit-and-runs in Indiana
In Indiana, hit-and-run car accidents are more common than you might think. These collisions often involve pedestrian victims in urban areas along with other drivers. According to the Indiana Crash Fact Book, the following statistics were true of hit-and-run accidents in 2020:
- There were 24, 982 hit-and-runs in Indiana
- Hit-and-run accidents accounted for 14% of all Indiana collisions
- Urban counties had the highest rate of hit-and-run accidents
- The percentage of hit-and-runs in urban counties: Allen County – 23.2%, St. Joseph – 23.0%, Marion County 20.7%, Vigo County – 20.1%, and Lake County – 19.6%
- The lowest number of hit-and-runs in Indiana occurred during March and April
Indiana laws on hit-and-run accidents
In Indiana, if a driver responsible for a hit-and-run accident flees the scene, they could face misdemeanor or even felony criminal charges. Indiana state law IC § 9-26-1-1.1 states that drivers involved in hit-and-runs have ten days to report their accident and still may face criminal charges. Misdemeanor charges after a hit-and-run accident can include:
- Class A if minor injuries are suffered as a result of the accident. A Class A misdemeanor could result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
- Class B if the accident did not result in injury. A Class B misdemeanor could equal a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days (6 months) in jail.
Felony charges could occur based on the severity of a hit-and-run accident. These charges could include:
- Level 3 if the responsible driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if the accident results in death or severe injury. A Level 3 felony conviction may end in 3 to 16 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Level 4 if a permanent injury or death occurs as a result of the hit-and-run. A Level 4 felony conviction could mean 2 to 12 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Level 6 if the fleeing driver has a criminal record or moderate to severe injury is incurred in the accident. A Level 6 felony conviction will result in 1 to 6 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Remember, in Indiana, there is a statute of limitations on filing personal injury legal claims after you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident. According to Indiana state law IC § 34-11-2-4 , you have two years to file a personal injury claim. Therefore, it’s important to file your claim as soon after your hit-and-run accident as possible.
Will your insurance cover your claim?
Most insured drivers have limited coverage for accidents involving underinsured or uninsured motorists. Thus, you may receive partial payment even if the hit-and-run driver in your accident is never caught. However, your insurance company may not provide coverage for your pain and suffering after your hit-and-run accident beyond your basic medical bills or vehicle repairs.
Compensatory and punitive damages after a hit-and-run accident
If you’ve suffered after a hit-and-run accident, you may find yourself entitled to the following:
- Present and future medical expenses as a result of your hit-and-run
- Loss of income or earning potential
- Loss of employment
- Loss of quality of life (if you’re no longer able to enjoy life as you did before your accident)
- Injury from minor (hematomas, sprains, fractures) to severe (disfigurement, paralysis, loss of limb, traumatic brain injury)
- Emotional injury or trauma (sudden onset of anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorder)
A hit-and-run accident may be classified as a blatant and grievous crime that deserves payment as punishment rather than as compensation owed. If your claim goes to civil trial and a judge or jury deems the plaintiff should pay punitive damages, these may be awarded to you along with your compensatory claim.
Why it’s vital to file a claim after a hit-and-run accident
After your hit-and-run accident, you shouldn’t be left footing the bill for any expenses you may have incurred in its aftermath. You deserve justice and compensation for your pain and suffering. It’s important to file a claim to begin the legal path toward compensation, but you shouldn’t have to navigate this journey alone.
Although you can file a hit-and-run claim without an attorney, you may not receive the compensation and punitive settlements you deserve. Suppose you don’t retain an attorney to file your hit-and-run accident claim and your claim goes to court. In that case, you may find difficulty in finding experts and eyewitnesses willing to testify on your behalf, gathering forensic evidence, obtaining all necessary discovery evidence, and fighting your case against a seasoned attorney. You may need an expert in your corner.
Why you should file a hit-and-run claim through an attorney
After you’ve suffered in a hit-and-run accident, taking on the mountains of paperwork and evidence gathering of a legal claim may be the furthest thing from your mind. Even if you don’t want to pursue compensation through the courts, you may find insurance companies reluctant to pay you what you deserve. An empathetic, seasoned attorney can help you file your claim and allow you to focus on the healing process.
After a hit-and-run accident, the right attorney can help you:
- Collect forensic evidence
- Communicate with insurance companies
- Retain expert witnesses
- File your legal claim with the courts
- Handle all mediations
- Explore the merits of your case
At Yosha Law, we are passionate about our clients and consider them part of our family. We will help with your personal injury claim and fight for what you’re owed.