Hit and run accidents are more common than many assume. In Chicago, these incidents have been on the rise – with more than 500 people injured in a hit and run over the past year. These accidents come in many different forms, and victims may be faced with serious injuries or death.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit and run accident, you aren’t out of luck – contrary to how it might seem. Even if you don’t know who the at-fault party is, there is a good chance you can still recoup damages from the incident.
In this post, we want to explain what hit and run accidents are – and what to do if you’ve been involved in one. Let’s dive in.
What is a Hit and Run?
Hit and run accidents occur when the at-fault party (usually a driver) gets in a collision, then promptly flees the scene before authorities arrive.
These accidents can be caused by many different factors. Some of the most common ones are distracted driving, reckless driving, speeding, driving under the influence, and more. In Illinois, those who do a hit and run may be charged with a felony.
While the at-fault parties in most hit-and-run accidents are motorists, the victims tend to range quite a bit. Victims generally include:
The at-fault party will likely leave the scene without contacting authorities. This puts the victim in even more danger – as they may not be able to get the medical attention they need.
Why Do People Leave the Scene of Accidents?
People leave scenes of accidents for many reasons. If the accident was caused by negligence, the at-fault party may believe they can escape repercussions by leaving the scene. However, the motivations for doing this can vary greatly. Some of the most common reasons why people leave accidents include (but are not limited to):
- They are under the influence of drugs/alcohol
- They don’t have insurance
- They may be charged with other crimes if the police arrive on the scene
- They are driving a stolen vehicle
- They are oblivious to the accident
- They are simply afraid of the consequences
There is no excuse for leaving the scene of an accident – no matter what the circumstances are. What is considered a hit and run accident has much more severe legal ramifications for the at-fault party.
Common Hit and Run Car Accident Injuries
All too often, victims of hit and run accidents are left on the side of the road. If they are not able to contact the authorities, injuries can be made much worse. On the flip side, some injuries are not evident until later – as adrenaline can conceal even severe injuries.
Here are some of the most common injuries we see as hit and run accident lawyers:
Spinal Cord and Back Injuries
There is a lot of variation in spinal cord and back injuries – ranging from minor to life-changing. Some of these injuries may not be immediately detectable – and can take hours or days to become apparent. Regardless of the severity, treatment for spinal cord and back injuries can be very, very expensive. Additionally, the recovery process tends to be quite extensive.
Recovery costs usually include physical therapy and recurring doctor visits – not to mention lost wages and other damages.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries can change your life in an instant. Victims of hit and run accidents may have a mild concussion or severe brain damage. Like spinal cord and back injuries, the severity of brain injuries can take time to reveal itself.
The complications from brain injuries can be permanent – and result in debilitating treatment costs. If you’ve suffered a brain injury from a hit and run accident, you deserve to recoup every penny and more.
Broken bones are one of the most common injuries we see after hit and run accidents. Fortunately, these injuries don’t often result in long-term problems. In rare cases, surgeries might lead to infections, but most recovery processes only involve a few weeks. Regardless, you should be compensated for your suffering in the event of a hit and run.
Lacerations are another common injury in hit and run accidents. These may involve a trip to the emergency room for stitches and/or bandaging. Emergency room visits are not cheap, no matter what your insurance policy is. You shouldn’t be left with a large bill due to someone else’s carelessness.
Not all injuries from car accidents are visible. Victims may be bleeding internally after an impact. This is why it’s so important to get checked by medical staff. Internal injuries often require surgery – which is very expensive.
What to do After a Hit and Run
Knowing what to do after a hit and run accident isn’t always clear. It probably happened in an instant and your adrenaline is pumping. Additionally, you’re more than likely furious at the fact the at-fault party decided to make a run for it. Here is what you need to do immediately following the accident (assuming you are in good enough shape to do so):
Step 1: Call the Police and File a Report
First thing’s first: get the authorities involved. You may be in shock immediately after the accident – not to mention angry. Do your best to stay calm when the police arrive. The authorities will probably empathize with you after a hit and run accident, but acting erratically will not help anything.
