What to Do if a Driver Leaves the Scene of an Accident with No Witnesses?

Lever & Ecker, PLLC August 11, 2021 Car Accidents

While most people do the right thing and remain at the scene after they have been involved in an auto accident, some drivers unfortunately flee the scene, commonly referred to as a “hit-and-run.” Leaving the scene of an accident is against the law in New York, and push what might otherwise be a simple traffic ticket up to a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the severity of the accident.

Sometimes witnesses can identify the hit-and-run driver. However, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at Lever & Ecker, PLLC, and their investigators, can often track down a hit-and-run driver, through investigation of the clues left behind, or obtain compensation for you through an Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) claim.

How New York Law Determines Criminal Charges and Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Under New York law, a driver involved in an accident resulting in injury to persons or property MUST stop their vehicle and exchange their name, address, driver’s license number, insurance company information, and car registration information with either the other driver or a law enforcement officer. If a driver is injured or otherwise not in a condition to receive or provide identifying information, the uninjured driver must report the crash immediately to the nearest police authority.

The criminal charges and penalties for leaving the scene of an accident will depend on the harm or damage caused by the crash. In New York, a hit-and-run driver can be fined up to $250 for property damage. If injuries occurred, the fine could increase to $5,000. Additionally, they may lose their driver’s license for one year and could serve time in jail. 

Charges for a driver leaving the scene of an accident where:

  • A fatality occurred can be charged with a Class D Felony,
  • Serious injuries were involved can be charged with a Class E Felony
  • Only property damage occurred can be charged with a traffic violation   

What to Do, and What Not to Do, After a Hit-and-Run Accident

DO get as much information about the vehicle driver, the vehicle, and accident as possible, including:

  • The vehicle’s license plate number
  • The vehicle’s make, model, and color
  • Description of damage to the other vehicle
  • Photos of the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle
  • The location, time, and circumstances of the accident
  • The location of any cameras, such as street cameras or cameras on buildings, that might have captured the collision and/or the fleeing vehicle

DO ask witnesses if they can provide additional information about the accident, and obtain their names and contact information.

DON’T follow the driver fleeing the scene. There is an obvious risk of danger from the potential confrontation with the fleeing driver, and it is far better to remain at the accident scene and await the arrival of the police and other emergency responders.

DON’T wait to call the local police or your insurance company.   File a police report or an accident claim as soon as possible. You are required by law to report hit-and-run accident to the police within 24 hours of the occurrence, or as soon as reasonably possible after the accident. 

Insurance May Help with Damages and Medical Costs in a New York Hit-and-Run Accident.

New York is a no-fault insurance state. This means that, in most instances, insured parties are reimbursed by their insurance company for damages, including:

  • Reasonable and necessary medical costs, usually up to a maximum of $50,000 (unless the insured purchased additional benefits);
  • 80% of lost wages, up to a maximum of $2,000 per month, for a maximum period of three years from the date of the accident; 
  • Costs other than medical expenses and lost wages (for example, housekeeping), up to $25 per day for a period of one year from the date of the accident causing injury.

Those intended to receive No-Fault benefits include the owner, who is named as the insured on the insurance policy; all passengers of the vehicle involved in the accident; and members of the insured owner’s household, if such member was injured as a pedestrian. An insured party involved in a motor vehicle accident has 30 days from the date of the accident to file an application for No-Fault benefits.

Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance covers a policyholder’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering after an accident in instances where the at-fault driver leaves the scene of an accident and cannot be identified. Additionally, UM claims cover accidents where the at-fault vehicle is not registered, stolen, or driven without the owner’s permission; and where the at-fault driver does not have insurance. 

Uninsured motorist coverage is required in New York. Drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person (up to $50,000 per accident), plus $25,000 in underinsured motorist (“UIM”) bodily injury coverage per person (up to $50,000 per accident). If you or any passenger in your vehicle is injured by the driver of an uninsured vehicle or a hit-and-run motorist, an uninsured motorist claim should generally be filed with your insurance company. In addition, an uninsured motorist claim can be filed if you are injured as a pedestrian by an uninsured or hit-and-run motorist. 

It is important to note that you can always purchase additional UM/UIM coverage on your auto policy to ensure a minimum level of financial coverage for you and your family in the event of a tragic accident with an uninsured driver. Given the vital protection UM/UIM coverage affords to you and your family, it is well worth the incremental increase in annual premium. 

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you cannot locate or identify the driver, let the experienced attorneys at Lever & Ecker, PLLC, launch an investigation to attempt to find the at-fault driver, so you can recover compensation for your injuries. They and their investigators will investigate and examine all available details of the car accident, the police report, video footage, photographs, witness statements, and any other evidence.

Car accident law is complex and dealing with insurance companies can be challenging. In hit-and-run accidents that result in severe injuries, a thorough investigation and litigation may be the only way to receive total compensation for your injuries. However, even if the at-fault driver can never be located, you still may be entitled to compensation through your uninsured motorist coverage. Lever & Ecker has over sixty years of combined legal experience helping victims of car crashes recover damages.  Contact us today or call us at (914) 350-6328 or (718) 933-3632.