Describe the incident to the best of your abilities. Every piece of information you provide is crucial here. Try to describe what the at-fault party looked like, what type of car they were driving, and the events that led to the accident.
Be sure to get checked by the medical staff as soon as you can. To reiterate, some injuries take time to feel the symptoms. The medical staff knows what signs to look for that indicate if you are seriously injured. Let them do their job, no matter how you feel at the time.
Step 2: Document the Accident
The next step is gathering details of the hit and run accident. Try to document the event exactly how it happened – as this will be important in a subsequent lawsuit. Be sure to take pictures of the scene. This should include (but is not limited to):
- The road conditions
- The surrounding area
- Your injury(s)
The more photos you get of the scene, the better.
Step 3: Gather Witness Information
Witnesses are very, very important in hit and run accidents. If there are no witnesses, it will just be your word to describe the at-fault party. If anyone around you saw the accident, get their contact information as soon as you can.
Now, the good news is you will likely have some form of witness – even if no one was around. We live in a time when many people own security cameras. Knock on any nearby doors – whether it’s a residence or a business – and ask if they would be willing to provide footage. This will be critical in both the police report and your personal injury case.
Step 4: Look for Anything the At-Fault Driver Left Behind
Believe it or not, most at-fault drivers leave clues behind in hit and run accidents.
Say you got hit on your bicycle. There may be some paint that scraped off from the vehicle onto the bike. Or, the headlight casing may have broken and there are pieces on the ground.
We once saw an at-fault driver’s entire front bumper (with the license plate attached) break off in an accident. They had left it on the road when they fled. Be sure to look around the scene. There might be something you can trace back to the vehicle.
Step 5: Seek Medical Attention
Hopefully, you’ve already been examined by the medical staff. Given their assessment, you may need to head to the hospital for further treatment. Do not refuse an ambulance ride if you need it. Everyone knows ambulances are expensive – but these costs will be covered when you file a lawsuit for the hit and run accident.
The bottom line: get as much medical assistance as possible. Your health is the most important thing.
Step 6: Contact a Chicago Hit and Run Lawyer
The next step is getting in contact with a hit and run accident attorney. You are wise to do this before you contact your insurance provider.
Your insurance company is not your friend after an accident. Their bottom line overrides your best interests, always. There are plenty of things you can say that will compromise your personal injury claim.
Talk to an attorney first, they will guide you on the next steps.
Seeking Compensation for a Hit and Run Accident
Following a hit and run accident, there are many damages you can recover. These damages are divided into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are anything you can place a clear value on – with documentation. This would include (but is not limited to):
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment (doctor estimates)
- Property damage
- Lost earning potential
The non-economic damages have a little more gray area. These values will need to be determined by your attorney, who will then negotiate with insurance companies to get them. Non-economic damages include (but are not limited to):
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Decreased enjoyment of life
One of the biggest decisions to make after a hit and run accident is whether or not you should settle the case. This is where a specialized hit and run lawyer is most important. They will help you understand the best options and make sure you end up with fair compensation.
Most importantly, your attorney will manage negotiations with insurance companies. This is the most difficult part of any personal injury case.
The Next Step
No matter what the circumstances are, hiring a skilled hit and run attorney after an accident is the most important piece of the puzzle. Many people think they cannot afford to hire a good attorney. This is not true in personal injury cases.
Hit and run attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement. This means they negotiate their rates as a percentage of the settlement paid out by the at-fault party. They shouldn’t charge you a penny upfront to take your case.
In other words, EVERYONE can afford a hit and run lawyer.
Have you been involved in a hit and run accident? You probably have questions.
Get in touch with our team at Midwest Injury Lawyers. We are happy to discuss your concerns – as well as the next steps. Call our office at (312) 786-5881 or send us a message online to get started.